MINI One review

6 Jun, 2014 2:45pm Joaquim Oliviera

Higher-spec versions of new supermini have impressed. Now we try entry-level MINI One

Verdict

4
This new MINI One makes the old car feel like a MINI Zero. And it’s largely down to the engine, which has helped create a car that feels almost as quick as the Cooper. The skinny tyres mean the handling isn’t as sharp as it could be and it’s lacking a bit of style as standard, too. But we say save £1,550 over the Cooper and spend it on some design upgrades.

While MINI is busy introducing all-new models like the five-door and experimenting with concepts such as the Superleggera, it’s not forgetting the three-door. A new entry-level MINI One has now been added to the range – starting from £13,750 – and Auto Express has driven it.

The old MINI One featured a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine, while this car gets a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo developed from the 1.5-litre found in the MINI Cooper. It delivers 101bhp, which is only slightly up on the old car’s 97bhp figure.

Press the MINI’s red ignition switch and you’ll be surprised by the deep noise of the three-cylinder – it’s clear BMW engineers have tried to make even this entry-level MINI sound sporty. We didn’t notice any of the usual roughness or vibration associated with three-cylinder engines, either, unless we were causing the car to struggle by selecting a higher gear than we should have.

Performance is much better than in the old car – not on paper but when it comes to in-gear acceleration. While the old naturally aspirated engine only really got going at about 3,000rpm, this new turbo kicks in between 1,400rpm and 4,000rpm. This means less hunting around the gears – not that it’s much
of a problem considering the accurate shift – and a feeling that you’ve got more of the power available when you need it. In reality, the 0-62mph time has only dropped from 10.5 seconds to 9.9, but it feels so much faster than that.

MINI One rear action

The new turbo will be a lot cheaper to run, too, promising 61.4mpg economy and 108g/km emissions. These are improvements of around 10mpg and 20g/km over the old One, and the latter saves you £90 a year in road tax alone.

For a car that sells on style, the One’s standard 15-inch steel wheels don’t catch the eye in a good way; it’s worth paying £520 to upgrade to some of the more stylish 16-inch designs.

And if you want the green paint finish on our car, that’ll set you back an extra £475. The only no-cost paint options are white and Volcanic Orange.

The interior has the high-quality feel you’ll find in any other MINI, but you may have to splash out more if you want the style of higher-spec models. The white accents in our test car, for example, are £225 extra and the multifunction sports steering wheel is £375. Still, you get a decent haul of standard kit, like air-con, Bluetooth, DAB radio and keyless go.

MINI One interior

The One has a nice, low-slung driving position, but we found the handling couldn’t quite live up to that of other MINIs – even with the optional MINI Driving Mode set to Sport. While this sharpens throttle and steering response, the skinny, low-rolling-resistance tyres hold the car back. You still get the kind of instant turn-in you expect from a MINI, but as you lean on the tyres in bends, it understeers a lot sooner than a Cooper.

In every other way, the One feels near-identical to more expensive MINIs. It has the same 211-litre boot, plus rear seats adults can actually squeeze into. It’s also a lot more comfortable than before, especially over bumpy roads.

If out-and-out handling isn’t crucial to you, the MINI One looks a far better proposition than ever. Its performance feels closer to the rest of the line-up and there’s a handy £1,550 saving over the Cooper. It doesn’t necessarily look the part, but at least you’ve got some extra money to splash on stylish options.

Disqus - noscript

Only when the pictures of the interior are studied do you appreciate what a strange vehicle this is. It is a vehicle which has increased quite substantially in size with a comparatively homeopathic increase in usable space. One website journalist., perhaps less "embedded" than some, remarks that increase in rear legroom is barely detectable although the boot is a bit bigger but the car does not seem to handle as well as it did before.
I cannot comment upon the handling but the luggage space, at 211 sq.m. is certainly bigger. The problem is that both the Audi A.1 and the Citroen D.S.3 have been around for some years and can trump this figure significantly. Additionally the D.S.3 can carry five occupants. The rear three would be a bit cramped but their carriage is perfectly legal.
However the rear seat of the Mini is bizarre. Despite being arranged for two people only, the back is split two thirds/one third as if it were a three seater and the effect is weird. It is almost as if it were designed specifically to carry Laurel and Hardy!
The big question is whether, in the event of the retro business being dumped to facilitate a more space efficient design, BMW could produce anything stylish or even seemly. Their recent efforts are not encouraging.

