Mini Cooper vs Fiat: How Do They Compare?

AUTO

Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Image: Maxian/ E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

Small cars have always had a place in the automotive pantheon, but it was car racing that gave the world its first "hot" small cars. It was the Mini Cooper which gave Ford a run for its V8 money when the tiny, lightweight car was able to repeatedly beat the mighty Mustang. Fiat on the other hand, made its name with small, practical cars built for Italian cities, that they would sometimes modify to make bonkers machines that qualified more as performance art than as transportation.

The directions these two companies have taken could not be more different. Today, Fiat is a behemoth which owns many other car companies, and shares the technology and parts with many of those subsidiaries. Fiats are universally beloved in Italy, its homeland. Mini Coopers, while still beloved, have become a bloated, "late in life Elvis Presley" version of themselves. Now owned by another company, Mini is no longer the plucky, independent upstart, but a vassal to one of the mega-automakers. Still, both brands know their markets.

While Fiat makes many models, the Fiat 500 is the best known one in the US, with several trim levels and a reasonable price. Mini makes ... one car? Many cars? It's hard to tell since all of them look exactly the same. Still, the basic recipe remains the same, and with their superior electronics, they are a step up from the basic Italian cars. How much do you know about these cars? Take the quiz and find out!

What is currently the parent company of Mini?

The Rover Group, which included Mini, was purchased by BMW and broken up. BMW kept the Mini brand and sold off the rest.

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What is the most prestigious brand under Fiat?

Ferrari is the most prestigious brand owned by Fiat. Over the years, engineering from the Prancing Pony has trickled down to other brands. Maseratis, while very poorly made, with switches taken from Dodge Caravans and panel gaps so big you could stuff them with Dan Brown novels, has engines made by Ferrari engineers. Of course, they're sort of "low calorie" versions of Ferrari engines, because if you don't want to shell out the big bucks, you don't get the big engine.

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What is the traditional racing color of Mini coopers?

Despite being a German-owned company, Minis sport the racing colors of their ancestral homeland of Great Britain, where all racing cars wear "British Racing Green" to the races. Theoretically, Minis could also wear white or silver, as that is the color of German racing cars.

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What is the traditional racing color of Fiats?

Like all cars from Italy, the racing livery of Fiat includes a red color scheme. This system of national colors dates back to the early days of motor racing and what would become Formula One.

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What is the name of the in-house tuning company at Fiat?

Just about every major car company has a tuning division these days, and the Abarth division of Fiat goes back about half a century. They used to be known for making stupid, insane modifications to cars, such as engines so big you had to leave the trunk (the engine to the original 500 was in the back) open, so the engine would fit. Nowadays they hire people with engineering degrees, people who don't make those sorts of blunders.

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What dumb feature are Fiats famous for?

Fiat is an odd company. Their cars didn't have adjustable seats until fairly late in the game, and since they were designed for use around the Mediterranean, where people tend to have shorter legs and longer arms, people from northern Europe found Fiats annoying and difficult to drive. Similarly, Fiat's performance division used to do things like put racing seats into cars, making the back seats inaccessible, and building such large engines that they didn't fit in the cars.

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What dumb feature are Minis not known for, but have?

As a division of BMW, Mini uses a lot of BMW parts. This means the infotainment system is a version of BMW iDrive, which is a spiteful prank on drivers everywhere, and BMW indicator stalks, which do not stay up or down when switched, but return to center. Canceling a turn signal is thus a nightmare, especially on the highway. Minis are also very small, and leave no room to adjust the seats down, so if you have a driver or passenger six feet or taller, they will not appreciate you pulling up in a Mini.

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How much horsepower does a John Cooper Works Mini get these days?

The good thing about a small car is that it doesn't need much power to really get up and go. All John Cooper Works Minis have essentially the same engine, which produces 228 horsepower; slightly more horsepower than the engine in the slightly less expensive VW Golf GTI, or if you prefer, slightly fewer horses than a BMW 320i, which is essentially the same car, but a bit nicer, more powerful, rear wheel drive, and with a more prestigious badge. Minis don't have to be powerful. If you want stupid power numbers, you get a BMW, since you can get those up to 600 horsepower these days. BMWs need it, though, because they are heavy!

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What cool thing does the Mini Cooper do when you switch from Eco to Sport modes?

The Mini Cooper has several drive modes, one of which is "eco" mode, which useful for saving gas. When you need a little excitement however, switch to "sport" mode and in addition to the engine revving more aggressively and the steering and brakes tightening up, the dash goes from the green of eco mode to the red of sport mode!

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What safety technology deploys in a Mini convertible in the event of a roll over?

