Car & Driver’s Long Term MINI Woes

Wow did Car & Driver have a lemon of a MINI as a long termer. That was our first thought in reading the one year (and 28,000 mile) wrap up. Dissecting the issues it’s clear to us that there are two categories: meaningless and meaningful.

Let’s start with the meaningless. Why CD is complaining about the placement of the light switch for example is beyond is. It smacks of the type critic a auto writer would have who is constantly shuffling from car to car. Exactly the type of critic an actual owner of the car (who would be familiar with said placement by the second drive) would’nt have. And that’s not to mention that the automatic lights on CD’s test car mean you basically don’t ever have to reach for it.

While there was a number of easily solves issues similar to the above (CD – the armrest is actually adjustable), there were some fairly meaningful faults that even the most forgiving MINI fan would have been up in arms about.

The front suspension in particular was a constant issue with the car. And the dealership was often without the proper replacement parts making wait times fairly long. Then there was an oil issue and numerous small broken pieces here and there.

In our minds there’s no question that CD had a handful of face-palm complaints in their wrap-up. But you can’t deny that the Cooper S they were lent by MINI USA was a full of faults over 28,000 miles.

Having had over seven MINIs personally over the past 15 years I can say that this experience seems to be fairly uncommon. We’ve had issues here and there with our own cars as well as press cars. But they’d all be filed under minor easily taken care of my dealers. And our 2014 Cooper S we tested last year had no major issues whatsoever. It was for all intents and purposes the most trouble free MINI we’ve ever tested.

So we turn to you, MF readers. Was CD too harsh in their wrap-up? Has anyone else had similar issues with their F56 Cooper our Cooper S? Sound off below.

  • Jon Cammarata

    Know what? I was happy to read how many problems that Car and Driver had with this lemon. While I love my R53, I cannot believe that there STILL seem to be poor quality issues with MINIs this many years later. MINI still hasn’t gotten their crap together yet, and in fact, the build quality of their vehicles seems to be declining, (while the cars’ prices are going up noticeably faster than the rate of inflation, mind you). This is inexcusable. I look at a similarly-spec’d MINI Cooper S as the one I bought back in 2004, and I’m left completely confused how a car that cost $23k back then, would cost $35k now. How in the hell could that possibly be? And what really concerns me is how there could be that many build quality issues these days.

    These are the reasons why when I needed a new car last year, instead of getting a new MINI product, I kept my old reliable R53 for summer canyon-carving, and bought a brand new VW GTI, (which after 15 months, has been absolutely wonderful in every possible way, I might add).

    MINI has lost their way, and let this Car and Driver article serve as a big slap-in-the-face wake-up call for them to get these build quality issues figured the hell out, or the end will come soon. They’re losing customers because of this, and their ever-increasing premium pricing.

    • cct1

      MF apologizes for the MINI once again….Yes, it’s a fun car to drive. As for reliability, there are much better choices. In your sample size of one owner, ( oh the irony), one owner, 7 cars few of which were owned long term speaks for all MINIs), you say this is fairly uncommon. In a sample size of thousands, I’d say the issues are fairly common. There are truths, half truths, and statistics…I’m still waiting for an unbiased MF review. I was betting it would happen before the Cubs win a World Series, but now, with the way the Cubs are playing, I’m not so sure…

      • John McLauchlan

        The C/D article was also a sample size of one. So we can apply equal weight to their write up?

        • oldsbear

          The sample size is 1, but the audience for the condemnation is thousands.

    • glangford

      I have to agree. I had a R56 Cooper. It was the first car I ever had that needed towing and left me stranded. Not once, but three times. Recent JD Powers and Assoc. surveys seem to have had Mini up from dead last place a couple of years ago to near the middle of the pack at least. I stepped up to a 3-series which fortunately has been flawless, but at times to miss the drive of my old mini, but I’d give serious pause to buying another.

  • Mark

    My f56 is just over 30k miles. Engine was replaced earlier this year, and it’s now in the shop for the 3rd day as the air conditioning doesn’t work and the dealer didn’t have the parts to fix the issue.

    No suspension issues here and thankfully minimal rattles (but I’m coming from an R50 so I may be more tolerant than most).

    • Mark

      Update – Just found out that I won’t get my car back until at least mid next week as they are still waiting on parts. Needed to call the dealership myself for the third straight day to get any type of status update.

      Note that I’m a 10+ year MINI owner (my original justa was basically issue free for 100k miles). I still love driving the car, but the issues and service are making it more of a challenge daily to love the brand. Add this to the swirled paint they refused to fix from delivery and it makes me ready to look elsewhere.

