How reliable is MINI? An impartial look at the British classic

We investigate whether Mini are reliable...

The Mini is an iconic car brand, and as British as you could possibly get. The original Mini was a staple of British culture in the 1960s, and was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century in 1999.

Currently owned by BMW, Mini continues to be a very popular brand in the UK and are a common sight on British roads.

But, how reliable are Mini’s? BMW aren’t exactly famed for their reliability, so are Mini the same?

In this article, we look at how reliable Mini are, and how this compares to some of their rivals.

How reliable are Mini’s?

Honestly, Mini are positively average when it comes to dependability. They are neither unreliable nor the most reliable manufacturer out there. They are simply average.

ReliabilityIndex puts the brand in 19th place out of 36, with a reliability index of 110. This isn’t bad, though it is average more than it is above average. The Telegraph rank Mini 19th in their 20 most reliable car brands, with 140 problems per 100 vehicles. They have slid down quite a bit since last year, where they came 13th place with just 105 problems per 100 vehicles.  CNN also ranked Mini as average, putting them 10th in their top 10 for reliability, just scraping being included in the table.

How reliable is the Mini Cooper?

The Mini Cooper is the most well-known Mini and really what we all think of when we say the word ‘Mini’. The Mini Cooper is average in terms of dependability. It has a reliability index of 117, and the average is 118. It’s repair costs aren’t too bad, coming in at £396.77 on average which is pretty good, especially compared to some of their rivals. They are off the road for a little bit longer however, at 2.62 hours. It appears that the engine accounts for most of the problems, at 29.48% of all issues.

Red Mini Cooper Hatchback with red stripes driving fast on the road

Carbuyer also rank the Mini Cooper at just above average in their Driver Power survey. Just 7.3% of owners experienced a problem with their Mini on more than one occasion. It scores pretty well on autoexpress, with a reliability score of 95.38%. Most owners on autoexpress had very good things to say about their Mini Cooper, particularly with the dependability. There were a few that had some complaints, one noting the costliness of the repairs. But overall, the Mini Cooper has received mainly positive, if not a bit average, feedback.

Is the Mini One reliable?

The Mini One scores better than the Cooper for dependability on ReliabilityIndex, with a reliability index of 113. It has average repair costs of £452.37 and is off the road for 3.08 hours, which is quite a long time. The repair costs are also more than the Cooper and some of their rivals. Again, the main issue appears to be the engine, accounting for 32.29% of issues.

Consumer feedback on cars is mainly positive. Many award the Mini One with 4 or 5 stars for reliability. There are some complaints, but these are very few compared to those singing their praises. One customer notes that there were faults Mini couldn’t find the answer to, so customer service can also come into play here when looking at dependability.

Overall, though, it seems the Mini One is a solid car.

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How do you determine reliability?

So how do we decide how dependable a car is?

The most obvious way is to look at how many things go wrong with the car, that’s a surefire way to tell how dependable it is. This is where numerical data comes in really handy. For example, ReliabilityIndex use information from WarrantyDirect, who provide extended warranties for a number of makes and models. When someone makes a claim, they log the information and then use that data to determine which cars are most dependable and which ones aren’t. They also take into account the amount of time the car is off road and the average cost of repairs. Both these things contribute to overall dependability.

Black MINI Paceman front view

The reasons Mini might be considered average in terms of dependability according to ReliabilityIndex is down to the claims made on WarrantyDirect, as well as the cost of repairs and the time off the road. Mini aren’t the most expensive brand, nor are they the most affordable, which means that their repair costs are about right. New parts aren’t going to cost a fortune or be difficult to source, but they might not be readily available or slightly more expensive than parts for a more affordable car. This can affect the dependability.

We also use consumer surveys and self-reports to determine how dependable a car is. This is because we can gather more information about those who drive the car on a daily basis. We can also find out more about individual experiences which help support, or go against, what the numerical data is telling us. For example, we can tell that one driver is unhappy with the repair costs, and another with the customer service. This can bring their dependability ranking down. But, we can also see that many owners are happy with their cars, and have had very little trouble.

Both are very good ways of determining how dependable a car is.

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Mini vs. Volkswagen vs. Fiat

How does Mini compare to other iconic models, such as the Volkswagen Beetle and the Fiat 500 when it comes to dependability?

The Volkswagen Beetle is an impressively dependable car. It has a reliability index of 62 and the repair costs are pretty reasonable too, at £226.45 on average. It is also off the road for just 1.63 hours, which is much less time than Mini. Electrics account for most of the problems, with 46.88% of issues being electrical. This is followed by axle and suspension issues, who trail behind at 21.88%. Volkswagen as a brand don’t score as well, with a reliability index of 137. This places them 25th out of 36 on ReliabilityIndex.

White Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback driving on a country road with grass in the background

The Fiat 500 is also a very dependable car. It scores a reliability index of 78, with average repair costs of £305.32. This puts it more on par with Mini in terms of average costs, but higher for reliability. It is also only off the road for 1.73 hours on average, putting it quicker than Mini but not as good as the Beetle. The axle and suspension accounts for 32.93% of the problems. Fiat score highly as a brand as well, coming in 15th to Mini’s 19th and Volkswagen’s 25th, with a reliability index of 99.

 

So if you want a quirky car that is also reliable, then the Volkswagen Beetle is your best bet. Although, the Fiat 500 is also a dependable car (and, Mini don’t trail that far behind), but they aren’t as reliable as their rivals.

