This is a question we get asked quite a bit around these parts. It’s also a question that we have covered in a few older episodes of White Roof Radio.

MF Reader Chris writes.

>I know nobody trusts Consumer Reports, but they appear to say that Mini Cooper reliability improved greatly from 2005 on. Would it be safe to purchase a 2005 – 2006 Mini Cooper, or should I save up enough money for a 2007 (new model)? Is reliability in the earlier models really that bad?

Keeping in mind that I have a 2003 R50 MINI Cooper with 200+ miles, I would say (and Gabe agrees) to stay away from the earlier MINIs (’02 – ’03) if you can. There are quite a few build issues with these older cars and if you find one that wasn’t properly tended to you might end up with more headaches that you could handle.

However, moving into the newer model years, it becomes more a matter of what you want and how you want it to look. You didn’t say if you were looking for a Cooper or an MCS, but this should cover you either way.

If you like the look of the R50/R53, then you would be a pretty good shape with an ’05 or ’06. If I had to pick, I would get the newest you could find. Keep in mind that these cars are running the Tritec engine, not the BMW-sourced mill. For the MCS it’s the difference between an iron blog and a supercharger (R53) or an aluminum block and a turbo (R56). On the Cooper, it’s not quite as telling, but you will get better fuel economy out of a R56. More information about these cars can be found over the Motoringfile R50/R53 Buyers Guide.

Something to consider about the earlier R56s is the cold start issue has affected some cars. Of course the severity of the issue is up for debate. And then there’s the hot topic of long tail pipes, but a dealer can sort that out for you.

I believe that you would get good reliability out of any MINI built after 2005. Keep in mind that all MINIs come with a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty and covered service for 3 years/36,000 miles. Also remember that any car can and may have issues and you would be greatly served by checking out the service history of any MINI you might be interested in buying. You should be able to take the last 7 digits of the VIN to any MINI Service center and have them check the records for you.

What about the rest of you? Late model R50/R53 or ’07 R56?