What Car? says...
The Mini 3-Door Hatch is as British as Sir Michael Caine wearing a trilby and monocle when he's sipping a cup of tea, and this third-generation model has styling that harks back to the Fifties original.
This 'new' Mini is much bigger than its little ancestor, though. In fact, it's large enough to compete with the Audi A1 Sportback, the Seat Ibiza and the VW Polo and comes in a multitude of trim levels to give you lots of scope for personalisation. Yet it's still a relatively dinky package and hugely desirable.
There's a range of petrol engines so it should be able to meet most small car buyers' driving needs. The entry-level Cooper engine will suit the everyday city-goer, while those who crave more oomph will prefer the Cooper S. There's also the fully juiced-up John Cooper Works version for a hot-hatch driving experience.
The Mini’s recent success has been down to its owner, BMW. The German car maker masterminded its rebirth at the turn of the century, making it one of the best-selling cars in the UK. It proved that buyers are willing to pay for a classy small car with a prestige badge, and the three-door hatchback we're looking at here follows the same successful template.
Read on over the next few pages to get our in-depth impressions of its performance, practicality and more, along with our recommendations for which trim level and engine to pick. We also have comparisons with the key rivals you might be considering.
If you’re looking to ditch petrol altogether and join the electric car revolution, you can read about the battery-powered variant in our Mini Electric review. We also have separate reviews of the Mini 5-Door Hatch and the Mini Convertible.
Once you've chose your next car, we can help you find the very best deal on a new one – simply search on the free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They have the latest prices on nearly every make and model, including some very attractive new small car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level Mini Cooper has a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, and it's our pick of the line-up. It’s powerful enough to pull strongly throughout the rev range and sprint from 0-62mph in 8.1sec.
If you want more power, the Cooper S’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol ups output to 176bhp, delivering very impressive performance and a subtly sporty engine note. The only downside is that it pushes up the price a fair amount and its 6.6sec 0-62mph time isn’t quite as quick as the Ford Fiesta ST.
That’s where the 228bhp John Cooper Works (JCW) comes in. It’s the hot-hatch version of the Mini and the fastest one you can get, sprinting from 0-62mph in 6.1sec. Sadly, though, it can’t really hold a candle to the overall performance offered by the best hot hatches.
Suspension and ride comfort
Every Mini rides pretty firmly over typically undulating British roads. Thankfully, well-judged damping stops the car feeling like a pogo stick. In fact, the only time it gets uncomfortable is over a particularly vicious pothole or if you encounter mid-corner bumps at speed.
The news isn’t as good for town driving, and the Mini jostles you around a bit on roads that the VW Polo would smother far more effectively. As is often the case, wheel size plays into how good the ride is: the larger 17in and 18in alloys look good but can make the car a little more uncomfortable. We’d recommend sticking to the smaller 15 or 16in wheels on Classic trim if ride comfort is important to you.
If you're tempted to splash some cash on big wheel rims, consider the adaptive suspension that is standard on Sport trim and a free upgrade with the JCW. On the JCW, it takes the edge off all but the most abrupt ruts and bumps far better than the standard-fit fixed sports suspension.
The Mini’s trademarks have always included darty handling and a tight turning circle that makes manoeuvring around town a delight. While that's still the case with today’s models, the march of progress has complicated things a bit because they have selectable driving modes.
The system introduces three variable settings that you can engage depending on your mood. In Default mode, the steering is well weighted and quick off the dead-ahead, but can feel slightly nervous on a motorway and tends to self-centre a bit aggressively as you exit tight, low-speed corners. By contrast, the Sport setting seems unnecessarily heavy. Green is the most relaxed mode, with a softer accelerator pedal response to benefit fuel economy.
Corners are taken in true Mini style with sharp turn-in and decent, if not outstanding, grip, especially in the wet. The Cooper actually feels a touch more nimble than the Cooper S and JCW (thanks to its lighter engine), but all of them wash wide in a fast corner sooner than you might expect of a car with sporting pretensions. The Audi A1 Sportback is a little less eager to turn in to corners, but has slightly more grip at the front and will cling on longer.
