MIN

Does size matter? Will an extra inch make all the difference? Well, I can tell you that bigger isn't always better - when it comes to alloy wheels at least. I ordered our long-term Mini Cooper S Convertible with smaller 16-inch rims, rather than the more fashionable 17-inchers. That's because there are a spine-jarring 59 speed humps on my nine-mile round trip for work, and I was hoping the taller tyre sidewalls would help cushion the ride. But every time I saw another MINI with larger alloys, I

  • Superb roof, improved fuel economy, great looks
  • Poor load-carrying capacity, limited rear visibility

Does size matter? Will an extra inch make all the difference? Well, I can tell you that bigger isn't always better - when it comes to alloy wheels at least. I ordered our long-term Mini Cooper S Convertible with smaller 16-inch rims, rather than the more fashionable 17-inchers. That's because there are a spine-jarring 59 speed humps on my nine-mile round trip for work, and I was hoping the taller tyre sidewalls would help cushion the ride. But every time I saw another MINI with larger alloys, I felt slightly inferior.

There's no denying bigger wheels look better, but had I done the right thing by sacrificing pose for poise? To find out I borrowed another Cooper S Convertible, fitted with the larger alloys.

The MINI also had a different set of options to mine, which meant I was able to assess which extras are really worth having. Selecting something you don't really need or isn't particularly useful can be a potentially costly mistake.

So how did I fare with the wheels? Well, if you regularly drive on poorly surfaced roads or over speed humps, the 16-inch alloys are the way to go. The ride is better and they're less prone to kerbing. However, the wheels on RF05 KBZ aren't the standard alloys - in fact they cost £950, while the 17-inch 5-Star Bullet alloys are included as part of the £1,600 Chili options pack.

Some MINI retailers may be willing to do a deal on the price of the 16-inch rims, but even if they don't you could always sell the spare 17-inchers privately. One set has just fetched £400 on auction site eBay. In terms of the other styling must-haves, you can't beat bonnet stripes for value for money. At £50 they do more for the car visually than any set of wheels can. Metallic paint looks cool, too, and I reckon is well worth the extra £275. Another option I'd recommend is full leather interior. Yes, it costs a lot at £520, but it makes the inside feel much more special than the part-hide trim that's standard in the Chili pack.

I do, however, regret not ordering the chrome-line interior detailing, as for £80 it really brightens up the cabin. As for the heated front seats, I'll have to wait until the winter to see whether they are worth £190! The £160 wind deflector, meanwhile is hard to fit and only cuts buffeting slightly.

But the most unnecessary expense is the six-CD autochanger. This is £290, but a better option is to buy an iPod (no other MP3 players are compatible) and get a bespoke MINI connection fixed to the car's stereo for £125 plus fitting. As reported in issue 880, we couldn't get this to work at first as the technician hadn't installed it correctly, but it's up and running now.

Multifunction steering wheel buttons are yours for £160. These can be used to operate your iPod or stereo, and come as part of the cruise-control option package. I have been using the latter to keep my motorway speed to 70mph, and have seen the MINI's combined fuel economy rise from 22 to 29mpg as a result. And, as we all know, when it comes to fuel bills, size really does matter... as bigger definitely isn't better!

Second opinion

While Mat may be reserving judgement on the heated seats until winter, I can give you my verdict on them now - they're worth every penny. I found they were terrific at keeping me warm on chilly mornings. I also enjoyed the warmth I received from other MINI owners during my time with the car. They make a point of acknowledging you, so ownership is like being part of an exclusive club!Eileen Pegden, deputy art editor

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