  • Jason

    I only had an F56 2014 Cooper S for 8 months before trading it in for my 2015 F56 JCW, but I had zero issues with the S. I’m now have 20K miles on my JCW since picking it up last April and I’ve had not a single issue. Even with a track day at VIR, no suspension issues, no lighting issues, everything works perfectly with very little road noise, rattles, etc, just fun driving with added boost and after market exhaust. Over priced hatchback yes, but with dyno of 261hp at the wheels and still averaging 43 mpg on my 260 mile trip to Myrtle Beach, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  • oldsbear

    My 2016 Cooper S hardtop has been perfect.

  • fishbert

    I’m coming up on 40,000 miles in a 2015 F56 S, and the biggest issue I’ve had is a flakey backup camera that was replaced under warranty. My build date was just after the rear passenger crash safety recall, so they haven’t even had to do that.

    That light switch thing, though… not being able to see it is annoying, but it’s not a huge deal. I use that cluster for the rear fog lights in poor weather and to signal others when they’re rolling at dusk/night with just their daytime running lights on, that’s often enough for annoyance, but not often enough to really learn where everything is. Again, not a huge deal, but they do have a point.

  • I’ve had 3 MINIS since 2008. ….2008 S hatch…within 41K miles in 4 years had only 1 issue….AC needed work. Fixed under warranty. ….2012 JCW Coupe…within 37K miles in 3 years, had only 1 issue….software problem with Bluetooth. Fixed under warranty. ….2015 S 4 door hatch.. No issues after 17 months & 21K miles.

    So after 8.5 yrs & 99,000 miles on those 3 MINIS, I had only 2 issues. Any car maker would relish having a record like that!!!!! And my current 4 door S hatch with auto trans even got over 43 MPG on a road trip last month with 2 of us & luggage aboard… Cruising at 75 MPH along the Interstate!!

  • R.O.

    C/D wrote: “The headlight control is hidden by the steering wheel and angled toward the floor, making it nearly impossible to discern the switch’s different positions”.

    I have to agree with that, especially for shorter drivers like myself. Also I don’t consider this a “meaningless” issue as you wrote. For the person who has to deal with it, it’s not meaningless.

    Gabe writes: “an actual owner of the car (who would be familiar with said placement by the second drive) wouldn’t have.” ..”not to mention that the automatic lights on CD’s test car mean you basically don’t ever have to reach for it.”

    Well, yes and no. In Calif. when you activate your wipers (rains) you have to turn on your headlights. The auto headlights may not come on if it’s not dark enough for sensors to turn on HL.

    Leaning and reaching forward while driving, especially at Freeway speeds can be awkward and not the best/safest. I don’t like the placement of headlight control either. Prefer it on a stalk like it was in R50/53.

    C/D wrote: “center armrest, which makes it awkward to shift gears, use the navigation system’s control knob, or even prop up an elbow.” Gabe notes” “the armrest is actually adjustable”

    Yes, Gabe is correct armrest is adjustable, but many (and I do mean many) car reviews have stated that the position of the idrive style control knob is too low and with arm rest down (regardless of adjust position) hand/wrist are in an awkward position.

    I’ve had my F56 Cooper S for one year. Things are going well. Only issue I’ve had so far was the drivers side window would creak and squeak against the rubber seal around body frame of door. That is a known issue as noted on many MINI blog sites.

    C/D on dealer, my dealer has been good going back 12 yrs now. Only thing that happened on my 1st dealer service visit for the F56, they broke one of the tire valve screw on caps (they also forgot to rotate tires but I didn’t notice that it wasn’t written on the service sheet, so that’s my fault)

    On C/D oil loss issue, that was a known problem too. What MINI/BMW should not have used is the plastic housing, should have use metal screw on cartridge filter.

    As a final note (not related to C/D article), Gabe there are a number of grammatical errors in your piece. Recommend reviewing before posting. Example: ” placement of the light switch for example is beyond is.” Huh? – is beyond is? Also you misspelled “wouldn’t (you wrote: would’nt)

    • fishbert

      Regarding the center armrest:

      Yes, it’s adjustable… but applying the handbrake immediately “un-adjusts” it, so what’s the point?

      And I’ve gotten used to using the control knob with the armrest. It’s not as annoying as I thought it would be at first, unless I’m trying to write characters using the touchpad (which is impossible to do comfortably with the armrest down).

