What's good? Excellent engine. Solid interior. Better ride than before.
Not long ago I had the pleasure to review the new Mini Cooper. For those not in the know, the Cooper is a full bells and whistles Mini, and by no means the lowest in the range - for that, Mini has the One. I enjoyed my time with the 1.5-litre diesel Cooper which has a gorgeous interior, plenty of equipment, and strong performance.
The Mini One is the entry into the Mini market. This year, Mini has thrown away the old 1.6-litre engine in favour of a turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine. This is in an effort to boost emissions and offer stronger performance in everyday driving.
So, what's the new Mini One like?
The Mini One is a chic little car. It's as far from masculine as you can get with a friendly face, big rear lights, and lots of chrome all over. The One has a unique front grill with gloss black blades and this black theme continues around the sides, where the side scuttles are a mixture of matte and glossy black plastics. This distinguishes the One from the Cooper nicely, and I think it looks great.
The One I have been testing is Moonwalk Grey, which gives the One a sophisticated look. It would certainly stand out more with Deep Blue or Volcanic Orange, though, and there's more than 8 different colours to choose from.
The standard alloys on the One are 15-inch 5-spokes, and they're a little dull to be honest. Although, their small size does mean that the One sits low to the ground, and it looks really sporty. For those who want flashy alloys, the good news is there's plenty to choose from - I particularly like the £520 16-inch Victory Spoke Alloys in Black. These blend in perfectly with the black side scuttles.
The character of the Mini One is defined by the new engine. Having had a chance to test the first Mini One occasionally, I can honestly say that the new 1.2-litre engine is a huge improvement over the old 1.6-litre unit. Because it is turbocharged, it produces its torque much lower in the rev range and you don't miss the extra capacity of the old engine above 5,000 rpm either. According to Mini, the One produces 101 bhp and 133 lb /ft of torque. Those figures seem conservative after my test drive, as I found the One to pull with real gusto.
The ride is still firm though. It's not bone-shattering like the original One, but it is firmer than, say, a Fiat 500. The good news with the new model though is that it doesn't crash over bumps anymore and it is now a more refined machine - the engine is quieter and smoother than before and there appears to be a lot more sound proofing. On the motorway, at 70 mph, the One lets in very little wind and road noise.
The handling is sharp too, and the driving position is great. Overall, the One is a comfortable drive and the standard 6-speed manual gearbox is slick to use.
This is where the One sets itself apart from any other super mini. The One lacks some of the quality plastics you will find in the Cooper, but it's a high quality interior overall with a leather-wrapped steering and soft touch materials on the dashboard. Unlike in the Cooper, the One's central dashboard is dominated by a basic LCD display unit but all of the controls have a robust click to them. Likewise, the switchgear is very BMW, and it feels solid and like it'll stand the test of time.
The seats are a little hard though. They lack lateral support and whilst they're multi-adjustable, the lack of padding is obvious on a longer journey. Around town they're fine though. If you go for optional leather seats, your seats are automatically upgraded to sports seats - these have more support.
This is where the new Mini One justifies itself over a second-hand older version. Thanks to turbocharging, the new engine will return an excellent 61.4 miles per gallon according to Mini with a CO2 output of just 108 g/km - that means £90 cheaper annual road tax on the old model, which is a considerable saving.
I tested the Mini One on a variety of roads during a 200-mile round-trip. I averaged 56.9 miles per gallon and made use of the One's start/stop technology that's fitted as standard. I was mightily impressed with the average economy I achieved because I found myself driving the One rather hard - it has great handling and wills you on to push harder on country roads.
Equipment and trim
Standard equipment in the One includes a Sport function which firms up the steering and quickens the throttle response, keyless start, front fog lights, a trip computer, electric door mirrors, air-con, AUX-IN and USB sockets and Bluetooth connectivity.
Options include dual-zone climate control, heated seats, glass roof, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors, automatic parallel parking function, adaptive cruise control and a Harman Kardon upgraded stereo system. Most of this equipment is available in Packs, with the Pepper Pack representing £125 savings and the Media Pack XL costing £1,575 which includes a navigation system.
This new Mini One is mightily impressive. Spec this car right, and there will be hardly any other super mini that can touch it. Buy it in its most basic form, at £13,750, and you still get an impressive car that's fun to drive and economical. The 1.2-litre engine works extremely well and it's perfectly suited to the car with the type of performance that makes you wonder why you'd need anything more.
So should you buy this or the Cooper? Well, the Cooper will hold its value better and it has more standard equipment. But, on balance, this One is better value for money. This is the One for you.