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GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Rover Mini Cooper 1.3i

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SPEX

Originally Published: July 3rd, 2004
Edited: March 18, 2007
 
Year Represented: 1998 ```````````````````````` Type: Subcompact 3-Door Hatchback
 
Country: England ````````````````````````````````` Host: GT2 & 5
 
Price: $16,830 (GT2), $12,707 (GT5)

Weight: 1,587 lbs.
Tires-front & rear: 145/70SR-12
F. supension: wishbones / hydrolastic spheres
R. suspension: trailing arms / hydrolasitc spheres
Length: 120 Width: 55.5" Height: 53.1"
Wheelbase: 80.2"
Overhang: @3 feet 5 inches
Front Track: 51.5"
Rear Track: 51.5"
 
The car in GT5 received oil change, but no engine rebuild, for all specs & testing below
 
Engine: 1.3 liter OHV inline-4
Aspiration: normal

                           GT2                             GT5
Tested HP: 61 @ 5,700 rpm             60 @ 6,000 rpm
Tstd Torque: 69 @ 4,000 rpm         68 @ 4,000 rpm

Lb/Hp ratio:   26.0                                 26.45
Hp per Liter:  47.84                                46.6
Credits per HP: $275.90                      211.78

Fuel system: single-point or twin-point fuel injection
Valves / cyl: 2
Brakes: disc / drum

Transmission: 4-speed manual
Differential: open-type

GT2 Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: 7,500
GT5 Idle: 800 // Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: 7,250
 
*GT2 Testing below*

0-60 mph: 16.7 seconds
0-100 mph: 1 minute 6.xxx seconds
 
¼ Mile: 21.958 @ 66 mph
1 KM:
38.575 @ 85
mph

Test Track time: 2:30.525
 
Top Speed at 7,500 rpm
1st: 33 mph
2nd: 60 mph
3rd: 91 mph
4th: 112.46 @ 6,300 rpm
 


 

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---------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY--------------------
 
This loveable little (and I do mean little) car is dwarfed by all others, except for some Kei vehicles. Even the compact Civic hatchback or Toyota Starlet looks fairly large when running alongside a Mini Cooper. The Mini's got a puny engine capable of saving massive amounts of fuel, but seems like nothing special when it comes to racing.
 
This car has appeared worldwide in GT2, GT3, and GT5, but oddly does not appear in GT4. Actually, that's not entirely true. The Japanese/NTSC version of GT4 has this Mini, along with various MINIs. Not sure why it got dropped outside of Japan's version. the real question is: Why is such a small weakling represented in the world of Gran Turismo at all?
 
In all games this one appears in, it is simply called the "Mini Cooper 1.3i", but the car as represented in our game is actually not its own company in its own right the way modern MINIs are today. Even the modern versions have some odd twists & turns to their ownership.  So let's learn and stuff.

The original Mini was made by Austin. The Austin Mini got its start way back in 1959, under circumstances most of us know little about. In 1956, England, Isreal, and France were at war with Egypt, which had just gained independence (along with several other Arab countries) from Europe. Long story short: gas rationing became mandatory in Britain for a short while, and only just a few years after the 2nd World War. This sucked. Many of England's mass-produced cars already were rather light at the pump, but not light enough. Enter BMC.
 
BMC, or British Motor Company, was formed by a merger between Austin and Morris in 1952 or something. Each company kept their star autos in place: Austin had their Austin Seven, and Morris produced the Minor. In 1959, a fellow by the name of Sir Alec Issigonis (though he wasn't a Knight yet) dreamt up a new boxy-looking car on a table napkin. It would be extremely fuel-economical, and would also be able to carry four adults and some luggage. He actually sat four people down in seperate chairs, then drew a diagram around them to help figure the dimensions of his car! Guess this is how things were done in the age before computers everywhere. 
 
It would sip fuel, yes...and parking one in a cramped area would not be a chore at all. Parallel parking would border on fun. The new car was the Mini. It featured a front-wheel drive, transverse engine set-up which had previously been an experiment some years earlier in a front-drive version of the Morris Minor. Little did anyone know the future of this little tyke!

The new Mini cost less than £500 ($786), making it super affordable. If they still made Minis at this price, I could technically afford a brand-new car in just two paychecks, assuming I could use 2005 money without any conversion. In 1959, about 20,000 Minis were produced, which is pretty good; but by 1962, this number had increased tenfold. From this point on, Austin-Morris sold about 200,000 or more cars a year for the next 15 years!
 
