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2002 MINI Ranked 3rd Worst in Reliability

The JD Power results are in for the long term reliability of 2002 US cars and trucks and the results for MINI, aren’t good. MINI finished 3rd from the bottom with 383 problems per 100 cars. Interestingly they finished right next to Volkswagen who unlike MINI, had no first model year excuses.

While some of this may be due to MINI owners being unusually attentive to detail, I can’t believe that would account entirely for such a bad showing. As someone who went from a very early 2002 MINI to a mid-year 2005, I can personally attest to the huge improvements MINI has made in response to issues that had to have been obvious to MINI engineers. However, the issues that my ’02 MINI did have were all relatively minor and certainly nothing to cause serious alarm. Various rattles, a poorly attached plastic trim piece, the familiar steering click, and a couple of minor recalls were really the only things I had to worry about in three years of ownership.

It will be interesting to see in three years how the 2005 MINI compares to these results.

You can check the full ranking below:

[ JD Power Long Term Reliability / 2002 models ] JD Power

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Written By: Gabe

  • Micah

    Why the persistent, passive-aggressive jabs at VW? (e.g., “…no first-year model excuses”)

    My turn (only not so passive)…a Mini is really just a down-model front wheel drive BMW in disguise with a cheap plastic interior, crappy seats, and a Chrysler motor.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I don’t get how this could be hard to understand – VW has been ranked very low in quality for a number of years yet they’ve been an established brand with established products and decades old factories throughout the world. MINI was also ranked low for the 2002 model year yet they at least have the excuse of (A) launching an entirely new product (their only product) (B) launching a new dealer network (C) training service technicians, (D) training service advisors (E) doing it all in the US on a show-string budget. How could you not make the comparison?

    Also why do think this is some sort of attack on VW? Many MF readers have or have had VWs in the past. I don’t think it’s a secret (certainly not to most owners) that their quality has been low on some products for a number of years.

  • Ian F

    I am still a “wanna-be” MINI owner, but I do spend a lot of time with my girlfriend’s MCS. The car has been relatively issue free since purchase in 8/03. Some windshield trim and a couple of software updates… that’s about it. 29K on the clock.

    Likewise, my own car – an ’03 Jetta TDI Wagon has also been trouble-free for 2 years and 54K miles. It has never been to the dealer for service – ever. And I beat the snot out of the car. I attribute this partially to my choice of options. I went with as minimal electronic do-dads as possible. After an experience with an E36 M3, I’m leary of German electronics and “gadgets” in general.

    My previous car was a ’91 Acura Integra. Another car I beat mercilessly. I finally traded it in at 229K miles with many nagging issues, but the car still had the ORIGINAL clutch. Can’t complain much about that.

    All cars can have “issues”. Sometimes you get lucky… sometimes you don’t. And by-in-large, all modern cars are pretty reliable and service-free compared to those of the past, even the worst of them.

  • Micah

    Sorry that came off a bit too harsh. It was a rhetorical point relating to a tendency on these forums to incessantly bash VW. It’s almost like VW is a bit too uncomfortably close to Mini, and therefore there is a tendency to want to establish the superiority of Mini over VW. My overall point is that sometimes Mini owners can be a bit pretentious about the total awesomeness of their cars without acknowleging that like any other brand, compromises were made to maximize the bottom line.

    As a former owner of multiple VWs (’73 Karmann Ghia, ’89 Jetta GLI, ’98 GTI VR6), I readily agree that there are quality issues with the brand. But very much like Minis, I think VWs have more character and personality than some of the more esteemed brands for reliability such as Toyota and Honda/Acura.

    Perhaps I am also a bit jealous because I have wanted a Cooper S since I first saw and drove one, and so far have not been able to afford the purchase. :)

  • HPuck35

    I am one of those that started with an 02 MC and now drive a 05 MCS. I still have the O2, my wife drives it. I had several problems with the car early (shift linkage came off, windows refusing to go down, just sitting in the driveway the car would keep unlocking itself, etc). Once those problems were fixed, it has been quite reliable.

    I only have about 3000 miles on the 05 so the jury is still out as far as relability. However, it seems better made. The fit and finish is better. Little things, like a small tray under the parking brake handle, have been changed or added for the better. It did come with an add on cup holder for those concerned with cup holders. I hate the looks of it and removed it the first day I had the car. My wife saw it and wanted it for the 02. She got it.

