I've now built my review copy so what follows is a photo-intensive review of the parts, the construction, and the finished model.
Before I start...
For those of you in the USA and Canada, I had better define some English motoring terms...
- Bonnet = Hood
- Windscreen = Windshield
- Boot = Trunk
- Exhaust = Muffler
- Gear stick = Stick shift
Parts and construction
The parts are divided into bags numbered one to three which suits me because I don't enjoy rummaging through thousands of parts at every step.
Bags numbered one build the chassis. They contain some interesting parts, perhaps most notably 1x1 plates in dark green which I believe are new in this set. In total, the set contains 22 of them. There are also drum lacquered silver Technic parts and 1x2 curves, inverted 1x4 curves and 1x1s with one stud on the side in dark green, which I believe have only appeared in one other set.
The chassis takes shape with Technic beams. The wheelbase is 16cm. I believe the real vehicle has a wheelbase of about 2.1m so that sets the scale of the model to about 1:13.
The 1x6x6 'tray' at the back is for the spare wheel.
Spare wheel in place, and floor tiled.
The floor of the boot is hinged to enable access to the spare wheel. The drum lacquered silver parts form the 'chrome' bumpers.
The gear lever is mounted in a way I would never have thought of. It can be swivelled and angled freely. Which is good, except for a design issue which I'll mention below.
Bags numbered two provide parts for the rear end of the vehicle. Most of the notable ones are dark green. The 1x4 curved bricks have a double white line printed along their length. There are 12 of these in total in the set, and overall, some 290 dark green parts (27% of the total number of parts).
The dark green 2x2 round tiles are new to this set and the 2x2 plates with rounded end haven't been seen since Vikings sets in 2005.
Bag 2 construction begins with the seats, front and back. The pattern is made from white, tan and dark tan tiles and bricks and looks very effective. Notice also the handbrake.
Next, the rear side panels are added, which utilise the printed 1x4 curved bricks to give the vehicle its distinctive body shape. The mudguards were first seen in transparent in Speed Racer sets. They fit the bill perfectly here.
Here's what the boot looks like before its covered over. Note the exhaust pipe: a minifig neck bracket with pin.
Next, the backs of the front seats are added, and the rear windows. Stickers are applied to the 1x2x3 slopes at the back to give the impression of thin pillars. I don't think it's too successful, to be honest.
The boot lid, hinged at the bottom, looks suitably curved and bulbous.
Finally, bag two provides parts for the picnic. Who'd have thought about using 1x1 slopes as cheese!
Bag three contains parts for the front of the car and the roof. I believe the wheel hubs have been used in Racers and Ferrari sets before. The 1x1 round tiles with dial printing are very cool. Minifig ice skates are used for the door handles.
The steering wheel is added on the right side of the dashboard and the engine fitted at the front. Black 'claws' are used for the exhaust manifolds which look great, particularly when they are boxed in, as shown in the photo below.
It would be easy enough to move the steering wheel to the left and in fact provision has been made to facilitate it -- a gap has been left where one is needed.
Next, the front grille is fitted along with fog lights, and the dashboard.
The dash has three (identical) dials and centre 'control panel'.
Now that the driver's area is complete I'll point out the only major flaw with the design of the set: the steering wheel is too big and as a consequence, the very cleverly affixed gear stick can't be moved very much and, for that matter, a driver would have difficulty getting his legs under it. I'm not sure if the smaller steering wheel would look better, or if it would be too small. Maybe I'll try it out...
The doors are constructed and the front wings are beginning to take shape.
The doors have tiled panels inside which finish them off very well. They make use of four 2x2/1x4 plate hinges in dark green which are new in this colour this year.
Next, the bonnet is fitted. You can just see how the round minifig shields forming the headlights are mounted, using yellow 1x1 clips.
Next, the windscreen, which is hinged to mount it at the correct angle. Again, it uses stickers to 'thin out' the pillars, not entirely successfully.
The vehicle is now complete, except for the roof.
The roof is detachable and held in place by four studs at the back, on the rear window. The hinge tops at the front of it are not used to fix it to anything, their less-than-one-plate thickness has been used to provide the correct spacing above the angled windscreen.
The completed model
Now view the photos below and decide for yourself if it looks like the real thing...
The mudguards match the diameter of the wheels perfectly.
The picnic basket, blanket and water bottle fit snugly in the boot.
The front sticker (which I just remembered I hadn't affixed...) does not actually look a different colour in normal light: the flash lighting has made it appear so.
I really enjoyed building the set, it was never boring or laboured, apart perhaps for having to line up the 1x1 tiles on the seats. It has lots of interesting and realistic features and details. You have a feeling, while building it, of 'no expense spared' on parts, which isn't usually the case with regular retail sets. There is also lots of interesting parts usage throughout which helps keep the build entertaining.
It's not without its faults, though: I'm not convinced the stickers on the 1x3x3 slope window pillars work particularly well but I guess there was no alternative. Also, it's a shame about the gear stick having its movement restricted by the steering wheel. A smaller wheel, or shorter gear stick would probably solve this problem.
When images of the set first appeared, there were cries of it looking nothing like a Mini. Having seen it from all angles above, what do you think now? Personally I reckon the designer has done a very good job given the limitations of the medium, the need to keep the build enjoyable, and the model sturdy.
The distinctive wings and headlights, the curved side panels, the bulbous boot, the protruding mudguards are all present and capture the essence of the prototype well in my opinion. The windows and pillars might not be perfect but they are close enough and don't detract from the overall look, which is unmistakably that of a Mini.
My scores then, are:
Parts: 5 -- Lots of dark green, including many new parts in this colour.
Building experience: 4 -- Enjoyable throughout but over too quickly.
Playability: 3 -- Not much to do with it other than roll it back and forth and admire its details.
Value for Money: 4 -- £75/$100 is not too bad for 1000+ parts, but LEGO can always be cheaper, right?
Overall: 5 -- Despite some less than 5 scores above I will give it a 5 overall: It's a great set that any AFOL would enjoy building and admiring, and hopefully it will attract a few non-AFOLs to the hobby, too.
Many thanks to Kim in the LEGO CEE team for providing the copy to review.