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A mini battle

Nov 03 2012, 10:03 IST
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SummaryFrom BMC to BMW, Mini Cooper’s journey has been eventful. Now that it is in India, we check out how good the small car is compared to the entry luxury car Audi A4.

In adversity lies opportunity. Not many know that the iconic small car, the Mini, was born out of the energy crisis in the 1950s. Modern history lessons tell us that with the Egyptian blockade of the Suez in 1956, the price of petrol shot up. And when the crisis forced the British government to introduce petrol rationing, British Motor Corporation (BMC), sensing an upcoming new market, set out to design a car that was affordable to run. (In fact, during the design stage, the Mini was called the New Market!) The revolutionary, front-wheel drive, compact design was created by Sir Alec Issigonis and by 1959 the car landed on British roads. The car was so successful that it became the small car icon of the 1960s. Its design such that even four decades later some cars keep getting inspired by the Mini—think Suzuki Swift, Skoda Fabia. In the 1990s, the Mini went from BMC to BMW, when the German carmaker took control of the Rover Group, which included the Mini.

Here it must be added how Cooper got added to Mini. John Cooper, owner of the Cooper Car Company and a friend of Sir Issigonis, saw the potential of the Mini as a performance car and wanted to make a car for competitive events. So, he appealed to the BMC management and the two men collaborated to create the Mini Cooper. In fact, in the Mini world, “Cooper treatment” means making the car sporty!

The Audi A4, on the other hand, is a product of the 1990s and has been among the largest selling compact luxury cars across the world. India is no exception. In fact, it is because of the A4 that Audi has managed to become a serious luxury car player in India.

The Mini Cooper was launched in India at the Auto Expo earlier this year, while the Audi A4 was launched in 2009. Recently, a mid-life facelift to the A4 brought in a lot of subtle improvements to an already good car. Now, one might say that there is no comparison between a small car such as the Mini Cooper and a saloon such as the A4. We agree. But then, what unites them is the price (roughly R30 lakh). And to do justice to our comparison, we chose the five-door Mini Cooper Countryman (Cooper S and Cooper Convertible are three-door cars).

The Mini Countryman is the first member of

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