Like many modern convertibles, the Minis have a hidden roll bar, which is essentially a metal bar that, when it senses a roll over, bursts through the bodywork so the car doesn't just lay on the heads of the passengers like a giant metal pancake. In this way, the car keeps itself from crushing its passengers. Your head may still hit the ground, and you may still be horribly injured, but you won't be crushed by the car, and that's probably a good thing.

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What is the electric-only range (in miles) of the Mini Plug-In Hybrid SAV?

While the combined range (if you use the gasoline engine as well as the electric motor) is 270 miles, the electric-only range is a meager 12 miles. By comparison, the VW E-Golf plug-in has a 30 mile electric range, and the Chevy Bolt has an electric-only range of 238 miles. Both of those cost less than the Mini.

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What is the top speed of the Mini John Cooper Works 2.0 JCW 3dr Hatch?

The Mini John Cooper Works 2.0 JCW 3dr Hatch, which is a very long name for such a "miniature" car, is the fastest production Mini yet, built in 2015, and not available in the US. It sports BMW's 2 liter engine, but tuned to produce 230 horsepower compared with the same engines in most fast Minis, which only go so far as 228 horses. The 152 mph mark is probably artificial, since BMW electronically limits most of its cars from going any faster than about 150-155 mph. Of course, if it's an electronic nanny determining that number, then you could always have someone switch it off...

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Which of these cars is shorter than the Mini Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door?

The BMW i3 is 4,011 mm long, whereas the Mini is 4,013.2 mm long. The E30 BMW 3-Series of the 1980s and 1990s was 4,320 mm long, which is longer, but compared to the Mini Clubman, at 4,274.82 mm long, it's about the same size as "a Mini"! Compare all these numbers to the original Mini, which was a paltry 3,054 mm long!

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What car is the kissing cousin of the new Fiat 124 Spider?

The Mazda Miata and the Fiat 124 Spider are not similar at all. They are completely the same. They are totally 100% the same, except for the badges, some touches to the interior trim, and if you get the Abarth Spider, the engine. Mazda and Fiat co-developed this low-slung, lightweight sports car as their triumphant return to fun driving in the USA.

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In the 30 touring car races the original Mini entered in the 1960s and 1970s, how many times did it place third or better?

From 1963 to 1975, Mini entered in 30 touring car races, competing with much larger, more powerful machines. It placed 12 times, came in second six times, and came in first three times, two in consecutive races.

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What newly-returned-to-the-USA car company is a subsidiary of Fiat?

Alfa Romeo (pronounced "ALPH-a ro-MAY-oh") is a sexy, sporty subsidiary of Fiat that disappeared from the US decades ago. They have recently returned, with an ultra light sports coupe, and the new Giulia, their powerful sport sedan.

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What tuning legend was responsible for bringing the Mini into motorsport?

While all these tuning legends are important, it was John Cooper who tuned up the engine in the light weight Mini, putting it on track for racing glory. The in-house tuning company at Mini is called John Cooper Works in his honor.

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What nickname did the new generation of Fiat 500 get when Fiat began making it for the US market?

Before it was sold in the USA, the "new" Fiat 500 (which is itself an ode to a car from the mid-20th-century) was not road legal in the USA. For a start, it did not pass the USA's stringent rear impact tests (they literally don't have this test in Europe) and it missed a lot of other safety guidelines. Also, it wasn't made in a way that made importing it easy. As a result, a testing and design facility in Canada worked with engineers in America to make the car road worthy, and then they built it in Mexico, in the plant Chrysler (which is owned by Fiat) used to use to make the PT Cruiser. Hence, the current iteration of the 500 was nicknamed the NAFTA 500. Interestingly, the Dodge Dart was exactly the same as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a Fiat product, which was a much better looking car than the Dart, which failed to sell.

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How much shorter is a Fiat 500 than a Mini Cooper?

The Fiat 500 is a tiny car, fully a foot shorter than the Mini Cooper. Of course, you can't get a Fiat 500 with four doors, and it only seats two adults up front, and with its tiny back seats, two children or pets.

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How many places on the outside of the Fiat Abarth 500 does it say "Fiat"?

The "Abarth 500" is "not a Fiat". Really. They want you to believe this. The Fiat Abarth 500 does not have the word Fiat anywhere on the outside. Instead, taking a page from Brabus, Abarth has replaced all the Fiat badges with Abarth badges, so to people who know, this car isn't just a cute Italian hatchback.

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What new software does the Mini Cooper S have, since 2017?

Mini developed its own version of BMW's app for connecting to your car. This app allows owners to see vital info on their car, like fuel levels (and range) and even directions. It's handy.

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How many models does Fiat actually make?

