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This is my first post, so I hope it is of use to prospective MINI buyers (and not too long)

I have been sitting on the sidelines looking at the posts for a while and have found them invaluable for deciding the final spec on my new MINI. I was determined to get it right as this the first new car I’ve been able to afford in 25 years of driving.

Clearly the most important decision I needed to make was Chilli or Pepper because of all the forum talk of hard/soft ride/handling etc: I got a test drive of a Chilli over 83 miles across varied road types. Although it was generally great, one thing bothered me and that was the level of “vertical bounce” over poor roads. It was noticeable on my favourite stretch of B road and also on certain sections of the M25. All the time I kept thinking, can I live with this long term?

I drove a Pepper and covered exactly the same route, it was much better, much less bounce. In fact, I could take the same roads quicker in the Pepper without having to back off. The ride was generally better all round. As for handling, the steering seemed even more direct than on the Chilli. I don’t know why this would be-any ideas? It still corned on rails, no discernible roll, fantastic all round. As for grip, all I can say is that at no point did I reach the grip limits and that was taking bends much quicker than normal. OK, if I constantly drove on the limit, then I would probably want more grip, but I did not find the Pepper in any way inferior at my driving speeds.

Somewhat surprised by this result, I scanned all my Mini articles to see if any reviews had picked up on this problem and I found that Evo mentioned it their Dec issue. They said “There is a chink in the Mini’s armour…..on rough roads, the level of bounce will force you to back off”. Has anyone come to the same conclusions as me?

So, I figured, both great cars but the Pepper won out. It’s costing me rather more than I had bargained for as I had to have the superb half leather/sports seats, they look so cool. (I found the standard seats very disappointing, wrong shape for me, but then I am 6’5”)

Final point, I thought the engine was much better and quicker than some of the reviews would have you believe, a real gem. Very free revving, just the right noise and loves being red-lined. I drive an Alfa at the moment so I’m fussy about engines. Compared to the engine on a Celica 1.9 which was one of three cars I was considering, it’s on a different planet.

Final spec:
Indie blue, white roof, sunroof, Pepper, 7 hole alloys, Climate control, CD, Sorts seats, half leather, Visibility package, Heather mirrors/washers, computer, ASC, and last not least…TLC.
:)
 

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I was also tempted by the Chili pack which I think is good value (shame the spoiler isn't a delete option though). But in the end I went for the Pepper, for the following reasons:

- I was very happy with the both the ride and handling of the Pepper car I test drove.
- Autocar, What Car and Auto Express all road tested the Pepper and complemented the ride and handling.
- Autocar tested a Chili Cooper in their "Britain's best driver's car" test (Aug 29) and said about the suspension "On a circuit its great, but on the road the smooth ride goes almost completely out of the window. Indeed, the set-up was so uncompromising on the road that we'd question the wisdom of opting for the full sports suspension set-up unless you're intending to drive your new Mini on circuits most of the time."
- while 175 section tyres are a bit on the thin side, I really like the standard 15" pepper-pot wheels.

I suspect the harsher ride of the Chili pack is due both to the stiffer suspension and to the lower profile tyres. I find it hard to believe that side-walls stiff enough to run-flat on don't have some adverse effect on ride.

I think the issue of sports plus suspension will run and run - its been going since I joined the forum in August! There is probably no right answer as to which is best - it depends on your priorities. One dealer who used to post here said he thought the Mini One with 16" wheels was the best allround!
 
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