The millionth Mini rolled off the assembly line in 1965, and the 2,000,000 mark was passed not long after in 1969. Overall, seven generations of original Minis were created, with a total of 5,387,862 of these all over the world. The Mini was (at first) conceived as a small family car, but became something else altogether: a lifestyle / fashion statement, a jet-setter, and (quite unexpectantly) an amazing rally car. Austin Powers must have made his debut sometime during this era, too, which must have been a shagadellic moment.
 
Many versions of Mini were released early on including an estate car (that's a wagon to us Americans), a van, a pick-up truck, and even a military sevice vehicle. Some Minis had fiberglass bodies, while a few others were rear-drive, or powered electrically. Two luxury versions were also released under the Wolseley Hornet & Riley Elf badges, whatever the hell those are. 1961 saw the release of the first Mini Cooper, developed by Mr. John Cooper (who else?), which featured front disc brakes along with a larger 997 cc engine, and which produced more power than the original 848 cc 4-cylinder. The original 848 only put out a Subaru 360ish 34 hp!
 
In 1963, the Cooper became the Mini Cooper S, which was eventually equipped with a 1,275 cc engine similar to the one in our in-game Minis (the '98 car, anyways). Then the winning started. Nobody foresaw this car's racing future, not even the amazing Mr. Cooper.

From day one, the Mini (even the racing version) was a small, under-powered econobox, yet it managed to win the Monte Carlo Rally three years in a row!   During its first year of production, the Cooper S brought home 153 wins worldwide, matter of fact! The Mini may have been weak, but it could be driven over a variety of terrains and thru treacherous conditions which larger cars balked at. The fact that it was so small also must have helped quite often, skimming  by walls and other competition, and such.
 
Minis featured in GT2 have a rather ambivalent history; not very much info is given with this game's information page. The dealer also doesn't include a year of production in GT2 or 3, though it's safe to assume that our Mini was one of the Rover-produced cars that was churned out in the early to mid '90s. And in GT4 + 5, we learn that my educated guess was right: we've got a 1998 model year in these two games. According to Wikipedia, during the '90s, the Mini was not really a top-seller anymore like it was; instead it was more of an icon. People who bought it weren't just after its super fuel-economy and low-budget nature, the way original Mini drivers were. The Mini became a hit in Japan during this time, too. No wonder Kaz included this car, rather than an original Mark 1 or Mark II from the '60s.
 
As I drove this little buzz-bomb in GT5, I made note of the fact that it's got two useful mirrors (but small) fully on-screen, and that the Cooper makes one hell of a racket as it's being floored, most of this racket is bass, not mid-range or treble. Adjust your headphones accordingly.     

BMC became Rover Group in 1986, and in 1990 (with help from Master Guru John Cooper once again) the Mini Cooper was back in action, including its original 1.3 liter engine. In 1994, BMW acquired Rover Group, and sometime after 2000 BMW liquidated Rover (which was having typical sales issues) so that it was producing MINIs, but MG and others are now being produced by a seperate consortium. Finally, Land Rover was acquired by Ford as was Jaguar (confused yet?). All we need to know is that BMW acquired Mini, and stuck with this brand throughout the 2000s. BMW's direction wound up refreshing the MINI's appearance, and made it available to us in North America (and worldwide) as a not-so-mini MINI.
 
By the way, that is not a typo: the new car (MINI) is supposed to be capitalized, which seperates it from previous versions.  
 
....And now, we see these larger MINIs in yuppy neighborhoods everywhere, but for God's sakes, the car is still cool.
 



------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------------
 

Other than a minor Gran Turismo error (the engine size is 1,275 ccs, not 1,271 as stated in GT2), the 4-cylinder in this car is accurately portrayed. It has normally-aspirated tuning, 2 valves per cylinder, and single or twin-point fuel-injection, depending which website we want to believe. In other words, what we have here is akin to a couple mice running on a wheel, as far as performance goes.
 
In my GT2 test, it took 16.7 seconds to struggle to 60 mph, and over a minute to make 100. Unfortunately, I'm not able to do any testing in GT5 these days, but we can assume the car hasn't gotten any faster. The engine peaks out at a healthy 8,000 rpms, but for our purposes, the red-line of 7,000 will do. Generally, we can safely let this car's motor get about halfway thru the redline area before upshifting, assuming the transmission is still stock. In 3rd or 4th gear, you'll want to shift a bit earlier, though.

