Mini 3dr

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

What Car? - - Contents - FIRST RE­PORT Dar­ren Moss Dar­[email protected]­mar­ Pho­tog­ra­phy: John Brad­shaw

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.

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