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Old 01-28-2016, 09:27 AM   #1
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Opinions about the Mini as a toad...

We're starting to think about adding a toad to flat tow behind our 2014 33.2 Palazzo. We want something small and light, yet well engineered. At the same time, we don't want to spend a huge amount of money since we aren't retired yet (limits our usage of the coach for now) and have no plans to full time once we do. My thought was to look for something in the 2006-2010 range, perhaps with high mileage, but well maintained (it appears as though it's a vehicle that some owners treat like they would a BMW or Mercedes). Any personal experience or feedback would be appreciated….
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:39 AM   #2
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I have two friends who have owned mini's in the past 5-10 years. Both no longer own them now. They said they were fun to drive, BUT they wouldn't buy another. Too many issues.

Both were older (60-65) co-workers.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:34 AM   #3
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Daughter bought a Mini Clubman (5-door hatchback) a couple of years ago. She loves it, even though she knows that Consumer Reports rates it as much worse than average reliability.
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Old 01-29-2016, 06:26 AM   #4
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I'll give you a long version of Mini ownership from a car fanatic. It was a love / hate relationship to say the least. I had spent a year looking for the right used Porsche, and gave up, and decided to get a new Mini for kicks.

I custom ordered a 2006 CooperS in August 2005. It was a "week 2" 2006 build, meaning it was the 2nd week of the 2006 model year production. Why is that important, because Mini fanatics know that about thier car. They also know, very wisely, that issues with Minis can very often be tied to when they went down the production line (to no great surprise when you think about it). Unfortunately, or coincidently, my car seemed to have every known malady that the last couple weeks of 2005 model production had, and the first few weeks of 2006 production.

First thing, which was the most major issue was a Supercharger belt squeal within 2 weeks of delivery. The forums were all over it immediately, and of course the dealer was clueless. They had it for a week, and I did t even get off the lot before I drove it right back in since they didn't fix it right. Another week to get it fixed right.

There were 2 or 3 other minor issues that realated to that build period as well.

The dealership service experience was horrendous, because Mini was still relatively new to the market at that time, the dealership service teams were understaffed, and all the cars had all these major and minor issues. They just did not have the capacity to deal with all the problems (kind of sounds like RVs, doesn't it?!).

I picked up a huge rock hit on the windshield. Not Mini's fault per se, but the very vertical windshild is prone to picking up rocks and breaking vs. deflecting them. Windshild trim on a Mini was (is?) a "one use" part, don't try to reuse it because you'll get leaks. Ok, knew all that, called the dealership and set a service appointment a couple weeks out so they could get the parts in hand. Confirmed with them before I took it in, planned for 2 days out of service. Nope, they had the wrong color parts, and it took a week.

My last straw was having an oil change approintment at 8:00 on a Sat. morning. Simple enough, right. I didn't get out of the dealership until 2:00 pm.

Found a Porsche, and the Mini was gone after 14 months. And yes, it was in perfect condition, and I lost very little money on it. The used car manager at Porsche dealership was amazed, but that is the way I am with my cars.

So, what else can I ramble on about (you asked the car question........).

Driving it was a blast. Took it to the Tail of the Dragon with a bunch of friends in Vettes, and the little CooperS was in its perfect element and could stay up with the Vettes on that tight twisty road all day long. At street legal(ish) speeds, the Mini was just as fun, if not more so as the Porsche (I did a lot of track driving in the Porsche, as well as other cars, so no one get on a the soap box about driving irresponsibly).

But, if you think a nice ride is Lexus like, the Mini is NOT that in any way. They are stiffly sprung, and the run flat tires add to the ride harshness. The interior while funky and cool, also had (has gotten better I have heard) a very hard plastic feel, and those heard plastics could creak (a lot) which of course is compounded by the harsh ride.

While the Mini is small, you do ride at a "normal" car height, and do not feel like you are looking under trucks as you do in something like a Porsche or Miata for instance.

It's actually fairly practical too. With the back seats down, you can fit a lot of stuff inside. Adults under 200#, with a bit of flexibility, can actually ride in the back seat (for short trips).

Mini ownership can be cult like if you want to get into it. Many owners are hard core "car guys" who actually like living with cars that have nuances but provide a fun driving experience. Others just like having a car that is "different".

I have no idea if the dealership service departments have thier act together these days, nor do I know how the cars hold up long term. Is a 2006 a good used car, because all the kinks were worked out years ago; I have no idea......

With all that, I still miss it. Maybe you just tend to overlook the shortcomings looking back, but I still think about getting another one at some point, probably not, but fun to think about.

In reading back over all this, owing a Mini is kind of like owning an RV......

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Old 01-29-2016, 07:11 AM   #5
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Fiat 500 Abarth

I was thinking about the same questions when I purchased my Damon Daybreak 3270 (34ft). This is a Ford V10 with F53 chassis, so I didn't want to go too heavy. Thinking about Mini too at the time. I stumbled on the Abarth via Ebay. Original price was approx. $23K new. I bought mine for $13.8 with only 4K miles on it. Surprisingly, it is engineered very well. I really like that it is a turbo, so it has a good bit of power/speed when needed. It weighs only 2400lbs. It is just my wife and me - if we had a small child this would even e tough with the existing back seat. The two front seats are very comfortable performance seats. I ended up taking the car to a muffler shop to have a muffler installed on the straight pipe (center of car). Part of its power comes from not having muffler(s) from the factory - don't like to wake up the neighborhood each morning. Sounds great now, and no loss of performance.

