MINI GENERATION GAP; A Fascinating Test by Which? Car Proves a Lot Has Changed in 50 Years -- and Most of It for the Better

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

MINI GENERATION GAP; A Fascinating Test by Which? Car Proves a Lot Has Changed in 50 Years -- and Most of It for the Better


Byline: David Williams MOTORING JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR

[bar] EW of us, as we speed along the motorway, careen around a bend or hit the brakes in an emergency, give much thought to how much easier modern engineering makes all of these tasks. But an experiment by Which? Car -- the experts who go to more lengths than most when testing vehicles -- has shown just how much progress cars have undergone in half a century.

To celebrate 50 years of Which? car tests, they took an original 1961 Mini 850 and subjected it to the very same tests they now use to assess modern cars. To make it more interesting, they ran identical tests on the new MINI One, to see which fared best in a series of demanding acceleration, braking and swerve challenges. The results make fascinating reading -- even if it always was going to be an unfair contest.

When the 1961 Austin Seven rolled off the production line costing [pounds sterling]567 16s ([pounds sterling]9,300 today), it had a wheezy 848cc petrol engine producing 34bhp and achieving 41mpg -- compared to the powerful 90bhp diesel engine fitted to its modern counterpart, capable of 74.3mpg. But whereas the newcomer has nearly three times the power, it also weighs two and a half times as much, at 1,540kg versus a flyweight 620kg.

The new car looks enormous compared to the old one, too. It's probably just as well, to fit in all the extra equipment, including antilock braking, CD player and DAB radio, electric windows and mirrors, heated windscreen washers, "follow-me-home" headlights, green tinted glass and cup-holders. All luxuries yet to come in 1961.

The other big change is from the driver's seat. In the old one, notes Which? Car, there's nothing ahead of you save a spindly Bakelite steering wheel, central speedometer and a wide shelf. The flat seats aren't comfy -- especially when cornering. But there's plenty of room for four adults, with generous door bins and under-seat stowage space. The old car has a 96-litre boot compared to 155 litres in the MINI One, which makes all the difference in the world. …

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