    I have had other first year models (SAAB 9000 turbo for instance) that were much worse than the Mini. They all got much better ratings as they matured as I’m sure the Mini will.

  • ajigel

    “I see Buick scored higher. But then the problem would be that you’re driving a Buick.”

    Exactly. While Porche scored higher, most of the high scores belonged to car makers that make huge cars (Buick, Lincoln, Cadalac), which in all fareness seem to attract the over 60 crowd.

    How hard do you think those people drive their cars?

    The Mini isn’t flawless, but everyone I know who has one pushes it to an extreme level of driving. I don’t see a lot of Lincoln Towncar owners driving their cars the way I drive mine. The fact that the car can keep up with me (while my friends with VWs are replacing their transmissions) says something to me about the overall quality Mini has.

  • Jason Keefe

    I had a Mini Cooper S 2003 and had a lot of problems. When I bought the car as a demo the dealer never told me that is has been in the shop about 10 time for a few different things. A list of a few things that I had problems with.( Airbag light(7), Cold start, and trim around window and driver seat). I know drive a 2005 MCS after the LEMON Law an the airbags light for a safety issue. My 2005 is a lot stiffer then 2003. I just hope that i do not have as many problems with this one. 2003 MCS had 46000 in two years.

  • http://www.scalemotorsport.com MGear

    My Cooper S was an early production 2002 model I picked up at the dealer in July 02. One year later in June 03 later I had the JCW package installed and the car has been almost flawless since leaving the dealership. The only item that needed attention was that famous water reservoir bottle leak. It was replaced and I have never had a stitich of trouble since. I have just moved and shipped my car to the UK and guess what, my car is worth $7,000.00 more right now, after putting 23,000 miles on it, than when it was new. If I were to sell it today I could actually get about 7 grand more than what the car originally cost me!

  • jeeves

    My 02 is a April 02 build. Puts it in the first 3000 sold. The only problems I have had were a bent exhaust( ran over a cone at a Phil Wicks track day) my own fault. Or a set of dimples in my bonnet ( done by the dealer service people) while installing oem rally lights. Frankly in talkig to other owners I don’t think the early 02″s are all that bad. It’s been 3 years, maybe my opinion will change in another 3.

  • jterran

    Just a reminder: anyone who has a first person story of either good or bad quality is just a single data point and not meaningful–as you all know, Power or CR collect lots of data and compile it to produce their reports. So if you’ve had a poor quality Honda or a great quality Mini, it really MEANS SQUAT to someone who’s trying to decide if ON AVERAGE these cars are good or bad in terms of quality….

  • Dean Bloomfield

    HI There,

    I have an 02 Mini, and am awaiting delivery of my 05 convertible in August. Had quite a few probs with my 02 to be honest. Power steering failure (x2) boot lock broken, airbag light coming on (x5) fan belt slipping and most recently a horrible sounding rubbing noise when the wheels rotate between about 1-10 MPH.

    Should I report this before my warrantly ends on 22 July this year? Or wait untill my new Mini arrives (I am part exchanging, might they turn round and under value my car because of this?)

  • dave

    being a big time toyota/honda guy for the quality and long life of their cars, i am having a hard time actualy buying a mini. if the costs were the same i would buy a mini tomorrow, but for double the price, and in my eye 1/2 the quality its a hard pill to swallow. i just wish i didnt love the look and feel of the mini so much.

  • Scott Markle

    I’m definitely in the “won’t buy another first model year car” camp… I had a 2003 Cooper for 2 years, and the only problem I had in over 20K miles was the paint peeled off the driver’s side downtube (it was replaced under warranty). Now I have a 2005 Cooper convertible, and in 9 months it has already spent almost a month in the shop… The windshield cracked immediately after I got it (shades of the early hardtops), the top motor burned out, and I’ve had a few other irritating trim-related issues. I love all things MINI and BMW, but for nearly $30K I do expect better quality & reliability than this… It’s not a question of cost or convenience — these things were obviously fixed under warranty, and while it’s annoying to have to go to the dealership — at least it’s a short trip for me. The problem is that I want to drive the car I bought (not get stuck in a loaner — bare bones, auto, hardtop — compared to my fully-loaded, manual, cabrio) without having to worry or deal with problems or hassles — especially when I should be enjoying top-down motoring!

    I was seriously considering upgrading to an S convertible, but now I’m not so sure… My best friend just traded in his Civic for an Element — it’s his third Honda in 19 years. He is horrible on cars — never checks or regularly changes the oil, drives them hard, etc. — Yet his cars run trouble-free for years and years.

