The 20 year experiment of run-flats is over for MINI. After years of customer complaints about ride quality, performance impacted by weight and high replacement costs, MINI has decided to eliminates run-flats as it transitions into its 4th generation cars next year.
The plan for MINI is to offer run-flats in some models for those who specifically require them. We’re told that run-flats will likely still be available but only on specific tires sizes and could even cost more. And for those that don’t go out of their way to order them, MINI will add a tire mobility kit to every car moving forward. This kit will include a small air compressor a bottle of one-time use tire sealant and a pair of handy rubber gloves.
This is a big change for the brand. Since the launch of the new MINI, almost every model and every tire size had runflats as standard. Part of this was due to the fact that the original R53 Cooper S and JCW models had no room for a spare due to the exhaust layout.
MINI’s strategy was to borrow the run-flat technology from BMW (who had just introduced them as well) eliminating any concern from the buying public. It was also assumed that the technology would become closer to normal tires over time with prices being driven down as production increased. While that has happened to a degree, there’s still a material difference in feel and cost.
Runflats are a double edge sword for many of us. For those who own MIINI’s without a spare they offer peace of mind. However for anyone who cares about ride quality, performance and replacement cost, they’re a burden. Why? The rigid side wall that allows the tires to still function with no air pressure creates a harsh ride that is often cited as a complaint from owners and reviewers. Then there’s the added unsprung weight which, depending on the run-flat tire, can be noticeable.
It’s also a performance issue as the tires don’t have the same “on the limit” tendencies as conventional tires. Where a typical performance tire will gradually lose traction, the stiff side walls on the run-flats make the transition more abrupt. Then there’s the replacement cost because run-flats can’t easily be repaired like conventional tires.
They’re also not so great for MINI. They cost a lot, they produce cars with compromised ride quality and there also heavier which counts against the brand’s efficiency targets. But perhaps the most important data-point is that consumers don’t seem to care. Reportedly there’s a lack of consumer interest in run-flats once it comes time to buy replacement tires.