Our motor seriously loses torque once we get into 3rd gear, which takes FOREVER to get to 91 mph. Top speed maxes out at 112.46 mph in GT2, and I managed just 104 mph (5,775 rpm) in GT5 around Daytona. Yikes. After holding down that accelerator stick for almost 3 minutes during my Test Track runs, I gladly went in the next room and microwaved some leftover pasta.
 
Taking the Mini to the parts shop for engine improvements is a damn fine idea, and it is here that we have our choice of a couple turbos to install (GT2), both of which are economically-priced. The GT3 Mini can only be won as a prize, and the first NA stage can be bought along with those two turbos so far as upgrades go. GT5 offers all three NA kits and all three turbos. The Mini can't accept intercoolers in any game, but we can bore this engine's displacement out a bit to increase power a little and add some needed torque, oddly, in any game except GT5, I think.
 
The Mini will become an addictively fun machine when all is said and done: pound / power ratio will fall from 26 to just 7.86 when full weight reductions are applied with a race kit in GT2, since the standard engine's 61 hp can be raised up to 180 hp. Also available in GT2 is the Mini Cooper MK1, based on a real-life rally car with 239 available horsepower. Ooo-fah! This is the car which we drive around Tahiti Road during the first S-license test if I'm not mistaken. 
 
In GT3, there are no super-Minis, but in GT4 and 5 we have several versions from the dealer, mostly the BMW-produced models. None of these are really as awesome as what was found in GT2, though.
 
The transmission. Our regular Mini is equipped as a 4-speed with some extremely tall gearing, as mentioned above. This can be replaced with a close-ratio box to add an extra gear, but the full-racing transmission should be purchased if you want to get serious, especially as the car's power is maxed-out. Otherwise the Mini finds itself losing speed on straightaways. It is possible in some situations to leave the stock 4-speed installed and still win a few, but eventually it becomes a burden.
 
Overall, we've got a project on your hands with the Mini Cooper 1.3i. Eventually it will pay off if we're willing to spend some credits. In GT5, which features some really easy racing to start with, I took this model from the Sunday Cup to the Clubman, just like in the old days.
 

shagadelic_mini.jpg



---------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------------
 

When we buy this car and take it to the track, the first thing we notice (in GT2 or 3) is that Gran Turismo forgot to add spring rates. Or did they? Read the text below, which I cut & paste from some website.
 

*** THE PRINCIPLE OF THE HYDROLASTIC SUSPENSION

The outstanding feature is its simplicity of operation. The front and rear Hydrolastic displacers on each side of the car are inter-connected by a small bore pipe. The system is hermetically sealed and therefore never needs any further attention during the normal working life of the car. Each displacer incorporates a rubber spring, and damping of the system is achieved by rubber valves. So when a road wheel is deflected, fluid is displaced to the corresponding suspension unit. In turn, it is raised in anticipation of its wheel encountering the cause of its counterpart's deflection. The rubber springs are only slightly brought into play and the car is freed from any tendency to pitch, although full play is given to wheel movement, producing a soft ride. ***www.homestead.com/austin1800/page16.html
 
I'm not exactly sure what that all means, but some of you might. Instead of coil springs, leaf springs, or torsion bars, the Mini has these fluid-filled bags. I'm not sure what sort of advantage (if any) they are supposed to offer.  
 
 But basically, the Mini in our games has several advantages over others cars despite its lacks, and despite its odd suspension tuning.
 
GT2
First of all: size. Ever find yourself behind a pack of cars at a narrow track like Rome or Grindelwäld (or even a wider track like Red Rock Speedway) and wish you could squeeze through? In a Mini, you can! Ever want to race a car towards a particular corner and out-brake those other five competitors in the blink of an eye? In a Mini, you can!

I've raced this car with Stage 1 turbo tuning, sports or semi-racing aspiraton, no suspension upgrades whatsoever. I was using sport tires in the rear, and normal tires up front, an effort to reduce the Mini's tendency to go sideways under hard cornering. With these odd upgrades, the car has won several races. It doesn't hurt that it was produced with just 4.13" (105 mm) of stock ground clearance, which helps it corner without much of the body-roll we find in larger hatchbacks.
 
Oddly, the main thing to watch for is loss of grip at the rear of the car--a condition I like to call ‘Roversteer’. :-) Understeer isn't as much of a problem unless the Mini is fully-powered -- but even then, it's not that bad. Understeer is only serious if the driver totally forgets to brake.
 
Speaking of brakes, it's possible to go light with their use: slamming will only cause the wheels to try locking, especially in GT2. It's best to use the brakes in a peppering sort of way--just enough that things get done, but don't get ruined. At times, brakes can be entirely substituted by downshifting at the right moment, matter of fact.
 