    It’s pretty hard for me to justify paying this much for a car if I can’t drive it because it’s in the shop all the time.

  • Frank

    Please Honda/Toyota lovers, go an buy your boring appliance mobiles and leave the “interesting” and “Fun” cars to the rest of us.

  • Scott Markle

    I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as a Honda or Toyota lover — I just don’t think “fun” has to equal “unreliable”. I bought a MINI (my second — and fifth from BMW) because I love to drive — but it doesn’t do me much good when it’s in the shop… I attribute it totally to MINI rushing products out before they’re perfected. My 2003 MINI was generally flawless for 2 years. My 2005 cabrio has been a blast, but has also given me a lot of headaches. There is an excellent article on TheCarConnection.com right now that attributes part of GM’s decline to exactly the same problem. All I’m saying is that if MINI wants to compete in the premium market (and $30K for a Cooper cario definitely puts it there — I could almost have a Z4 for that much), it can’t deliver half-baked goods.

  • Scott Markle

    One other note… It looks like I am one of the only cabrio owners reporting here… It’s no surprise to me that everyone is happy with the 2005 hardtop — it’s the culmination of 4+ years of model evolution, so they’ve bound to have worked out most of the issues. Even when I bought my 2003 hardtop, I think MINI had solved most of the issues found in the 2002s. The cabrio is a mostly new animal, and it looks to me like MINI repeated the sins of their past — rushing it to market before it was ready. I’m sure the 2006s will be better, and so on — I just definitely won’t buy another first year MINI again — EVER.

  • John

    It’s only fair to say that there were problems with all the cars in 2002. The Forums were filled with posts about: 1. actual problems with software, loose parts that rattled and buzzed, seats, the 5-speed manual transmission, and smaller items that would have been passed over if the car hadn’t died inconveniently, and 2. perceived problems with systems or equipment that just didn’t meet the expectations set by BMW Group, which ranged from the rear view mirror to the CVT to gas mileage.

    It’s turned into a classic great car, as a result of very hard work on the seriously flawed initial releases of software in 2002, now fixed.

  • Heavy Sigh

    This is an interesting thread… I’m a lurker and an MCS owner wannabee. The problem boils down to the automarket in this price range being a rather unfortunate venn diagram: one group is “the reliables” (Honda, Toyota etc.), the other group is “the interestings” (the Minis, the GTI/GLIs etc). The intersection between the two groups is remarkably small. I am a four time VW owner, as well as Saab and Volvo, and my current 03 VR6 GLI is simply awful on the minor quality issues. It’s unfortunate that to drive something that gets your enthusiast’s blood going you need to make so many sacrifices. I will continue to wait on the sidelines regarding an MCS until I am convinced my VW-ish frustrations will be reduced. This thread has me convinced otherwise for the time being.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I will continue to wait on the sidelines regarding an MCS until I am convinced my VW-ish frustrations will be reduced. This thread has me convinced otherwise for the time being.

    Just curious – does the apparent improvements to the 2005 MINI not persuade you at all? I mean it would seem that there’s overwhelming opinion here (from owners) that the newer cars are much better built. I would think this would be what you were looking for.

  • Heavy Sigh

    My impression from these posts is that even the newer models can be a mixed bag. See the posts from Luke, Nathan, Mark, David, Osmodius etc. I realize that some of these posts concern cars from the 04 model year, but it’s still not encouraging. Other posters seem to be in the “jury’s still out” camp regarding their 05s. I also realize that the “N” here is too low to be even close to meaningful – but all this qualitative commentary gets me looking at the right trouble spots over time.

    Also, I think my decision is a little longer term anyway – order an 06 in late fall/winter or wait it out for a new 07. Waiting it out for the 07 brings up all the “first model year” issues mentioned above.

    PS I was EXACTLY that Corrado owner mentioned in one of the posts. Too funny. A nightmare to own but still one of my absolute favorite cars (to drive) that I ever had. I do NOT want to repeat that love/hate experience!

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    As an owner who has now had two MINIs with no serious issues to speak of (and really not many at all), it’s just hard for me to understand why anyone would be hesitant at this point. Then again I’ve never owned a Corrado!

