BMW’s toe-in-the-water success with the previous range-opening Ray paved the way for the Mini One – an entry-level three-door variant that’s actually been around since the first BMW version wowed the world in 2001. But is it Mini enough?
WHAT IS IT?
The cheapest new Mini ever brandishes a smaller-capacity three-cylinder turbo and less gear than the Cooper equivalents to achieve that goal.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
At last, a truly affordable Mini – and one that promises to usher in a younger buyer base for the British style icon – is big news, especially when its 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol tech mirrors that of brilliant rivals such as the Fiesta Sport 1.0 Ecoboost and Peugeot 308 1.2 turbo.
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THE WHEELS VERDICT
The One is many things you’d hope from a Mini; stylish, solid and in possession of an infectious exuberance. But the recently released third-gen Cooper models are up to $5000 cheaper than the preceding versions, casting doubts over the wisdom of a slightly cheaper – and somewhat less peppy and well equipped – version for just $2150 less. In this case, more is more.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THERE’S something enchanting about a hot-handling stripped-out hatch, especially when the spec reads as enticingly as the Mini One’s: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo; six-speed manual; 15-inch steelies; low weight; minimal trim.
Priced from $24,500, the newcomer kicks off from a grand less than the preceding Ray, yet still includes niceties such as idle-stop tech, keyless start and Bluetooth connectivity. A Mini hasn’t been this affordable since the Morris/Leyland models of the 1970s.
However, the monochromatic cabin seems more BMC-barren than BMW-era alluring, with a clammy plastic steering wheel, no cruise control and woefully flat seats reminding you of the measly $2K you’ve saved. And the frumpy hubcaps and lack of tinsel makes the bulgy-eyed Brit look like Bette Davis without makeup.
But the real disappointment lies with the cheapest Mini’s performance and handling.
Far from being a firecracker equal to the three-pot turbo Fiesta Sport and latest Peugeot 308, the One feels sluggish off the mark. It’s only on the move when the performance sufficiently livens up.
The manual shifter is a tad notchy and the steering – while agreeably sharp around town – becomes too nervous at speed, resulting in a handful if you’re not expecting the rear to step out so suddenly on its low-grip 175/65R15 Hankook Kinergy Eco rubber.
So our dream of a rally-style Mini runabout for peanuts remains just that. Stylish, solid and refined it may be, but the One feels incomplete. The 100kW/220Nm 1.5 turbo Cooper for just $2150 extra is way more convincing.
Model: Mini One
Engine: 1198cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo
Max power: 75kW @ 4250rpm
Max torque: 180Nm @ 1400-4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-100km/h: 9.9sec (claimed)
On sale: Now
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