Purchased a Blue OX baseplate and installed it myself. Had to remove the plastic on the front - other than that it was just removing front bumper (under plastic front) and bolting on the baseplate and safety cables. Ran the wires (Blue OX 8869) and installed myself. The RV came with the Blue OX tow bar (saved me a good bit of money).

Don't even know I am pulling it with the V10. We love the car in every respect. I would imagine that a Mini is fantastic, and may be a bit better mechanically when you reach high miles. However, I can tell you first hand that Fiat has made a good car in the 500 Abarth - the standards can be had even cheaper, but you also have less of a performer.

I tow mine with all four wheels down - everyone that I speak to who pulls a toad seems to be happy moving away from a tow dolly.

Hope that helps provide some insight.
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Old 01-29-2016, 07:24 AM   #6
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I don't believe the Mini can be towed four down w/o Remco modification? We have a couple that tow a Fiat in or park and love it. FWIW.
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Old 01-29-2016, 09:54 AM   #7
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I have 2006 Mini S convertible. Six speed. Sorry I didn't get one sooner. Great toad four down. Had power line installed to insure battery. Use Blue Ox. Needed drop hitch adapter to level tow bar.
Widowed and travel alone in Forest River Lexington 265. Match made in heaven. Also have GMC Terrain. Leave it home for neighbor to use.
LOVE MY MINI!!
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Old 01-29-2016, 01:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clayobx View Post
I don't believe the Mini can be towed four down w/o Remco modification? We have a couple that tow a Fiat in or park and love it. FWIW.
If standard transmission and not all wheel drive they can be towed four down - at least mine can.
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Old 01-29-2016, 10:37 PM   #9
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We have a 2012 Mini S 6 speed manual trans, and we tow four down no problem. Don't know its behind you when you are towing it, and once you arrive at your destination, its a fun car to drive and see the local sights.
Would recommend one.
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Old 01-29-2016, 10:52 PM   #10
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Try a SmartCar instead. Easy to mod (just a battery switch), cheap ($5500 for my 2008), lighter (1800#) and they don't seem to have a lot of problems as far as I know. And oh yeah I understand they are made by Mercedes.
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Old 01-30-2016, 06:50 AM   #11
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Duh, my bad I was only thinking of a mini with auto transmission. LOL, Regarding the Smart car, I've read there are issues with the steering tracking and you have to rig up bungee cords so the wheel returns to center on cornering? True or false?
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Old 01-30-2016, 05:35 PM   #12
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I don't know about the bungee cords, but my March 2016 issue of Consumer Reports came today. Included was a report on the Smart ForTwo, and they said it was almost the worst small car they have tested, ranking tenth out of the eleven subcompact cars. Best was the Honda Fit. And they liked the new Scion 1A, which is badge-engineered Mazda 2. Here's the list of those ten cars:

Score_Car_Price as tested
67 . Honda Fit . $19,025
66 . Chevy Sonic . 17,290
65 . Hundai Accent . 16.050
64 . Ford Fiesta . 16,595
64 . Kia Rio . 17,275
61 . Nissan Versa Note . 17,495
60 . Scion 1A . 17,570
56 . Nissaan Versa . 15,490
47 . Toyota Yaris . 17,290
41 . Smart ForTwo . 18,730

Jump over to the sports/sporty cars to find the Mini:
81 . Mini Cooper S . $30,000

So the Mini Cooper S is rated a lot higher than the best of the subcompact cars, but it costs more than ten grand more.

Bottom line: Forget about a Smart. Get a Fit if your budget is less than $20k. Get the Mini only if you cannot live without a sporty car, and you understand that it will not be reliable and trouble free.
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Old 01-30-2016, 05:38 PM   #13
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We have a gas Bounder so it is HIGH at the hitch point. That would seem to tell me the steering wheel tie down problem on these light cars might be worse because they "lift" the front when accelerating.

So thinking of that and "conventional wisdom" we tried without bungees for a couple thousand miles and with bungees for a few hundred. So far I can't see the difference. The hassle of the cords makes me think I'll just try without till I see tire wear. I do tend to not follow all of the conventional wisdom I hear sometimes so I may regret that

We are looking at what we would do for the next toad and considered a Mini but from what I'm hearing I think we may stick with Smart or try another model eventually.

With regard to the SmartCar overall its been great and it's size allows a lot of parking options over most of the larger models. We've loved it.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:32 AM   #14
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Thanks all....

I've been offline for a while, but have now caught up and appreciate all of the input. I actually owned a Smart for a few years, and I'd consider another one, but really need at least a "pretend" back seat to accommodate very small grandchildren periodically.

I've also looked at the Fiat 500 as someone suggested, but they, if anything, seem to have a quality record that is worse than the Smart or Mini. As another poster mentioned, however, that can be very much like the reputations on RVs...one owner's nightmare is another owner's dream. Our Palazzo, for instance, is abhorred by some, yet ours has simply been a joy. Go figure. For that matter, our Smart was trouble-free as well. Perhaps we're just lucky?

Back to the Mini.... Has anyone installed their own baseplate, braking systems and/or lighting kits on their cars? I hate the idea of paying a dealer big bucks to do something poorly, if I'm able to do it well myself....
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