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.
It 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.
However, while the One undercuts the Cooper by a sizeable £1550, you have to pay extra for basics such as alloy wheels, so is it really as good value as it first appears?
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.
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 delivers on 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.
They 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 rival, the pricier Audi A1 1.2 TFSI SE.
However, the One only really adds up if you’re happy to keep things fairly basic. Start adding too many extras and you’d be better off trading up to the Cooper, which not only comes with a bit more standard kit, it also gets a usefully more powerful engine.
What Car? says…
1.2 turbo petrol