  • minimcoupe

    Never owned a Honda or VW and probably never will. My 05 Mini CVT has over 19K trouble free miles. One chip in windshield, other dings in the front end and just ok gas mileage (24/34) are my only complaints. (My 315hp M-Coupe gets 22/28 mpg if you keep your foot out of it!) Great daily driver. I have owned over 100 cars and love driving the Mini. Plan to order 06 MCS AT this winter and sell the SVT. (wife still wants the auto tranny) I don’t put much stock in JD Powers as I dont drive their kind of cars they rate highest.

  • Beth

    My it’s difficult to get a handle on things with so many varying experiences and opinions. My previous car was a VW New Beetle which was in the shop constantly, including needing an entire engine rebuild after 30,000 miles…and I take immaculate care of my cars. My current car is an MCS ’02 and it has also been a headache which is also a heartache. I’ve wanted a Mini for 15 years and right now I’m very frustrated and…sad. I bought it 2 years ago, it had 16,000 miles. I immediately had to have the rear brakes replaced. In the first year and a half that I had it, it was in the shop, including having to be towed there 4 times, on average every 5 weeks. It is currently in the shop again to get set number 4 of rear brakes, a new set of front brakes, power steering rack, new door hinges and a new passenger window motor. The truly frightening part is, i brought the car in for the window, the doors being stiff and something rattling. Had no idea I was driving such a dangerous vehicle. The dealership gave me a loaner…which promptly died and had to be towed back so I am now driving a behemoth of a rental pick up truck. I want to be a Mini loyalist. I want a convertible when the lease runs out on this one. But I’m not sure it will happen now. I’m very disappointed.

  • http://www.gbmini.net/ Ian

    Sad story – sorry, Beth!

    What can possibly justify FOUR sets of rear brakes!? The rear brakes don’t even work very hard – why are they being changed so much? Do you drive around with the e-brake applied?!

    Of the VERY FEW stories I know of repeated issues with MINIs (ignoring the windshield issue), it is generally the case that the dealership is largely to blame – a repeating problem indicates the dealerships failure to correctly diagnose & fix whatever is actually wrong; they are fixing the symptoms instead of the cause.

    Is there a different dealership you can frequent instead?

    That said, there have been MANY improvements during MINI production, if you can “risk” another one.

  • Beth

    Thanks Ian, The dealership, to be honest, sucks. I can’t even begin to tell you the problems I’ve had with them. They are an hour away, the only other dealership is more than 2 hours away. I’m at a loss. I just want to drive my car! I absolutely love it when it runs. I’ve talked to BMW, they know about the history. Last time the brakes had to be replaced they wanted to send a field engineer out to look at the car but the service manager at the dealership cancelled it. A field engineer is supposed to look at it this time…we’ll see if that happens. I agree with you, I think much of my problem is this dealership, they have dropped the ball so many times with this car that it’s amazing I haven’t ended up in a ditch somewhere. That is not an exaggeration.

  • Patrick

    Hondas are Reliable cars. We have a 5 year old CR-V which has never given us a day of problems. It recently had to jump-start a 1.9 year old Mercedes-Benz C-class whose battery had failed (in summer). The Honda with the 5 year old battery was starting up a 1.9 year old Mercedes, at a local service station in clear view of everyone!

  • Eva

    I drove a 1991 saturn, which had more than 250k miles on it. I finally decided to get rid of the hand me down and get a new car.

    I bought a 03 MC CVT, which turned out to be a lemon. I drove more rental cars than my own new car. The dealership gave me a new 04 CVT, which has been running fine except for a few minor problems. Still having the door getting frozen in the winter, but its summer now and they replaced the doorhandles, so we shall see how it keeps up. So far close to 40k and its doings well.

    Bought a 05 MCS in november 04 and that car is running great. had 1 problem, which was quickly fixed by service. got rear ended and havent had my car for over 6 weeks. make note, if you get into an accident with a mini, it will take you a LONG time to get it back. The parts are not available and service does not do body work. Make sure you have a rental as a part of your car insurance.

  • Beth

    It’s good to hear that you actually did get another car out of MINI because I believe I have a lemon. Right now I am gathering information and rallying some supportive local MINI owners around me before I make my next move. I can’t believe I have to strategize like this but enough is enough! I know not all MINIs are bad, but I got a bad one. I hope they take care of this. Wish me luck.

  • James

    Hi, just a word from across the ocean, dash rattle has been one of the bains in our 04 Cooper. Has any one out there had dealer issues when fitting the dash back into place? We are on the 3rd dash in the space of 10 months of ownership! We love the car to bits but having issues with noisey brakes thin paint/no paint external wheel arch trims not fitting flush to the body and the internal trim falling off.Most of this has been cured but our gear box is now getting tight to select reverse! Any comments please.

