Happiness pill

Open the dictionary and search for the word fun. If it doesn’t say driving a Mini, than buy a new dictionary, yours is outdated.

The Mini. What a great idea. Not only the original, with its diminutive size and cheap price tag, but also the new one, which we drive today, with its spectacular image and exceptional driving dynamics.

To me, it is one of the single most important cars of the 20th and 21st centuries. A new generation is about to come out, but if there is one car where the differences will be minor, this is surely it.

Not that BMW engineers will not talk about how the latest car will be even more dynamic or stable, or comfortable, but trust me, the current one already is all of those things and that is why I thought this was a relevant test, because the Mini is relevant, no matter if you buy one today or in six months’ time.

Of course, everything has been written about the Mini. If you ‘google’ the words Mini+Cooper you will get almost 70 million results, so there is little I can tell you about it that you don’t already know, so here’s just some of my favourite facts about the original model:

1. The Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally three times in the 60s, beating the likes of Porsche, for example;

2. Mary Quant named her greatest invention, the mini-skirt, after the Mini, for neither was ‘any longer than absolutely necessary’;

3. It was named European Car of the Century in 1999 and came second for Global Car of the Century, behind the Ford Model T;

4. Five million original Mini were produced, making it by far the most popular British car ever;

5. Actor Kevin Spacey bought the last original Mini Cooper produced for a mere http://www.30.000.

There. Now every time you find yourself in the middle of an awkward silence, just roll out some Mini trivia.

The first Mini was built until 2000 – that is 41 years of production – and the new model came out one year later. Still, it looks absolutely fresh twelve years on and the novelty factor has not worn off. Credit goes, of course, to the guys at BMW, who had the responsibility of building a 21st Century icon and hit the bullseye. The new Mini has already sold over a million units. I think the image is its greatest selling point, as it is a fashion accessory that never goes out of style. The thing is, there is real substance to it, and the result of that substance is that the Mini is the automotive equivalent of a happiness pill. It is impossible to feel sad while driving it and just knowing you own one will help get through those days when your boss is obnoxious or you just found out some lazy politician will now take another ten percent of your income because the word crisis is the greatest escape goat this continent has ever seen.

Because it is still August, the Cabrio felt like the right version for this road test and to that we added the name Cooper S. I dare you to come up with a more evocative name in the automotive lexicon this side of a Ferrari GTO or Porsche Carrera RS. The Cooper S now boasts 184 hp from its 1.6 litre turbo four and, it needs to be said in one more media outlet, it is sublime. Just the right amount of fast for real everyday driving, a chassis made in heaven and a manual transmission only the guys at Munich know how to build make the Mini Cooper S a riot on the road. It corners with amazing ability and indulges beginners and keen drivers in equal measure. Everyone will love driving a Mini. The open top experience is a bonus you should consider, as it does not open too wide a gap in the dynamic department to the tin top model and adds yet another layer of charm and charisma. Just pack light, because the boot is, well, tiny at best.

There are many different Minis now, including a small SUV and a two-door coupé, but to me, this is the real deal, the hatchback. If I could have only one, I would go with the 211 hp Coupé John Cooper Works, because it is an insanely fast and capable car, but this Cooper S Cabrio is definitely my second choice. I doubt the rest of the family shares my order of preference though.