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MINI

The entry-level MINI One is a stylish, great-handling little hatchback

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

There is no weak model in the new MINI line-up, especially now the new Clubman has been revealed. Even the entry-level One is a stylish, great-handling little hatchback – all it lacks is the acceleration to go with its nimble chassis. For many drivers, having to work the engine hard will add to the fun, and is in keeping with the characteristics of classic Minis. The only trouble is, you do miss out on some of the Cooper’s stylish kit.

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It’s stylish, fashionable and desirable, but few people would label the new MINI cheap. Go for the entry-level One, and the price tag looks more tempting – but without the Cooper badge and delicious details, is the basic Brit­ish favourite still a winner?

While our test car had optional alloys, 15-inch steel rims are standard. A MINI with hubcaps is a rare sight, and the £330 extras are a must.

Inside, the One doesn’t hide its identity so easily. The quality of the fit and finish is still first class, but hard black plastics feature throughout the cabin. And its more basic level of trim even sees the air-conditioning left on the options list.

Easily the biggest handicap faced by drivers of the entry-level model, though, is under the bonnet. The One doesn’t get the new 1.6-litre engine that features in the Cooper – it makes do with a smaller unit instead. The aluminium 1.4 is based on the larger motor, and still benefits from variable valve control. But while owners will have few complaints with fuel economy, performance is lacklustre.

Peak power doesn’t arrive until 6,000rpm, and the 140Nm maximum torque comes in at an equally heady 4,000rpm. As a result, you have to push the One hard in every gear to make swift progress.

Thankfully, all other aspects of the handling makes up for the sluggish pace. A decent ride and one of the best gearboxes around makes the MINI a joy to drive in any guise.

At £11,625, the One looks good value. However, few buyers will resist raiding the lengthy options list – in which case, the higher-spec Cooper would be a better starting point.

Rival: Suzuki Swift Sport With a shape that can easily be mistaken for the MINI, the Suzuki makes a fine cut-price alternative to the British-built machine.

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