  • ALEX

    I HAVE AN 02′ MCS WHICH WAS BOUGHT USED IN 2003. THERE HAVE BEEN NO MAJOR PROBLEMS EXCEPT FOR THE OCCASIONAL WARNINGLIGHT. THE AC SUCKS FOR AN ARIZONA CAR, BUT FOR 8 MONTHS OF THE YEAR I HAVE THE WINDOWS DOWN. MY FAMILY GOES ON ROAD TRIPS IN THIS CAR (4 OF US), AND IT HAS FAILED TO LET US DOWN. WITH 35K MILES THE CAR IS GREAT.

    I LOVE MY MINI AND PLAN ON KEEPINGI IT TILL SHE DIES

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  • http://na David Mac

    After reading all this I still think I want to buy a Mini.Im looking at an 02.What are the “early” VIN # or build dates? Also Toyotas arent boaring.Of all the cars/trucks Ive owned the most fun was a 1988 4runner.Had a great road trip to Cape Bretton N.S.Drove top off the whole time.

  • J-Flo

    Am not sure what you guys are talking about.. I have a 2002 Mini.. AND I LOVE it.. it runs great.. the service technicians are great at the mini dealership in fife washington… i am still zooming around town..

  • Bob

    I have one of the first 2002′s…took delivery August, 2002. Two problems covered under warranty since then…driver’s power window and power steering cooling fan. Otherwise, zero problems. Still looks and rides like a new car.

    • Clare

      It’s now early 2011, I love the cooper, my 4 year old does too and I just found an ’02 for sale w/138000km.  Looks good, no rust but I’ll do a test drive tonight & look for the bubble wrap noise, yo-yo effect and steering click. Gonna look closely at the strut towers too. We have a BMW/MINI dealer opening in town soon so it should be good for repairs (or i may wait a few months and look at their used lot) but this ’02 comes at an appropriate time for me.

      My question is should I stay away from ’02 and look closer to ’06, or by 138000km should all the gremlins be worked out?

  • hc2001

    I can see no one has written anything for a while on this forum… But I just happened to come across it and hoped someone might be able to offer me some advice.  I am looking at buying a 2001 (51 reg) mini cooper.  It is priced at £3,195 as there are a few marks, but he is willing to MOT it for 12 months so the only damage is cosmetic, and only if you look very hard! Mileage is roughly 63,000 which is great for 2001, all others I have looked at are around the 73,000 mark… 

    My previous car was a VW Polo (2002, 52 reg) and although it was a great first car, it ended up costing £2,200 in repairs over 3 years.  I am now at university and looking for a fun but mainly RELIABLE car, that won’t need expensive repairs on a monthly basis…. My budget doesn’t stretch to the 2007 latest version, what’s everyone’s opinion on a 2001 mini for reliability and running cost? Think it would be about 40mpg for me, mix of town and motorway driving… 

    • http://www.facebook.com/yuyucammy Yu-Hui Yu

      If you want a fun car. The Mini is the car. However, if you want a reliable car do look beyond Mini. I have a 2002 Mini cooper (5 speed), and I have fixed the Transmission (total rebuild). This is a common problem with Minis coopers. I love the car, but it is not a reliable car.

  • Jamey

    Just traded in a 2004 Mini Cooper (m/t) for a … Honda Fit. The Mini was a good car, but plagued by the sorts of mechanical problems that bring to mind the worst transgressions of Leyland-era/Lucas electrics English cars.

    Inside of <36,000 miles, I had to replace the reverse cluster/idler TWICE, and the entire transmission once (also, the shift lever linkage pin snapped, necessitating a costly disassembly). So, to recap: Effectively, three transmissions, and a host of other problems (constantly malfunctioning tire-pressure monitor; poorly-made seats–I had opted for leather seating surfaces); and other “gremlins,” prevented my Mini from being a “daily driver.” Frustrating does not begin to describe my ownership experience.

    Plus side: It was a ball to drive (when not in the repair shop); chicks dug it; and, with a desirable set of options (leather, sunroof), the car held its resale value very well. Not sure what more recent Minis are like, but nor do I intend to find out. Because of my dismal ownership experience, I will never own another BMW/Mini product. Period. There are too many other options out there.


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