It's tempting to have this one shod in racing slicks early on. Playstation Ai Minis tend to breeze thru corners with nary any sideways motion -- which is deceiving. In truth, the back-end of the Mini is hard to control. Countersteer works but will cause the car to lose speed since it is front-wheel drive. Stage 2 engine-tuned cars are actually a bit easier to race than Stage 1s, mostly because they won't need to wait as long to straighten-out after one of their slides.
 
GT5
Now for some fun on the 7th generation of consoles.
 
In this game, I drove the Mini 1.3i at the Sunday and Clubman cups. Since it's got such low power, and both of these series don't require much power, we're in the right place for track-testing. Driven around Cape Ring Periphery first, on stock medium-grade radials and 60 horses in its aquarium-sized engine bay, the Mini mostly grips.
 
...  Except when it doesn't. OUCH!  Being so slow, I couldn't help but push this one into this track's various curves and turns, even though no race was taking place. Since the car is so sluggish on straights, the temptation is there to get as much done in those turns. The first turn into the very first braking-zone resulted in me not braking enough. OH, it'll be okay I thought. No. It won't. There's the understeer, there's the wall, there's the trip to the parts shop.
 
I bet this thing will do much better during the Clubman, where medium sport tires are allowed though, right?!  But for now, we're doing the Sundays. And actually, even at Cape Ring on those cheap tires, it's noticeable how tossable the Mini is, especially during this track's wider curves. Choose a line which isn't looking so good?  Just yank the steering. The front-end may protest a bit, but it always reacts. Most of the time, you can nudge this one (or toss it) into the line you want. It helps that there isn't much going on under that hood. 
 
The Sunday Cup race at Autumn Ring Mini required 61 horsepower, which is what this car actually showed up with. It also asks for medium radials (or maybe softs if we start getting desperate) which seems scary, but is also what we've got. The Mini Cooper 1.3i faced some competition at this track, but mostly from its own self: the front-end reached its limit of understeer during about half this track's turns, and at such moments, all we can usually do is wait for it to go away, or for the turn to straighten, before gas can be seriously flooded. But I did not feel this was the cause of the 3rd-place finish this one garnered; I forgot to equip a close-ratio 5-speed for this first race.
 
At the second race, with the gearbox swapped, we managed 2nd place. The Mini was faced with a Peugeot 106 on pole, and a Mazda Roadster on 2nd. The Mazda got ahead of the Pug on Lap 1 going into 2, and there was simply no catching it; the Mini's tires actually are too much of a limit. But still, let's note that lack of ABS braking does not hurt this one at all, not at Autumn Ring Mini anyways. And the lack of space this car exists within often helped me squeeze the Mini into areas which might be unsqueezable for many others, even some other compacts.  
 
 At Grand Valley East, where speeds are much higher (ahem) I opted for those soft radials. Best idea ever. The stock transmission was put back in place because with a Stage 2 turbo system, the Mini's power curve was now firmly spiked down the middle at 85 horsepower @ 4,200, so it's important to select some gears which can be shifted early enough to delve into this area. The stock suspension (those hydrolastic spheres) was kept in place though. Let's see what happens if some greater speed is included. Will this car do as well as the models from GT2?  Does it still have its 'go-kart' handling, with a loose rear-end? 
 
Again, it's obvious that this car is its own worst enemy, even with some upgraded tires, its front end would still get to that very firm limit, and then there'd be little I could do. Live with it, chap. On the other hand, since GVE features some larger turns, there were times the Cooper could just push a bit anyways. It's so damn small, rarely would I need to worry about it getting all the way off-track, or into some guardrail or wall.
 
We were in first place before the tunnel, passing by a couple of Silvias, a Primera, and even the Miata which showed up could not beat us!  This can be said: it's mostly due to the Mini Cooper's ability to twist and turn so tightly in and out. Even with some front-end pushing, the Cooper still skools. Even with that very tall 4-speed, it still bakes up some lovely shepherd's pie.
 
This car is not super-gymnastic, like the Lotus Elan I just drove, but it does have some all-around agility, and it can use this agility maybe about half the time it's cornering. An Elan can take many turns in many different ways: out-in-out, out-in-in, in-in-out-, and so on. The Mini can do all of this too, as long as the final portion winds up being 'out, assuming that just Stage 1 NA power (85-ish hp) is being used. The only time a Mini can exit in any other way than 'out', and using full gas, is if its power is tamed near to factory-stock.  
 