    • Jelmer van der Meer

      As for your light being on with the wipers being on, that should be a non-issue. Both cars that I’ve owned with auto wipers, a 2013 Ford Expedition and an 08 BMW 5 series wagon, would turn the lights on when the wipers were wiping for 10 secs. The ford would turn the lights off if the auto wipers hadn’t wiped for 30 seconds, it seems to take longer in my BMW. Assuming this BMW tech goes back 10 yrs or so, I’m assuming your new mini should have it as well.

    • tobi

      dear R.O, I read your comment with a lot of attention :

      “I’ve had my F56 Cooper S for one year. Things are going well. Only issue I’ve had so far was the drivers side window would creak and squeak against the rubber seal around body frame of door. That is a known issue as noted on many MINI blog sites.”

      I have been having the same issue with my Mini Cooper S F56 ( 2016). my dealership replaced the rubber but the sound came back after a month. after that, they applied a product (gummy).. which worked a little bit. unfortunately, the squeak sound against the rubber seal is back. they have no idea how to fix this. any idea PLEASE PLEASE? thx.

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    I’ve noticed with the MINI brand that almost every ‘serious’ automotive magazine/online site has to nitpick the MINI interior. If CD had not griped about the light switch they would have just found something else to pick apart. They love them some VW GTI interior though…I guess they like sitting in a puddle of beige paint too. My only gripe about the interior is I wish the window switches were back in the center console on toggles. I really miss the convenience of them being there and dislike having to fumble on my driver side door while driving to lower the windows. However, MINI caved and gave us door switches for the windows because so many ‘journalists’ whined about the excellently placed toggle switches. Funny, none of the journalists complain of the Jeep Wrangler and it’s centrally/console mounted window switches. I bought my F56 MCS here in Little Rock in September of 2015. I owned a second-hand Gen 1 many years ago that DID have it’s fair share of problems, but I still loved the car. The F56 generation is a great car and I have been very luck to be completely problem free as of this moment. Currently my MCS has 21K miles on her. She has just completed a trip from Little Rock to Colorado without incident. Covered the whole round trip (roughly 2000+ miles) and averaged 37-40mpg (in Green Mode) while averaging 75-80mph on the backroads of CO, TX, NM, OK, and AR. My only gripes about my MCS have been the very shoddy Khumo run-flat tires that were junk new and disaster by 15k miles and were replaced. They were SOOOO bad in the rain and we get a lot of rain in Arkansas. My other big gripe IS the clunky sounding front suspension. It sounds like loose bushings/strut every time I encounter rippled pavement or squared-edged bumps, but the handling never seems to suffer. I also must add that my MCS is a base model with the smiley-face radio. It’s been a great car.

  • Steve Wellen

    2003 Cooper S owned for 7 years, no faults. One recall for steering part, quickly sorted. 2010 Cooper S owned for 5 years 8 months. One fault, reciever for remote faulty and flattening the battery. Sorted under w/tee. One window motor burnt out, £25 replacement from flea bay. So £25 after 12 years 8 months motoring and those unscheduled 2 dealer visits leaves me happy enough. Seeing Mini bouncing around from ok (but not good) to very poor in reliability surveys over the years is disconcerting though. My sympathies to owners of troubled cars, it can be heartbreaking when problems outweigh the joys of driving and owning.

  • Kurtster

    C/D, and especially its readers on its comments sections, have seldom been kind to the MINI brand IMO.

  • Madoc

    Interesting read. Yes, some of the criticism is picking of nits but then some is spot on. I had the SAME power-cut issue this weekend in my 2015 F56 MCS. While merging into traffic, the engine sputtered and felt like it was running on two cylinders. I pulled off the highway and let it idle a moment. I got the reduced power warning, too. I shut it down and then restarted it. A check engine light illuminated and stayed on for the rest of my 1 hour trip. After parking it for a couple of hours, the light did not come back on restart and everything seems normal. The car has less than 4k miles on it.

  • Blind worship of a brand is worse. You can get real world user reviews that illustrate the history of issues.

    I have an 05. I didn’t want to replace a clutch at 50K miles or a seat for 1,5K because an ABS light wouldn’t go off. Parts of my car were showing sign of rust in the rear license plate (lamps just fell out). All tallied up it would have cost me 5K to keep it. It was bluebook at 8-10K at that time.

    While I loved the car, in general, the interior. It would be akin to a bad relationship keeping it.

    I was driving my wife’s Clubman and the damn gear shift came out in my hand.”Never heard of that happening.”

    No way. If you like them. Lease them. Don’t buy them.