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Mini vs Ford Fiesta

Mini vs Ford Fiesta Published: 11th Dec 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Matt Peters has owned a special edition Mk1 Bravo Fiesta for a year, having previously ran a scruffy 1984 Mk2 which got him hooked on Fiestas. As a teenager, he fi nds them cool and pretty easy to own and likes the added space and the hatchback over a Mini. The various owner forums are very useful, he says and spares pretty okay to source but warns that early Fiestas are becoming expensive – even bodyshells go for hundreds now!

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If you’re after a cheap kid’s classic to get them mobile then this pair have style and street cred to spare. But what’s the best buy?

Which one to buy

Both have street cred

The Mini is so well known that it’s diffi cult to add anything new about this masterpiece in packaging. It makes the current BMW design look massive in comparison and yet the BMC original still offers more space for people and their paraphernalia…

My goodness, hasn’t the Fiesta grown over the years? Launched in 1976 as Ford’s new ‘mini’ the current model is the size of a Mk2 Escort, losing sight of what the Fiesta was all about don’t you think?

The original was a lesson in neat packaging that looked, back then, thoroughly modern and still appeals today, especially with young enthusiasts. The ‘Mk2’ from 1983 had a more rounded nose that did the car’s clean looks no favours and it was only the later ‘Mk3, for the 1990s, when the design got back its style.

To its credit, the Mini has always looked like a Mini even though most body parts changed over the decades. The car bowed out in 2000 meaning that you can buy a modern classic with a good dollop of the older Mini’s hang ups reduced, if not eradicated. The most suited models for road use have to be the mid 90s ‘Mk7’ Mini where air bags, front mounted cooling radiator (at last!) and taller gearing gave the old timer almost a new lease of life. There’s certainly more choice with the Mini; you can choose from saloon estate, van and pick up where as the pre Mk3 Fiestas were purely three-door superminis in car or commercial form.

Mechanically, both feature east-west engines and four-speed transmissions. Automatic Minis surfaced in 1964; a novel almost semi-auto four-speed from Automotive Products with manual override. The Fiesta only gained an auto in the mid 80s, it being a constantly variable CTXtransmission also shared by Fiat that worked well and gave a remarkable cruising gait but was notoriously unreliable – don’t touch one. Power-wise the Mini grew from 848cc to 1275cc with the Fiesta kicking off with an old ‘Anglia’ derived 957cc unit, which was also available in an 1117cc form. The 1300 used essentially a modifi ed 1300GT Escort ohv engine while the XR2 used a ‘squeezed up’ 1600GT Cortina engine (on both few parts are interchangeable with their ‘in line’ relations). In terms of trim and refi nement, the Ford handsomely scores. Apart from the usual mainstream L, LX, GL versions there were the S models featuring no more power but a sports suspension and trim, and the plush Ghias. Other fancier Fiestas (but ignoring the XR2 for insurance purposes-ed) included a myriad of special editions, the Mk2 1400S and the rare Mk1 Supersport.

Minis became more civilised over the decades and models such as the 1990’s Coopers, 1.3i Sprite and a cluster of special editions, brought them back into fashion again. Due to their prices and high insurances, we’re excluding the original Cooper and Cooper S versions! You may fi nd that insurers are quite favourable to the relaunched Cooper range as it offered no added power over the normal 1275cc Mini. These born again Coopers are good; they have the name and the image yet prices rarely command a lot more over a normal, similar aged Mini. Our pragmatic choice for any Mini-loving offspring is a Mk V (1982-92) which boasts adequate around town performance, disc brakes and larger wheels and tyres although earlier pre-1974 cars are tax exempt. Both offer van versions but take care as many insurers won’t cover new drivers owning a light commercial.

What's best to drive?

Driver dependent
There’s no doubt about it, still after more than 50 years, you either love or hate Minis! If you fall in to the former camp then you can put up with the car’s buzz box nature, its painful driving position and total lack of refinement, just for the pure fun the car exudes. If you are the latter then you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about over them!

Much is still made, quite naturally, about the Mini’s famed handling and yes, it’s true that it remains enormous fun – in an old fashioned way too. For us classic fans that’s great but those used to more modern front-wheel drive machines will fi nd them crude and not to grippy. Who says so – well Motor did back in ‘78: “The same old fun car story… unfortunately it’s also the same old story with noise levels which are unbearable above 50mph.” Performance is certainly useful in 1098cc and 1275cc forms – below this and the Mini now feels very slow although still okay for today’s turgid traffic thanks to its low gearing and the excellent pulling power of that little A-Series engine.

The Fiesta is what you’d expect given it’s almost 20 years younger “an excellent little car” said Motor 35 years ago. The ultimate fun factor isn’t there but the car’s better refinement and less fwd ‘fight’ through the steering and better brakes are worthy trade-offs although the ride on the harder-sprung S models is very buckety.

Performance from the 1.1 and in particular the 1.3 engine is respectable and the Ford is far better suited to out-of town dual carriageway driving thanks to its superior refinement and comfort, especially the GL and Ghia variants.

In short, common sense says the Fiesta is better suited for today’s roads but nothing beats a Mini for fun!

Owning and running

It’s kid’s stuff,really…
Although it became much more than this, it’s as well to remember that the Mini was designed as nothing more than economical family transport. It still is, thankfully, and few classics are as easy or inexpensive to maintain.

Parts are plentiful (you can purchase brand new shells from BMH) and will remain so. And while working on some parts of the car are better suited to a contortionist, it’s one of the best cars to hone your DIY skills on. There are numerous specialists around if you don’t fancy spannering and, of course, a massive club and enthusiast following plus dedicated classes of motorsport.

Much the same can be levelled at the Fiesta – certainly the engine is easier to work on! Apart from trim, parts are no problem although it will never benefi t from the same level of after-support the Mini will always enjoy.

They all rot like mad of course, but you can build a Mini up from scratch if you wish or reshell if the worst comes to the worst. And when it comes to customising and improving – just like Dad did back in the 70s and 80s – the Mini has few rivals still. Good Minis and Fiestas cost money.

Yes, you see both for around £1000 but they will be a liability. Original Minis can now sell for maximum money witness an early 1959 basket case selling at auction for almost £40k! But you don’t have to pay that much! Reckon on £3000 for a pretty nice car worth giving a home to. Until recently Fiestas used to sell for buttons but thanks to soaring prices of Anglias and Escorts, values have been dragged up as old school Ford fans cotton on to their value. Even a good Mk1 shell is worth around £400 (we know, we’ve got one-ed) and again £2-3000 is not unknown for good rot free car. Such an example recently sold at an Historics at Brooklands auction for £2585).

As this twin test is aimed at young enthusiasts wanting their fi rst set of wheels, you can’t ignore the ‘cool’ factor. Both have it in different ways, they’ll be delighted to know…

And The Winner Is...

Given its reputation and status in the classic car scene it has to be the Mini, we guess. With some 1.6 million made, spread over fi ve decades, and so many still on the roads, there’s a Mini to suit all needs and pockets, from classic to modern and – importantly – are brim with the same cheeky charm. The Mini will always be around while motoring is still deemed a legal activity, and owning and running one will never become a problem. The Mini’s magic is as brilliant as ever… and you’ll probably pinch the kid’s keys on more than one occasion! But, if you let your head do some of the talking then the Fiesta is the better car that’s more in tune with today’s motoring. It’s your call…



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