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Winding Road: MINI Cooper vs Fiat 500

The MINI gets compared to a lot of other cars, both here and in Europe. The comparison de jour for the Cooper is the newly stateside Fiat 500. The MotoringFile review of the Fiat 500 goes live in a few hours. In the meantime, we wanted to share this fantastic comparison from Winding Road. Unlike many surface-level, mostly sensationalized comparisons we’ve read in the past few months, Seyth Miersma does a great job of comparing the two cars objectively, on their actual merits. I like the conclusion, because for once it’s not about one car “beating” the other.

Drive both, buy one, be completely satisfied, no matter which you chose; that’s the prescription here. We can’t wait to see if the upcoming Abarth version of the Fiat 500 has got what it takes to finally top the Mini, in Cooper S form, too. Here’s to the delicious pain of waiting, and some great small car driving in the meantime.

The full article is definitely worth a read.

Written By: Nathaniel Salzman

  • Anonymous

    Even with unfortunate stickers and barfy body kit, the Cooper can not even approach the ugly dealt out by the 500.

    • goat

      Couldn’t disagree more Lava.  :)   In that side profile photo above the Cooper is bloated and dreary-looking, with wall-eyed fishbowl headlights… the Fiat 500 is taut, eager-looking, and has a generally much more interesting design. 

      Now, which is better to drive… I would think the Cooper still holds a solid advantage, for several reasons including because of the Fiat 500’s ridiculously high seating position.

      • Anonymous

        Goat, sorry – thats nothing more than the tired old R53 is better than the R56 crit. The natural response to nearly everybody else in the world is if you don’t like that Cooper above then you probably don’t like any Mini’s, to which you’ll enlighten us to how much better the original design was blah blah blah…

        The 500 is homely/ugly. Glad you like it. But it does not change the fact you like an ugly car. My advice – put a paper bag over it when you drive it.

        • goat

          Ok. Except “everybody else in the world” is not who this website is geared towards… we are enthusiasts here, so, yes, we are more critical than “the masses”. I do find it comical that you dismiss my comments by essentially saying they are subjective yet return with a nice pronouncement-as-fact that is just as subjective “The 500 is homely/ugly”.  :)  

          Anyway, like JonPD commented in a related MF thread recently, there is indeed a “gulf” between those who like the R53 and those who were severely disappointed by the R56. The gulf is there, even after all these years, and I predict that it will not get smaller. This “gulf” is not the usual response to a new model, where it is only human nature for many to prefer what they know and criticize what replaced it – with most car redesigns given a bit longer the new design ends up being lauded on its own merit and the old design ends up looking rather dated after all. You see it with all sorts of product design.  However, with the mk2 MINI this did not happen… people that were not comfortable with its looks at product launch are still not comfortable with its looks and try to “work with it” by speccing JCW bodykit, lowered suspension, larger wheels, leather everywhere, etc. It’s making the best of a bad situation, aesthetics-wise. And parking a mk1 MINI next to a mk2 MINI even now over 10years since the mk1 launched generally favours the R50/53 from almost any angle. This is not a sign of nostalgia – it’s a clear indicator that one design was cohesive and resonates with the viewer and the other, well, it just doesn’t.

          But in the big picture, putting aside the nit-picking, it’s all good. In fact, I do truly believe mk3 MINI will set things right again. And in the meantime, all the driving enthusiasts like us who do choose to drive an R56 have access to a myriad of tuning options / bodykits / wheels to make the car quite decent looking… just don’t park next to a well-modded mk1. ;)

        • Anonymous

          They you go. Do you feel better now that you got it out. Again.

        • goat

          Yes. ;)

  • Harry Dill

    Although I generally share the sentiment of some that find the FIAT unattractive, it must be acknowledged and praised that FIAT has remained true to its design heritage much like PORSCHE — with the exception of the very unattractive, AMC PACER-like Panamera. Speaking of PORSCHE, the GT3 is an available model that is very close to being a track car. MINI should follow suit and offer a tamed Challenge car (with the wing and minus the roll cage and a few other racing essentials) to reduce the selling price. As an enthusiast, I would feel quite content motoring around in hardcore/hard-edged R56 … and don’t forget to get rid of the rear seat a la the ever so delightful GP. A scaled-down light weight version would be even nicer. Rocketman hit the bullseye in terms of scale, but the design is arguably a bit too “cartoonesque.”

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  • tomfrieder

    To each their own, I think the Fiat looks cool as the beetle was before VW supersized it..I get tons of woman luving my Fiat ragtop..I’m 6’3″ and fit into it because of the high sitting position, and other cars can see it better becuz of that height, my only beef is cross winds above 60mph but city gas milege and using regular also help..I use my larger car on major highway trips anyway


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