The Mini hatch isn’t the most practical of small cars, but many of us still want to own one. Let’s see if the latest version stacks up
The Mini is a very appealing car, but will it still be after a few months of daily use?
Mileage 1089 List price £18,210 Target Price £16,225 Price as tested £24,820 Test economy 40.1mpg
Thinking about its target market, I am exactly the sort of person who should be driving a Mini hatchback. I’m young (29th birthday pending), I aspire to own premium products (payslip pending) and I don’t need a whole lot of space (girlfriend pending).
I have to admit, too, that every time I see that cheeky front grille on the road, I find myself really wanting a Mini. And with more than 25,000 Mini hatchbacks being sold in the UK in the first half of this year alone, I see it a lot. Further encouragement has been provided by the recent addition of new styling features and new technology to better help the Mini face down premium rivals such as the Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo, so I’ve finally taken the plunge.
The model I’ve gone for – in striking Chili Red paint – is the biggest-selling Mini hatchback of them all: the 1.5-litre petrol Cooper. But what’s this: an automatic gearbox? Oh yes, I’ve deviated from our recommended spec by dispensing with the standard six-speed manual, a decision dictated by the nature of my weekday commute, which is usually nose-to-bumper traffic. Time will tell whether the £1400 needed to specify the seven-speed auto was a wise investment.
What about other options? It’s no secret that most Mini owners add at least one of the packs the brand offers, and it’s a good idea to do so, since without them your car would look quite spartan. I’ve opted for two.
First is the Navigation Plus Pack (£2000), which means I have real-time traffic information as part of the sat-nav, along with Apple Carplay smartphone connectivity and a larger infotainment screen. Because Mini’s infotainment system is based on the idrive
set-up of parent company BMW, I’m expecting it to be exceptionally easy to use, too.
Second is the £1600 Comfort Plus Pack, which brings luxuries such as dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and Park Assist for parallel parking.
Early impressions are mostly positive. As someone who needs to shop big and tall, I was nervous about packing my rather sizeable dimensions into the Mini’s figure-hugging seats, but they are both comfortable and supportive. It’s annoying, though, that as with the BMW X2 I ran previously, adjustable lumbar support isn’t standard. In fact, it’s not available at all, even as an option.
More impressive is the amount of head room on offer in the front seats, and shoulder room is decent, too. I’m particularly pleased that the Comfort Plus Pack includes a heightadjustable armrest between the front seats, offering both somewhere to rest my left elbow and a place to stash my phone.
But let’s not kid ourselves: the Mini is no Tardis, and getting adults into its diminutive rear seats is a chore. There’s no way I could sit behind myself, for example.
The boot is small, too – smaller than what you’ll find in the A1, Polo and our reigning Small Car of the Year, the Seat Ibiza. That said, I’ve found I can get my generous weekly shop or a couple of carry-on suitcases in there without any trouble. The Comfort Plus Pack also brought me a variable-height boot floor, so there’s no annoying lip at the boot entrance.
I’ll cover the Mini’s interior in more detail down the line, but at the moment I’m duly impressed; from the LED light ring around the centre console, which changes colour depending on what you’re doing, to the backlit, 3D-printed Union Flag motif on the dashboard, it all looks suitably flashy. When it comes to driving the Mini, I’m enjoying how easy it is to dart in and out of city traffic. ‘Peppy’ is exactly the right word to describe the 134bhp 1.5-litre engine; it’s strong across its rev range, and the accelerator responds to the lightest of inputs. My car also has selectable driving modes, allowing me to choose between Sport or Green, as well as a more balanced middle ground. Switching to Sport has quickly become part of my entry procedure, such is the change in character it brings. The accelerator response is so much sharper – useful for nipping away from traffic lights or for joining busy traffic. Then when I’m cruising along, I can slip into Green and see how much fuel I’ve saved via a handy readout in the instrument cluster.
I’ve also been surprised at how comfortable the Mini can be as a long-distance cruiser. The journey from my home in south-west London to my parents’ house in Northamptonshire usually takes just less than two hours. Several accidents en route recently lengthened that to closer to three hours, yet my lower back didn’t suffer at all. And thanks to some ad hoc route planning from the sat-nav, I missed most of the major blockages.
So far, so good, then, but the test here will be how much of the initial ‘new car shine’ rubs off over the next few months, and whether this facelifted Mini has enough substance to back up its cutesy style.
‘I’ve deviated from our recommended spec by going for an automatic gearbox’
There’s plenty of space up front, and the quality of materials is top notch
The Mini wears its heritage proudly on its… tail-lights
Spirited driving comes naturally, especially in Sport mode
Rear seats are a squeeze for adults; boot is small, too
Best-selling Cooper comes with a 1.5 turbo petrol engine
Audi A1 It’s getting a bit long in the tooth, but the A1 still offers agile handling and a superb interior. RIVALS
Volkswagen Polo Spacious, quiet and comfortable, the Polo is one of the most mature cars in its class.