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.
Audi A1 1.2 TFSI Attraction, Alfa Mito Progression, Fiat 500 Lounge TwinAir, Renault Clio GT, Suzuki Swift Sport, Volkswagen Beetle Coupe
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
Who do you think deserves to win the 2017 COTY title? Cast your vote for a chance to win $1,000.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.