Why MINI Coopers are Popular, an Informal and Unscientific Treatise
MINIs, or MINI Coopers, are popular for a number of reasons, and, since we work on many of them, distilling the essence of their popularity to a few common elements may be difficult, but let’s try.
When BMW relaunched the brand in 2002, they did so very effectively. The marketing campaign, especially in automotive magazines, was flat out brilliant. The games, stickers, etc. cemented the brand’s reputation as “fun”. It wasn’t marketed as practical, something you needed, but as something you wanted because of its attitude, like a club you wanted to join because of the credibility, it bestowed on you.
The first thing they (Frank Stephenson was the actual designer of record) got “right” was the styling, which is undeniably MINI; endearing with just enough “quirk”. It was sized up to meet modern crash protection requirements (a reason for the original’s demise) without making it oversized. Distinctive without being cookie-cutter, and seemingly infinitely customizable.
MINI has done a great job of making customization options obvious, desirable and available. Want a flag for the roof or mirrors? Which flag? Color or black and white? And the same goes for other body parts. They took historical elements, like the rooftop flag, added 21st-century styling trends and elevated it all to another level, making the entire car a canvas waiting to be accessorized. Not many cars make it so easy, and even desirable, for its owner to personalize.
After a few years, they came out with variations on the MINI theme, including a convertible, short “wagon” and eventually all-wheel-drive models. This range extension brought even more into the MINI fold.
They’re not just about cute style, MINIs are also practical. One of these traits is their fuel mileage, with some models getting as much as 40 mpg. The list continues with easy to park being another oft-mentioned benefit. Storage area isn’t too shabby either, with one musician mentioning how many stringed instruments theirs would accommodate.
Have we mentioned that MINIs are easy to park? In these days of increasing urban density that’s a desirable feature.
Being a member of the BMW family, handling needs to be above average, and MINIs don’t disappoint. The term “go-kart’ is often mentioned in this regard. “Zippy” is another.
The fun factor of MINI motoring is one of their most widely praised characteristics. “Smiles per gallon,” if that were a thing, might be an appropriate unit of measurement to quantify this enjoyment. As oxymoronic as it may sound, it’s a luxury economy car, but with wide appeal.
BMW really got it right when they decided that the world needed an updated MINI, and we’re all better for it.