Editors note: As part of the MotoringTern program MotoringFile has added two new authors to our roster. This piece is from one of those authors – Kurt Heiden. And as part of our desire to remain faithful to all sides of the MINI we also want to broaden the voice of the site and tell more varied stories that offer differing opinions. Having two new writers on the site will give us those different viewpoints that we’ve always strived for but haven’t always had the time to fulfill. Join us in welcoming Kurt and feel free to respectfully give your take in the comments below. And remember, this opinion doesn’t necessary reflect what all of us at MF believe. Or does it?
Anytime one tries to pick the best from a group of phenomenal choices it’s bound to ruffle some feathers, so apologies up front to those who disagree. That said if you like opinions (and don’t mind respectfully disagreeing), read on…
Let’s start with historical milestone MINIs. It would be easy to choose a classic Mini such as the Monte Carlo rally-winning 1964 Mini Cooper S, or perhaps the Mark I Mini which redefined perceptions about how practical a small car could be while simultaneously becoming an iconic vehicle of the 1960s. These models and their unique variants like the Morris Mini Traveller and Wolseley Hornet oozed character and still turn heads whenever one is spotted. Regardless, they never enjoyed both commercial success and reliability of current day MINIs.
The best MINI model ever would have to be the MINI Cooper S (R53).
Once the R53 and its R50 counterparts showed up, it reinvigorated the MINI brand in a way that helped spawn two more generations of itself along with each of the other models available today.
There is no mistaking the lines of the R53 for some other car; it is uniquely MINI and, in a world teaming with sedans and SUVs, was just as much of a head-turner as its ancestors. The R53 faithfully preserved the look and feel of the classic Mini, while offering modern amenities the original didn’t have such as safety belts, ABS, airbags, connectivity and so much more. The R53 was also an integral part of the film, The Italian Job (2003), which helped catapult the new MINI into the limelight for millions of moviegoers.
Being built in Oxford gave the R53 links to its British heritage and the amount of customization one could make on the web site when ordering a MINI broke new ground and set an example that few car companies offer today.
Think about what might have been had the R53 failed. The brand might have disappeared into the annals of dead auto brands forever, or been relegated the being known more for fuel economy than sport. Events like MINI Takes the States, MINIs on the Dragon and MINIs on Top wouldn’t be bringing together thousands of motoring enthusiasts as they do today. Instead, the MINI brand continues to grow by model and in the number of owners. For example, the Countryman’s success has brought tens of thousands of people to the MINI brand who liked the MINI’s style but might not have come if the car’s size hadn’t grown.
Lastly, the R53 supercharger whine and accompanying boost gave drivers something powerful that excited multiple senses. The pushed-out wheels and wide stance delivered what MINI called, “go-cart” handling; this gave sports car and compact car enthusiasts something new to talk (and brag) about. All of this while its sister R50 Cooper offered a cost-effective, fuel-efficient, easy-to-park car with style and a lineage.
Congratulations to the R53 as our choice for the best MINI model ever.