Lack of ABS was finally felt here, too. I experimented by braking into the first hairpin on Lap 2, starting at about 75 meters instead of 100. 100 meters is most common in most cars during this race, you see. Finally, the rear-end did a rather wild jackknife, those rear tires getting some brake-induced oversteer. It's not exactly the 'Roversteer' we saw in GT2 (which was caused more by body-sway than braking), but this is as close as we're gonna get.
 
During the Clubman Cup, with the Cooper now on medium sport tires. Everybody says Minis have 'go-kart' handling, which may be true with newer MINIs, but with this '98, I can't really say this is true. Go-karts do not understeer much, if you may have noticed. They are able to withstand extremely high cornering speeds, as we saw during our own go-kart races in this game.
 
The '98 Mini?  Sure, it grips most of the time, but if it begins to lose traction up front, it can quickly become an understeering nightmare. At the speeds required for this car to corner during the Clubman Cup at Tsukuba, we finally saw some more drastic pushing, entry or exit. I did not expect this; not with medium sport tires, anyways.
 
Then again, this is still an amazingly agile vehicle. And we can PUSH it, too. We can push this car deep into turns, get its front-end smoking like hookah shops, yet still be able to floor some gas as the  car exits. Yes, the car gets messy when we do this, but we can still often get by some others as we force this one, under full pressure. It's a lot of fun to try, as long as you remember this one hasn't got much damage control once it reaches its very limits. 
 
All said, the Mini 1.3i is a great little car, with a surprising racing heritage that shines through. It managed to finish the race at Tsukuba without any suspension or differential tuning: 4th place. It only made 4th because I opted for the 'good-handling' set of power here, when the car should have received 'tricky-handling'.
 
At Route 246, it did get some more power than it would have: 143 hp. And here, we managed a -0.099 second finish over the second-place Peugeot hatch. OH yes!  We opted for a limited-slip at this track, giving it 5-25-20, which caused an awful lot of understeer while braking especially (and also for an agonizing second or two once brakes were off), but as long as the driver plans for this, we can predict when and where it will happen, and try to avoid this on the next lap. It's like planning to send a satellite into orbit through an asteroid belt, if you do it right. And to some extent, this piece allowed me to brake just a little harder, without fear of any Roversteer showing up.
 
Overall, this one definitely has its place in the Gran Turismo 5 roster, even with all its flaws. I think we're done here, chap.

 

PROS
 

1). Light weight. No doubt.
 
2). Super super-compact. This one will slip thru a crowd of larger cars in racing situations just as easily as it will parallel-park!
 
3). Affordably priced (GT2 and 5, not sure about other games). Most of the upgrades are affordable, too.
 
4). Sharp looks. The Mini looks cool even without the Cooper racing stripes. Even with GT2 crap-graphix, they got it right.
 
5). Extreme manueverability.
 
6). Engine upgrades will do wonders for this car's sluggish acceleration and speed, so will tranny upgrades. You can rely on the standard 4-speed on tracks with long straights once power is up.
 
7). Race-kit available in GT2. So is the expensive MK1 rally car. 

 

8). GT5 offers us a small interior which doesn't seem so cramped. And both mirrors (center and driver's side) are viewable for us at any time.

 

9). Mega-tuning (especially under the car) is not required for most racing the Mini feels comfortable with. Stock suspension and differential can be used for a good while.  

 

 

CONS 
 

1). VERY SLOW at first. Low power, low torque, low speed....low everything.
 
2). Heavier vehicles may buffet the Mini around during races, though Gran Turismo 2 and 3 is rather unrealistically easy about this.
 
3). The car's stock tires from the dealer have little lateral grip, making the Mini prone to spin-outs, oversteer, and sideways skating. Understeer is actually secondary in this front-drive in earlier games, but in GT5 (and 4, most likely) it becomes more of a burden, while oversteer mostly goes away.  
 
4). GT2: Brakes are a bit too strong, even before we get upgrades.
 
5). Not many people go this far, but the Special MK1 version has its power quoted wrong, and seems priced way too high for the 239 hp it possesses.
 
6). Though the Mini is a supercar in my heart, the reality: it is just a small hatchback that gets left behind as the variety of race series roll along.
 
7). Standard 4-speed gearbox really tall. It works sometimes (like in the GT3 Lightweight Sports Car Cup), but mostly drivers will need to drop bucks on a racing unit. Blimey!
 

Originally Published: September 6th, 2004
Re-Edited: sometime in 2006
 
GT5 content added: February 22, 2015


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