It might not look much different from the car it replaces, but this is the all-new Mini One – the cheapest version of the retro hatch you can buy.
The One uses the same basic three-cylinder turbo engine as the more powerful Cooper, but with capacity reduced to 1.2 litres (down from 1.5), which cuts the power output to a more modest 101bhp. Meanwhile, the One D uses a detuned version of the same 1.5-litre unit as the Cooper D, with 94bhp, but an identical 163lb ft of low-down shove as its flashier sibling.
However, while the One and One D undercut their Cooper counterparts by a sizeable £1550, you have to pay extra for basics such as alloy wheels, so are they really as good value as they first appear?
What’s the 2014 Mini One like to drive?
We’ve already heaped praise on the Cooper’s engine, and the good news is many of these positives also apply to the One. It might have less power to call on, but still pulls gamely from low revs, giving this entry-level Mini surprisingly nippy acceleration.
It’ll easily pull away from an Audi A1 1.2 TFSI in a straight line. True, you do notice one or two flat spots in the power delivery when you accelerate hard, but this doesn’t spoil the driving experience, and despite having just three cylinders, the One’s engine is remarkably smooth and hushed.
If anything, the One D is even more impressive. Unlike the three-cylinder diesel engine in, for instance, the new VW Polo, it's really smooth from low revs. You never feel like you're being short-changed on performance, either, although it does run out of puff sooner than the Cooper D when pushed hard.
Motorway journeys aren’t particularly peaceful, though; there’s a huge amount of road noise – especially over coarse surfaces – while that upright windscreen generates plenty of wind noise.
It’s also a pity about the rather notchy six-speed manual gearbox. Try to rush a change, and you’ll sometimes find it hard to engage the right gear, although it’s precise and easy enough to use when you’re not in a hurry.
As with other versions of the latest Mini, the One and One D deliver the sort of playful handling that the Mini has become famous for. Chuck the car into a corner at moderate speeds and it turns in keenly, responding to the quick – if unnecessarily heavy – steering.
Try to corner hard, though, and you’ll notice the front end washing wide of your chosen line more readily than you might expect. The One's relatively skinny tyres don’t help here, because they’re not all that grippy, even on dry roads, though the Mini does feel pretty planted thanks to its wide track.
Those small wheels do help make for a comfortable ride, however, because the One deals well with all but the worst scars and potholes. It’s not quite as composed as the very best small cars, including the Ford Fiesta, but is never uncomfortable, even on very bumpy roads, and it gets more stable the faster you go.
What’s the 2014 Mini One like inside?
The previous Mini's interior was packed with retro charm, but it was also an ergonomic nightmare. This latest model manages to retain plenty of that character, but brings a much clearer layout.
The buttons and knobs for the air-con, for example, are more logical than before, while the electric window switches have been moved from the centre of the dashboard to the doors, making them easier to find without needing to take your eyes off the road.
The speedo is easier to read than before, too, because it now sits in a binnacle directly above the steering wheel, rather than in the centre of the dashboard. Even the infotainment system is more intuitive – although the small, monochrome display you get as standard isn’t as sophisticated as the screen you’ll find in an equivalent Audi A1.
Rear space is better than before, too – you can carry four adults, although they'll be happiest on short trips. Meanwhile, boot space has increased to 211 litres, although this is still poor compared with the luggage room offered by some rivals – including the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1.
However, pay an extra £120 for the optional storage pack and you'll get a handy false boot floor, which gives you the ability to raise and lower the floor of the loadbay to maximise space or reduce the lip you have to lift things over.
You’ll want to spend another £300 on alloys (without them your One won't be as easy to sell on), but otherwise you get all the essentials. Air-conditioning, keyless start, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a USB socket are all included as standard, together with a six-speed (rather than five) manual gearbox.
Of course, being a Mini you can spend thousands of pounds on options, including a Pepper Pack which adds a selection of luxuries (climate control, automatic lights and wipers and that height-adjustable boot floor) in one hit, for less than it would cost you to add them all individually.
However it is worth noting that you can't personalise the One or One D to the same extent you can with the Cooper, so exterior options such as bonnet stripes and a contrasting colour roof can't be specified. Some of the exterior trim is therefore finished in black plastic, rather than the chrome you'd get in higher trims.
Should I buy one?
The latest Mini One betters its predecessor in nearly every area that matters – it’s bigger, faster, more efficient and has a much improved interior; both when it comes to build quality and space.
Being a Mini, it’s also predicted to hold on to its value extremely well, and apart from the obvious omission of alloy wheels, it’s even reasonably well equipped. It certainly makes more sense than its closest rivals, the pricier Audi A1 1.2 TFSI SE.
The diesel One D is also tempting, especially for company buyers. Its low CO2 output of just 89g/km means its very cheap to tax, and its engine is much smoother and less intrusive than any of its rivals. It also feels almost as quick as the Cooper D, too.
However, both the One and One D only really make sense up if you’re happy to keep things fairly basic. Start adding too many extras and you’d be better off trading up to one of the Cooper versions, which come with usefully more standard kit.
What Car? says…
1.2-litre turbo petrol
Mini One D