Remember when the Beast from the East turned most of the UK into an apocalyptic Day After Tomorrow-style wasteland? The resulting spread of potholes and delamination was quite unlike anything I’ve seen in this country before, with several nasty and near-unavoidable examples cropping up right on my route to work. You can see where this is going…
Finding both my tyre and my enthusiasm for the day deflated, I found safe haven, opened the boot, and retrieved the space saver. Only joking! This is 2018, after all; practically nothing smaller than an articulated lorry comes with a spare wheel anymore, not even of the space saving variety. Most are instead equipped with that other pinnacle of modern technology: a can of shaving foam – along with the kind of electric pump you might use to inflate pool toys.
However, not wanting to call for assistance without having done my level best, I retrieved said equipment, set it up, and then watched as the pump asthmatically wheezed a cocktail of air and foam into the tyre, only for it to immediately dribble back out onto the ground again. Defeat admitted, I called Mini.
It should be noted at this point that I didn’t mention the car in question was a press long-termer, assuming it would be flagged as such in the system. And if not, well, it’s better to experience these things as a customer anyway. Not having been in this situation with Mini before – and perhaps setting the bar a little high – I envisaged a van of some sort being deployed to my location and replacing the tyre in situ before I carried on my merry way. That is not what happened.
Instead, a little over an hour later, a flatbed lorry arrived to take me and my car to the nearest Mini service centre. Despite it being one of the largest in London, it didn’t have any of the 210’s 205/45 R17 Pirelli P Zeros in stock, so I’d have to leave the car there and return the next day. If they’d known the car was coming in before 11:30, they said, they might have sourced one that day – a little galling considering my initial mayday call occurred around 90 minutes before that deadline.
I returned the following afternoon to be greeted by a clean and shiny Works 210, all four wheels once again fully functional. A complimentary 20 point ‘visual health check’ had also been carried out, although it had failed to detect that the shaving foam canister needed replacing – surely one of the first things to look for on a car brought in with a puncture. Not that it really matters, the chap at the centre explaining that it only has a chance of working on clean punctures of less than 4mm in diameter. I was also greeted with a bill for £187.36 and, once I’d left, by a pronounced rubbing sound under braking from the previously affected wheel.
A quote for the same tyre, fully fitted, from a nationwide chain came back at over £60 cheaper than the amount Mini charged. Which makes it all the more ridiculous that, should you be unfortunate enough to come into contact with anything larger than a nail, you’re left completely at the manufacturer’s mercy. With a space-saver in the boot, or under the car (or mounted to the roof Monte Carlo rally-style, for all I care) the puncture would have been a 20 minute inconvenience.
I could have carried on with my journey, arranged for a shop to source the tyre for a considerably lower price, and taken the car in at a time which suited me. Instead, after hours of waiting and travelling back and forth, and more than a day without the car, I was left with an over-inflated bill and a deflated impression of the efficiency you might expect from a brand which certainly isn’t shy about marketing itself as an upmarket alternative to the competition.
The solution? A bit more joined up thinking. Or a spare wheel as standard, please.
Car: 2017 Mini Cooper S Works 210
On fleet since: January 2018
Run by: Dafydd
List price new: £19,994.40 (As tested £28,344.40 comprising £475 for Melting Silver metallic paint, £300 for Mini active from 12/06/17 to 11/06/20, £1,695 for Works enhanced kit, £75 for John Cooper Works sport leather steering wheel, £375 for variable damper control, £80 for black bonnet stripes, £120 for Anthracite roof lining, £220 for sun protection glass, £215 for front seat heating, £2,710 for Mini hatch tech pack, £2,000 for Chili pack for JCW sports pack and £85 for LED headlights with extended contents)
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[Images: Luc Lacey]