In conclusion, Mini are an average brand when it comes to reliability.They are neither the worst brand in the world for reliability nor are they shouting about how dependable their cars are. Their repairs are quite costly, though, and this can bring the dependability down. They are also off the road for longer than their competitors when they do need repairing, which is something else to note. If we compare them to some of their other stylish rivals, then they don’t score as well. Ultimately, though, you are going to get a Mini because it looks good, it drives well (it is made by BMW after all) and is an integral part of British culture. And if that means you might spend a little bit longer at the garage, then so be it.

Common Mini problems

When you are looking at a new car, then you will want to know what sort of problems you may encounter further down the line. Here are some common problems you should look out for when you are looking at a Mini;

 

  • Engine
    • While Mini engines are pretty good in general, they can run into some problems. These include the timing chain needing tensioning, or replacement hydraulic tappets.
  • Gearbox
    • If you hear a whine from the transmission, then there could be a lack of oil, or a leak. This can happen in any car, but can often be found happening to Mini’s.
  • Leaks
    • If you are looking at a second hand model, then this is something you will want to look out for. Older Mini’s were susceptible to water leaks and this can cause electrical damage. Most of these problems were covered under warranty, but you won’t have that privilege if you are looking at a second hand Mini. Check the footwells for dampness and make sure you ask about the servicing and warranty work.

 

So those are some of the things that you should be looking out for when you get a Mini.

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Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

17 Comments

  • JB| 27th March 2019 at 12:06 pm Reply

    Personally, i wouldnt buy another BMW MINI. My MINI Clubman diesel purchased new in 2010 with a BMW engine not a PSA engine had numerous problems. I covered 90,000 miles in it altogether, finally the cam chain let go and the engine pretty much destroyed – i.e. it was beyond economic repair. During the six years I owned the car it had 4 replacement turbos, a replacement DFP and a number of ventilation problems. Basically it was a real lemon. However it was fun and economic to drive….

    • Rachel Richardson| 27th March 2019 at 1:01 pm Reply

      Hi JB,
      Many thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that while the MINI was a fun and economical drive it was not the most reliable vehicle for you. Hopefully you’ve found something to replace it which closer fits the bill.

  • ageli m| 1st November 2018 at 8:10 pm Reply

    I am about to purchase a second hand 2008 cooper cabrio with 40 k km. What is your best advice to 73 year young man, keep the good work, Loves your informotive contribution to the motorists, thanks

    • Rachel Richardson| 5th November 2018 at 4:19 pm Reply

      Dear Ageli,
      Thank you for your comment, I am pleased that you find our articles helpful. With regards your query, you may find our articles on the reliability of the MINI and information on buying a second-hand car useful in your quest.

  • H. Bell| 29th September 2018 at 8:37 pm Reply

    If you aren’t a mechanic I’d steer clear of a mini out of warranty, my daughters goes through oil constantly and apparently its acceptable, the oil light doesn’t come on or even flicker till there is absolutely none left in the motor and continuing to drive will result in catastrophic failure (its a cooper btw) the ‘dipstick’ is only readable by dipsticks who work for BMW. The actual driving experience is great, on par with the MINI of old and sticks to the road like s**t to a blanket.

    You’ll only find out about its problems though when you have a failure and look stuff up online, MINI actually supplies the parts needed to prevent its problems from happening, only you don’t find out about those till they happen, make sure you attempt to check your oil level on a weekly basis and if you’re a high mileage person do it more often than that but as I say the dipstick is a ridiculous model which will leave you baffled till you research it.

    • Rachel Richardson| 1st October 2018 at 1:14 pm Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the Mini. I am sorry that it wasn’t more positive. I am sure that our readers will find this helpful when making their decision.

  • Star| 5th September 2018 at 4:33 pm Reply

    My Mini started falling apart at 70,000 miles. I consider it the LEAST reliable vehicle I have owned. I contacted the corporation, but they won’t do anything to help me. Bad investment if there ever was one!

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 6th September 2018 at 9:06 am Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experience, we are sorry to hear it wasn’t a more positive one.

  • Ott| 15th August 2018 at 6:11 pm Reply

    Holly,

    Thank you so much for your thorough and honest feedback on the Mini. Of all the review sites I’ve read so far, yours is the most informative.

    The issues with the engine, does that still apply if you’re going to buy a John Cooper Works Mini? Is it the same engine or how do they supercharge it to put out that many horses? Can you enlighten me on a JCW Mini? I hate to spend 40K+ and have my car in the shop all the time. My friends tell me i’m nuts to spend that kind of money on a Mini, but I think they are really cool. Honestly, I’ve never been in one but it seems like a lot of fun. Have you any personal experience with a JCW Mini. If so, can you give me the pros and cons? Especially the resale value since it is so much.

    After reading your article, I’m thinking it might be better to lease that way all the repairs are taken care of. Does that make sense? I’ve never leased before so that might be an option.

    Please let me know, look forward in reading more article from you.

    Have a blessed day!

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 16th August 2018 at 10:49 am Reply

      We are so glad that you have enjoyed Holly’s article! Our vehicle specialists would be the best people to talk you through the pro’s and con’s and help find you the best possible solution, whether that be purchasing or leasing, as we can provide all funding methods. If you could email your questions over to amanda.lelliott@osv.ltd.uk she will be able to schedule some time for one of them to chat and answer any questions you may have.

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