The options are far too expensive, and as pointed out in the review, to make it look anything like a stylish vehicle you have to add extras, £14k and it comes with steel wheels, which no one who is buying the car for its style will want, therefore forcing them to upgrade to expensive alloys, and I am sorry, the emissions are too high, its should be below 100g/km

People often mistake my steel wheels for alloys because they are designed to work together with the wheeltrim to give that effect.

So it looks great but doesn't carry the kerbing risk. Win Win. Never buy with alloys again.

Have driven the new Mini with the new 3 cyl engine and it zips around brilliantly. Very impressed.

I will of course be waiting for a decent used example before making a decision on buying though.

You're obsessing over very trivial matters. The mini is a fantastic driver's car whereas the DS3 is just a tarted up C3. The citroen may have more space but it's leagues behind in terms of engine, suspension, quality, materials etc. If I was in the market for this sort of car I'd be looking at the Mini Cooper, MX5, Fiesta ST and Abarth 500 - all a blast to drive, some more practical than the others. The A1 is purely for badge snobs while the DS3 only makes sense when bundled with free insurance and big discounts.

It would be illuminating to know how many of your comments stem from personal experience and how many from "received opinion". I specifically said I cannot comment on the handling for which, even if it is good as you say, one pays rather a lot in terms of practicality. The Ford seems, I can only say seems, to be more practical than any of those you favour. However it is all academic as opportunities for hooning around are strictly limited in this country. I fear you are as much a snob about the Mini as anyone is regarding the A.1 and with as little, perhaps less, justification

The only option you really want is the Pepper pack, which adds the bits you need including 15 inch alloy wheels (which are great because replacement tyres are much cheaper and pot holes don't fill you with the same sense of fear as they do with larger wheels) and then the car comes in under £15k. Not cheap, but the actual cost of ownership is superb with the strong residuals being key.

That's rather patronising of you Paul. Handling is just one aspect of the Mini's appeal. If you can't comment on it because you haven't tried one then why don't you try one? Also, if you haven't tried one, why do you persist with your autistic analysis on every single Mini article? The fact is that the reviewers, almost universally, rave about this car and I can assure you it's with good reason.

As for practicality, the reason I put the MX5 in my comparison is that it's still a great car in spite of its appalling practicality. People still buy it and love it despite its shortfalls. If you think that to enjoy these cars you need to 'hoon them around' then you clearly have a very limited understanding of great cars.

As I said earlier, you simply cannot compare the Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 with the others because they simply can't cut it. They are just tarted up versions of the Polo and C3 and are nowhere near as rewarding to drive.

Again, you obviously have not tried them. The only things someone who has not experienced a vehicle can comment upon is appearance and packaging. Part of the problem with the Mini is the makers have had no way of spreading the costs in the way VW, Ford and PSA could, hence the over pricing and the not very brilliant packaging. In the past, manufacturers could produce "sporty" models simply by stiffening the suspension and putting on a different tin case. Thus the Austin A30 became the Sprite and Midget. Nowadays it is a bit more complicated.

My brother and SIL have a new Cooper so, although I haven't driven it, I have been a passenger. Her previous car was a DS3 which I've driven. My brother has been completely blown away by the Mini and he's had a number of hot hatches and Japanese sports cars over the years. I've never driven a Fiesta ST but I've driven a run of the mill version.

Your arguments simply do not make sense. You say the Mini is overpriced. With experience of the Cooper I know that couldn't be further from the truth. At 15 grand it's a beautifully engineered car with fantastic attention to detail. The fact that it drives so well and has such a great engine is no accident.

