Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Mini might trade on the ‘go-kart feel’ of its cars, but in this case that marketing strapline doesn’t translate into a reality. The 5dr's steering feels artificial and overly heavy, and, although it’s certainly very quick to respond (only a tiny movement of the wheel is needed to get the car to change direction), this only serves to make the Mini 5dr feel nervous and twitchy, rather than fun, at faster speeds.
The A1 doesn’t just have more naturally weighted steering; it also feels far more composed during quick changes of direction and ultimately has more grip when you need it. However, if you want a small car that's genuinely good fun to drive, the Ford Fiesta is top of the pile.
You save very little money by buying the least powerful One model, so our recommendation is to head straight for our favourite engine: the 1.5-litre turbo petrol in the Cooper. It’s smooth, exceptionally quiet and, with maximum torque – or pulling power – available from just 1250rpm, makes it very easy to maintain swift, relaxed progress.
We wouldn’t bother with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine in the hotter Cooper S. Yes, it's quicker, but it pushes up the price considerably and the car isn’t a particularly great hot hatch compared with the rival Ford Fiesta ST; if anything, the bigger and heavier engine actually makes the car handle less sharply than the 1.5-litre Cooper.
Whichever model you choose, but particularly if you go for big alloy wheels, there's quite a lot of tyre noise at 70mph compared with rivals like the Peugeot 208 and Audi A1. The Mini's standard six-speed manual gearbox is rather notchy, too. There’s an optional seven-speed automatic should you want a self-shifter.
The Mini doesn't ride as smoothly as most versions of the 208 or A1, either. To ensure your fillings stay where they're supposed to be, it's best to avoid alloy wheels larger than 16in. On 17in wheels, you’re jostled around too much along beaten up urban backstreets, and things don’t even completely settle down on the motorway. The optional adaptive suspension doesn't improve things by enough to justify its cost.
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