Despite only selling a few models in the US, Fiat makes a lot of cars. 26, to be exact. They include 2 versions of the Tipo, 2 versions of the 124 Spider, 2 versions of the 500, 2 versions of the 500 Collezione, 2 versions of the 500X (which is really just a dressed up Jeep Renegade), 3 versions of the 500L (which is a dressed up Dodge minivan Dodge no longer makes), 4 versions of the Panda (one of the most practical and popular Fiats, if not as cute looking as the 500),1 version of the Panda Waze, 1 version of the Doblo, 1 version of the Cubo, 2 versions of their "fullback" pickup truck (yes they make a pickup), and 4 versions of their van.

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How many models does Mini make?

Mini makes the hardtop 2-door and 4-door, Countryman and Clubman, Convertible, Plug-in Hybrid, 4 John Cooper Works variants, the Plug-In Hybrid Limited Edition, and the Oxford Edition 2-door hard top, which is aimed at students

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What does the Fiat 124 Spider do when you put its navigation system into "night mode"?

When you're driving at night, and you want to have your navigation system up and running, it pays not to have it blinding you, or else you might not see what's in front of you clearly. Unlike nearly every other nav system on the market, the one built into the 124 Spider as an optional extra doesn't go into a "true" night mode. Rather, the screen just dims a little.

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What key sports-car feature in the Mini Cooper S is likely to make its way into every other kind of car sooner or later?

The HUD or heads-up display is a feature that originated on fighter jets! Now instead of getting radar lock on MIG-29s, HUDs are used to display speed and vital dashboard information so that the driver need not look away from the road. The Mini Cooper S has this now, and it really changes the whole driving experience. Many competitors are copying Mini in having this feature, but Mini's HUD is decidedly easy to read.

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Where is the factory-installed location of the tire inflation kit in the Fiat 500?

The 500's back seats are so microscopic that the designers decided to stick the tire inflation kit where your feet would go, because they don't expect anyone to ever actually sit back there.

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How much longer is the 4-door Mini Cooper S than the 2-door?

The 4-door is actually big enough to transport full-sized human adults in the back! OK, maybe not tall ones, but it works. It's only about 7mm shorter than the mid-sized BMW 3-Series of the E30 range in the 1980s. Minis have grown up and grown bigger.

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What driver aid does the Abarth 500 come with that nearly no other production car comes with?

The Abarth 500 has a turbocharger, and the makers of the car saw fit to give the car a boost gauge. Normally, your run of the mill boy racer needs to buy these on the modification market.

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How does Mini make switching modes fun?

Mini keeps controls simple, and that's one of the brand's best features. Having a physical knob or switch makes it easy to do things, because you can feel and hold the controls, even on bumpy roads, whereas doing everything through a touchscreen takes your eyes off the road and can be difficult to do on a bumpy road.

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How likely is a Fiat 500 to be very worn down after only 40,000 miles?

Yes, it's going to happen. Common problems listed on owner forums include the tire pressure monitoring system breaking down, the driver's armrest breaking in half, seatbelts and seat pull tabs fraying, panel gaps widening and the paint on the wheels (if you buy that extra) getting permanently messed up.

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What did Mini put out in 1984?

The Mini25 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Mini Cooper. It wasn't really changed since then, when this came out. It has the same power to weight ratio as a Toyota Camry. 85 horsepower, total.

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Where is the only place on the interior of the Abarth 500 where it says "Fiat"?

Fiat really went all out scrubbing its logos from the Abarth 500, but it didn't want to pay for someone to reprogram the radio, so when you turn it on, it still flashes the word "Fiat", just to remind you that Italian automobile engineering really never changes.

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How long is the original Mini?

The original mini was small, really small. 120 inches to be exact. Consider this: The Mini Clubman All4 has a wheelbase of 105.1 in. That means you could almost fit the entire original Mini inside the wheelbase of a new Mini. In fact, the Mini is so short, its length is only slightly greater than the width of a military-spec Hummer.

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What word sums up what the Abarth 500 does not make you feel?

The Fiat 500 is a car built to a budget by Fiat/Chrysler. The Abarth 500 is that car, only with a bigger engine, and a couple tweaks. It is not meant to be a fast car, so when you put a bunch of power in it, it's like driving a go-cart with a nuclear reactor in it. Every time to come to a sharp corner, you question your own bravery. Heroics? You don't have to be brave to drive a Porsche through a chicane, just rich. You have to be brave to drive an Abarth 500 through a chicane.

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What was the last year the Mark VII Mini was produced?

The Mark VII Mini was made back when Mini was still part of Rover. It was the last "old" Mini. As a result, it got canned when BMW took over, and re-imagined the car as a sort of junior BMW.

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