Your statement "Mini is the makers have had no way of spreading the costs in the way VW, Ford and PSA could" makes even less sense. Had you been drinking? You do know that Mini is owned by BMW right? it could swallow PSA from its petty cash account!

Exactly what I said about a vehicle for hooning in. Obsession with wearing rubber off tyres leads to vehicles which lack the versatility to carry four people plus a reasonable amount of luggage for more than short distances. Someone I have known was looking for a supermini which would have to carry her grand-daughter in her child seat plus baby stuff, the little girl's parents and a day's shopping. The previous Mini failed utterly to meet these requirements but the new model seems only to have slightly more adequate interior space. This is the real world of vehicle use rather than boy racer priorities. I am more than a bit cautious about various user satisfaction surveys but it is worth mentioning that both in the 2013 and 2014 J.D. Power surveys the Mini did not fare wonderfully well.
Lastly, platform sharing. Mini has had nothing up to now to share its platform with, although the forthcoming front drive BMW 1 may present an opportunity for this important cost saving measure.

You are pulling points from thin air, not from anything I've said! As I said before, you don't have to hoon a car around in order to enjoy a car and appreciate how good it is. i doubt that my SIL's Cooper will ever have the ESP switched off. This is NOT a car for being practical. None of it's competitors are particularly practical. If it has less usable space than a DS3 or an A1 then the difference is miniscule. If you need to carry lots of stuff or you regularly need to carry people in the back then this is NOT the type of car you should buy. Get a Zafira. Please let me know if I need to clarify that point any further.

My point is that, although many people will buy the Mini purely as a fashion accessory, it is also a car that will appeal to driving enthusiasts which is not something you can say about the A1 or DS3.

Emphatically I don't belong to the "Issigonis would be turning in his grave" fraternity. The original Mini had too many deficiencies, especially for present day conditions. However its handling virtues were not obtained at the expense of utility, unlike its successor. Your comments about the A.1 and DS3 are an exaggeration, quite a large one.

The original Mini's handling was go-cart like due mainly to it's simplicity, lack of adequate suspension (for comfort),and dimensions. In the same way a £100 bicycle is lot of fun, especially compared to a car at low speeds, so was the mini. You have to remember that it was groundbreaking when first launched but it was on the market for 40 years. By the 1980s it was considered a bit of a joke. Car magazines compared it to it's rivals including the Lada Riva and Yugo and it usually didn't come out on top.

You cant make a very small car nowadays with the proportions of the mini. If you look at the Up or the i10, the bonnet slopes down lake a van. You couldn't just rebody one of those cars with Mini proportions.

It works with the Fiat 500 because it's engine was in the back and the modern steep front slope works well. But as a result the new Fiat 500 is much less faithful to the original than is the Mini.

So bearing in mind that BMW can't possibly make a new Mini with near original proportions, it makes sense to make it the way it is.

As to my supposed exaggeration, I don't think I am. The vast majority of motoring critics and journalists seem to agree with me. The A1 and Ds3 are awful cars with an extortionate price tag when compared to the Mini. I also feel that your need to make negative comments on every single Mini article on this site is most bizarre, particularly as you have never even driven one.

It is patently ridiculous to describe the A.1 and DS3 as "awful". To do so is football supporters stuff. The Mini is every bit as overpriced as you consider them to be.
The last version was so impractical as to require the rear seats to be let down in order to accommodate the weekly shop. I was reminded of this when parked next to one with the hatchback open yesterday. A ludicrous amount of space, which is improved in the newest version but is still way behind the competition. Being stylish is one thing ( if you think "retro" to be stylish which I do not) but the price in practicability is excessive.
Lastly, please read what I say, not what you think (or wish) I said.

Key specs

  • Price: £13,750
  • Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo
  • Power: 101bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 121mph
  • Economy/CO2: 61.4mpg/108g/km
  • On sale: Now
AEX 1337
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