You could spend an awful lot of time and money ‘upgrading’ your new MINI 3-door Hatch. I had a play with the online configurator and it wasn’t long before my £16,450 Cooper D was the wrong side of £25,000. Don’t get me wrong, the end result was a seriously well-equipped car, but to spend that amount of cash on a new MINI would be bunkum.
The good news is, you don’t need to. On a wet and windy day in the Cotswolds, I had a play in the all-new MINI One with MINI’s new 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol engine and I’m delighted to report it’s nothing short of brilliant. Proper junior hot hatch thrills from a car that will set you back just £13,750. It’s the most PetrolBloggy car MINI builds and I’m a little bit in love with it.
MINI positions the One 3-door Hatch as “entry-level MINI action” and it’s the cheapest way into MINI ownership. Whatever you may think of modern MINI, there’s no denying BMW has built a formidable brand. The 76-page brochure for the MINI 3-door and MINI 5-door immerses the reader in the complete full-fat MINI experience. From a pure branding perspective, no other carmaker comes close.
The MINI One 3-door Hatch is the third-generation MINI in its rawest form. Stripped back to the basics, the MINI One is what the caffeine-enriched Cooper or Cooper S would look like before it had a chance to apply some make-up. And it’s all the better for it.
Put it this way. If you’re after the image associated with owning a MINI and are looking to impress your friends by waving a MINI keyring in their faces, £13,750 is all you need to spend.
Well almost, anyway.
As Oliver Lowe, MINI’s product manager told me on Tuesday, optional extras can make a massive difference to the value of a MINI on the secondhand market. Oliver had a spreadsheet on his iPad which showed the price of each option and the extra value it provides when the car is used. Quite frankly, it was bewildering, but it would pay to do your homework before saying yes or no to a particular accessory.
And besides, if you’re fortunate enough to be sat in a MINI dealer ordering your new car, you should build it in a way that suits you, not for the person who will take it off your hands in three years time.
All MINI dealers are encouraged to sell the benefits of the huge array of personalisation options and Oliver’s colourful spreadsheet will at least show prospective customers what a difference they can make in the long term. But MINI benefits, too, because a used car market loaded with premium-equipped MINIs will protect long term values. So everyone wins, right?
A naked MINI is a rare thing and Oliver couldn’t think of a single car that left the factory without a bell or whistle to its name. Even the MINI One I drove had a small, but refreshingly limited selection of upgrades.
Deep Blue metallic paint costs £475 and the Off-White interior pack a further £225. MINI had also added the obligatory Pepper Pack, offering a range of niceties, including a sports steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning and rain sensor with automatic headlight activation. It’s not long before you find yourself at the Cooper’s entry price point.
The MINI One also featured the brilliant cloth/leatherette seats, which at £485 are a must-have extra. Not only do they look superb, but they also feel better than leather, which will set you back a minimum of £1,305. The cloth/leatherette seats are made from recycled fabric, which – according to Oliver – makes them a hit with vegans or anyone who is adverse to perching their bottoms on expired cows.
But back to the MINI One, which is perhaps one of my favourite cars of 2014. Its relatively small 1.2-litre 3-cylinder engine produces a mere 102hp and 180Nm of torque. The 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds makes it the second slowest MINI 3-door, behind the One D, but in the real world it feels so much quicker.
Peak power is between 4,250 and 6,000rpm, meaning you need to explore the upper reaches of the rev counter to squeeze the most power from its tiny engine. But this also means the MINI One is a terrifically engaging car to drive, reminiscent of the original Suzuki Swift Sport, hence the reference to junior hot hatch thrills.
The accompanying soundtrack, which never sounds thrashy, simply encourages you to squeeze every last drop of power from its reserves and you’ll find yourself constantly changing up and down through the six gears as you progress from one corner to the next. The steering is perfectly weighted and direct, whilst the six-speed manual gearbox is infinitely better than the horrid automatic transmission I experienced in the MINI Cooper earlier this year.
It helps that the MINI One is blessed with a wheel and tyre package that is small by modern standards. The 15-inch Heli Spoke alloy wheels of my test car are in lieu of the standard-fit 15-inch steel wheels, but the skinny 175/65 tyres remain the same. It means the MINI One offers a superb ride and is wonderfully fun to chuck about.
The MINI One also feels like a premium package, which makes a mockery of its entry-level status within the range. The fit and finish is superb throughout, with the third generation MINI saying goodbye to the interior quality issues found in the earlier cars. The MINI One is a car that makes you feel good and there’s a lot to be said for that.
Standard specification is OK, too, with all MINI 3-doors benefiting from six airbags, DAB digital radio, front fog lights and three ISOFIX points. CO2 emissions are 108g/km, but the claimed 61.4mpg is nonsense, as the MINI One will do everything in its power to encourage you to drive at maximum attack at all times. You’ll find it hard to resist as the power delivery and accompanying soundtrack of the 3-cylinder engine is intoxicating.
On a day which also included a drive of the new BMW M4 Convertible and the astonishing BMW i8, it’s the MINI One that I remember the most. The £60,475 M4 Convertible felt claustrophobic, excessive, extravagant and – thanks to the Gloucestershire weather – pretty pointless. Conversely, the MINI One put a smile on my face as soon as I settled into the delightful cloth/leatherette sports seats and pressed the start button.
The grin didn’t stop until I closed the door and walked away. Had there been more time, I would have jumped in and driven it again. Which says an awful lot about an entry-level MINI. For me, it’s the only One to have.