Noise and vibration
The engine in the Mini Cooper is remarkably smooth and quiet. You hardly feel any vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals, and you need to really put your foot down to hear more than a muted thrum. The Cooper S and JCW do sound suitably sporty, though, thanks in part to a system that directs engine noise into the interior.
Wind noise over the relatively upright windscreen and A-pillars is very noticeable at motorway speeds (and an irritating trait across the Mini hatchback range). There’s also plenty of road roar, especially with big wheels fitted.
A seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard on all but the JCW, which gets an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Both prove to be very smooth as they shift through the gears, regardless of whether you’re tootling around town or driving along a faster A-road.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The driver's seat in the Mini is comfortable and has a wide range of adjustment as standard. The controls can be fiddly, though, especially the lever that alters the angle of the spring-loaded backrest. Shorter drivers might struggle to slide the seat far enough forwards to comfortably push the clutch all the way down. You can’t have adjustable lumbar support with base Classic trim but it is a no-cost option on Sport and comes as standard on Exclusive and John Cooper Works (JCW) models.
The space restrictions of a compact interior mean the two pedals sit a little off centre. They’re also quite close together so big shoes can end up getting caught on neighbouring pedals (drivers with larger feet will need to exercise a delicate touch).
Compared with the dashboards of more conventional rivals, the retro-themed one in the Mini is a pleasant change of scenery. There are a few quirky features that take time to get used to, such as the engine start toggle at the base of the centre console, but other important controls, including those on the steering wheel for media adjustment, are conveniently positioned and easy to use.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The three-door Mini has reasonable all-round visibility compared to its rivals, but chunky front pillars can limit your view at junctions. The rear pillars are far slimmer so the view over your shoulder is good and the compact shape means it’s easy to judge the car’s extremities.
That makes parking is a doddle, plus you get rear sensors regardless of which version you go for. If you’d like front parking sensors and a rear-view camera, you’ll have to spring for the Premium Plus pack, which also adds an automatic parking system that will steer the car into a space for you.
Bright automatic LED headlights and rear lights in a Union Jack design come as standard, and adaptive headlights that dip automatically when another car is approaching can be added as an option on all trims. All versions get auto wipers too.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Mini gets an 8.8in colour screen as standard, with Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a couple USB inputs. The screen is controlled either by touch or with a rotary dial and shortcut buttons in front of the gear lever. It’s easier and less distracting to use the dial on the move, and something its rivals don't offer, although the touchscreen is handy when you’re stationary.
Regardless of the amount you’ve spent on the infotainment, you’ll get sharp graphics, menus that are easy to understand and quick responses to your commands. In fact, it very easily qualifies as one of the best systems in the small car class.
The Mini has a premium image and the interior lives up to that, with plenty of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard, and knobs and switches that have a substantial feel. It looks great, too, with a cheerful design that has some special touches, including extensive ambient lighting trim that you can customise to offer almost any colour in the spectrum.
All in all, it’s the plushest interior in its class, beating even the Audi A1 Sportback for quality. There are a few areas where the plastics feel a little cheaper, though, such as lower down the doors, and some sharp edges around the seat adjustment switches.
Still, those areas are fairly well hidden from your normal view and you’ll find more unyielding material in every one of the Mini’s rivals.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Unfortunately, useful cubbies are few and far between – the door pockets are quite narrow and the glovebox is square but shallow. Beneath the USB and charging sockets there’s a space that isn’t quite wide or deep enough for a larger phone to sit flat in, and the two cupholders in front of the gearlever are shallow. A small net pocket in the passenger footwell will hold pens and other small items.
Unlike in older versions, a central armrest is standard regardless of which version you go for and doubles up as a phone docking station.
The three-door Mini is tighter than the Audi A1 Sportback for rear head and leg room, and its bench is restricted to a maximum of two passengers. That does mean there’s more shoulder room for each of them so they’ll be fairly comfortable (assuming they're quite short). They'll find access a bit of a pain, though, as they'll have to duck under the low roof and past front seats that leave a narrower access gap when tilted forward than in some three-door rivals.
Once they're inside, rear-seat passengers will find the seats comfortable thanks to the angle of its backrests. There are storage pockets in the back of the front seats and three cupholders that will take a standard 500ml bottle or a large takeaway coffee cup.
