WHEN BMW got their hands on the name ‘Mini’ in the 1980s they added some self-raising flour and popped it in the oven for a few years.
When it emerged in 2001 it had, slightly ironically, become the larger ‘MINI.’ It had gone from being the name of a cute little tin deathtrap that was admittedly great fun to drive to being a brand all by itself.
In the process it shook off images of Mr Bean and became the preserve of every seventeen year old girl (with a rich father) up and down the land. Overnight any young man who boasted of owning a Mini was transformed from recipient of quiet respect to being the focus of raised eyebrows.
Initially, it seems that MINI was happy enough with just the one car in two guises, but after a few years of the One and Cooper hatchbacks, the company took a page out of Porsche’s 911 blueprints and replaced the existing car with one that looked almost exactly the same.
Whereas a Mini was merely a type of car 30 years ago, it’s now almost a way of life, or an adventure, as the ad men would like us to say.
There is also the hackneyed compliant that the company’s products, allegedly small cars, are the size of penthouse apartments. Yes, yes, more stringent safety regulations mean that modern cars are gargantuan beside their olden-day equivalents, but it seems perverse to call these behemoths ‘minis’. I guess they couldn’t call them ‘Maxis’ either, as that makes the car sound like a dress. Plus the original Austin Maxi did not become a classic in the way of its tinier stablemate. For good reasons.
Maybe there’s slightly too much of the whiff of corduroy and Condor pipe smoke as I bemoan what I consider to be the cynical corporate exploitation of a much loved name, but following the odd Clubman and the downright hideous Countryman, I am left wondering how much more stretching the badge can withstand.
It’s like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr selling the Beatles name to Jay Z so he can slap it on rap and R’n’B records.
The latest product of the MINI machine is the Coupe, revealed to the world today via a series of ‘leaked’ photos that were actually released by MINI themselves. Hmm, slight piece of attention-seeking there.
The car looks like a standard Cooper that has been reversed into a lowered car-wash roller at high speed. It is not an ugly car but neither is it beautiful. It is undoubtedly being aimed squarely at people who buy the Audi TT, but falls well short of the TT’s purposeful poise. Its waistline is too high, betraying the fact that its genesis lies in clunky adaptation of the standard car rather than a bespoke design. No doubt it will sell in vast numbers, but there surely can’t be many more variations of the same car. I can’t help wondering how long it will be before we have the ‘Continentman,’ a bug-eyed monstrosity the same size as a Range Rover and twice the price.
Richard Craig is a blogger and writer dealing with both motoring and legal issues. He currently works for the injury claim industry .