Mini celebrates 20th anniversary

April 26th, 2001 saw the first new Mini roll of the line; it's been quite the two decades since

By Matt Bird / Monday, April 26, 2021 / Loading comments

Here’s one to make us all feel very old: today marks exactly 20 years since the Mini of the BMW era emerged from Plant Oxford. It was ahead of a market launch for the R53 generation on July 7th, 2001, with those early Y-plated cars now highly prized in the Mini community. Doesn’t seem all that long ago the complaints rung out of it being too expensive and not a proper Mini…

More than five million Minis have been built in the UK since 2001 at BMW’s Oxford and Swindon plants; over the years they’ve had responsibility for three- and five-door hatches, Clubmans, Convertibles and, most recently, the Electric. As we all know, too, those cars represent just the tip of the iceberg; there have certainly been plenty of derivatives over the past 20 years, some more favourably received than others. While the Countryman flourished, the three-door Paceman proved a niche too far; the buying public still can’t get enough of the Mini Convertible, but both Roadster and Coupe met a premature end. So it hasn’t all been a plain sailing.

That said, it would be hard to call the modern Mini story anything other than a resounding success; 100,000 Minis were built within 13 months of launch, pointing to what lay ahead. It changed the landscape of small cars, introducing the kind of personalisation and individual feel usually reserved for much larger, more expensive cars. And even if some Mini spin offs haven’t been the best-looking cars in the world, looking at this red R53 here in the pictures shows what a great piece of design the original was.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that there’s been some fantastic driver’s cars over the past 20 years of Mini. Even the standard Coopers were praised for their dynamics early on, with the plaudits only becoming more effusive with more powerful models. In fact, those Cooper S R53s now look like something of a bargain for such a great hot hatch, with high mileage cars from £2k and really good ones still less than £5k. Given the values affixed to both its contemporaries and the stripped-out GP of that era – which still commands £15k and above – the regular supercharged car is hard to ignore.

Later ones hold similar appeal. This Cooper S JCW is said to be the last R56 hatch made, reflected in the £14k asking price; there are N18-engined cars available for less than that, however, and just £3,500 if you want to take a punt on an N14 engined Cooper S. Similarly to the original, second-gen GPs are very hot property still – budget £20k for a good one.

And if it feels like plenty has been packed into the past 20 years, there’s a lot coming for Mini in the near future as well. More than 17,000 Electrics have been sold globally, and it was recently announced that the last combustion engined Mini will be launched in 2025. With the brand set to be all electric from the 2030s, those models already in high demand are unlikely to drop off anytime soon. Best move on the bargains soon…

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