As you might imagine, the Mini 5-Door Hatch gives much easier access and a third seat in the back. Even so, the Jazz is far roomier in the back and would be a wiser choice if you regularly carry rear-seat passengers.
Seat folding and flexibility
Pulling a lever on the shoulder of the front seats allows the seatback to fold forwards and the whole seat to slide if you give it a bit of a shove, providing access to the back.
The seatback returns to its original position but the base doesn't – you have to slide it using the fore/aft lever, which is frustrating if you regularly carry passengers. Front passenger seat-height adjustment is standard in all models.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, which includes the cushioned divider between them. When you pull the toggles on the shoulders of the seats they topple forward easily. If you want more rear-seat versatility, the Jazz will be the car for you due to its seat bases that fold like cinema seats to increase vertical space for tall items.
The boot in the Mini is 211 litres, which isn’t as much space as in the Ford Fiesta, the Seat Ibiza or the Skoda Fabia but is just about large enough for a big weekly shop. It's a good square shape, and you don’t have to lift items too far off the floor to get them over the load lip. There’s also a shallow rectangular storage area underneath the boot floor for smaller items.
To maximise the available space and accommodate boxier items, you can lock the rear seatbacks at a right angle. When they're folded down, there’s a considerable step up to them from the boot floor.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Mini range isn’t available with the sort of discounts you’ll get on rivals such as the Audi A1 Sportback. It's a premium product and is priced as such, so it looks a bit expensive when you compare it to more mainstream small cars such as the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo. That’s especially true when you consider the price of the option packs and how much more space those rivals offer.
That said, the Mini can still make some financial sense, thanks to competitive PCP and leasing offers. Its depreciation is also reasonably slow over three years compared with the Ford Fiesta but an A1 depreciates slightly slower still.
On the other hand, rivals emit less CO2. In our True MPG tests, the Cooper 1.5-litre petrol returned 41.3mpg while the Cooper S returned a lower 37.2mpg.
Equipment, options and extras
You get a choice of four trim levels for the regular three-door models: Classic, Sport, Exclusive and Resolute. The hot John Cooper Works (JCW) sits at the top of the range. Classic is the base trim, but comes with plenty of equipment as standard, including heated wing mirrors, ambient lighting, cruise control and keyless start.
Sport adds larger 17in wheels, black exterior highlights and a JCW bodykit on the outside. It also gains front sports seats and adaptive suspension. Exclusive is similarly priced and offers a less aggressive look, with silver exterior highlights instead, and leather seats and steering wheel. Resolute is the poshest trim level, coming with 18in alloy wheels, bronze exterior detailing, Rebel Green exterior paint and special chequered cloth seat upholstery.
Then there’s the JCW, the sportiest version. That adds suitable sporty exterior styling, sports suspension, 17in alloy wheels, larger brakes, sports seats and an eight-speed automatic gearbox (rather than a seven-speed one).
As a brand, Mini came joint third with Mitsubishi out of 32 car makers in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Only Lexus and Toyota did better.
All Mini hatchbacks come with a three-year warranty and breakdown assistance, and both can be extended with a variety of cover levels and price plans.
Safety and security
There’s lots of kit to help you avoid an accident, including stability control. You have to go to the options list for more advanced functions such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking (AEB), which most rivals have as standard, lane-departure warning and a rear-end collision warning system. Six airbags are provided, though, while an alarm and immobiliser are fitted to all models.
The Mini performed slightly disappointingly in the Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring four stars out of five in 2014. Worse still, even that rating is no longer valid due to the age of the test, and it’s worth pointing out that the Audi A1 Sportback and the VW Polo both scored five stars in later, more stringent tests.
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As a brand, Mini finished joint third out of 32 car makers in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey so that bodes well for this model's dependability. All Mini hatchbacks also come with a three-year warranty and breakdown assistance.
Mini is owned by parent company BMW but the cars are manufactured in their own factory in Britain and the Netherlands.
We recommend going for a mid-range Mini Cooper Exclusive, because it adds lounge leather sports seats, a leather steering wheel and aluminium trim to make the most of its plush interior.
The cheapest Mini Cooper hatchback is the Classic, costing around £22,500. For the latest prices, see our New Car Deals pages.