The Mini is a lively little machine in corners, but over long distances its bouncy suspension and noisy cabin can wear you out
Buy a Mini and you can choose from five petrol engines and three diesels.
Pick of the lot is the 136hp 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder fitted to the Mini Cooper. It always feels quick, sounds sporty and costs buttons to run – Mini quotes fuel economy of 60.1mpg but 50mpg should be possible in normal driving. It’s the definition of a great all-rounder.
BMW has always traded on the fact that the new Mini is a spirited little thing to drive, just like the original car from the swinging ‘60s
The 2.0-litre Cooper S, Cooper S Works and John Cooper Works get incrementally faster – the latter gets from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds – but their big, heavy engines make them feel less nimble and they cost more to run. So, unless speed really matters, there’s little to be gained from choosing them.
The Cooper D diesel is worth considering if you have a high annual mileage – officially it’ll return 80.7mpg and it sits between between the slower One D and faster SD in terms of performance. It feels pretty nippy to drive, but is noisier than the Cooper petrol.
The Mini delivers its fun factor the minute you start it – via a toggle switch that looks like the missile-launch button in a jet fighter. Explosive performance isn’t on the cards but the Mini is a lively little thing to drive – it loves to be chucked around bends and grips corners with the enthusiasm of a puppy latching onto its chew toy. It really is a fun car to drive.
The downside is suspension that highlights bumps – it can feel like you’re strapped to a golf ball bouncing down the road. Variable damper control costs £375 and allows you to choose from soft and firmer suspension settings but, even at its most comfortable, the Mini will feel less comfy than other cars in this class.
You’ll also find the Mini to be quite a noisy little thing at a cruise. Tyre roar seems to echo around the square-shaped cabin and there’s also quite a lot of wind whistle from the pillar that runs up the side of the windscreen.
It’s easy to drive, though. The windscreen seems quite far away but you’ll have no problem judging the corners of the car. Getting the Mini parked should be pretty pain free but you can make the job even easier by adding rear parking sensors for £260.
If you do a lot of town driving, the £1,270 six-speed automatic gearbox will save your left leg from getting tired using the clutch. It changes gear smoothly and quickly but the six-speed manual is decent too – it’s light, precise and suits the Mini’s involving driving experience.
The Mini scored four stars for safety when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2014, so it won’t be as resilient to a bump as the five-star Nissan Micra that was tested under 2017’s tougher test conditions.
An easy way to boost the Mini’s safety is to go for the £440 driving assistance pack. It’s good value – it includes high-beam assist, so the headlights dip automatically when they sense a car in front and a traffic sign recognition system that flashes up signs, such as speed limits, on the infotainment screen. You really want the pack for the automatic emergency braking, though, which can stop a collision by applying the brakes at speeds of 6-37mph.