Mini Hatchback hatchback performance
The entry-level One uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit that needs working hard – something that can be tiresome on long journeys. The next-rung-up Cooper gets a more powerful version of that engine and is our favourite in the line-up. It pulls strongly across the rev range without any of the annoying surges in power delivery that you often get with three-cylinder units.
The 114bhp 1.5-litre diesel Cooper D is not as potent as the Cooper but, if you’re desperate for a diesel in your small car, you won’t be disappointed by the performance it offers.
The Cooper S, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit, delivers very impressive performance with a sporty-sounding exhaust note, plus it’s easy to drive smoothly. However, the better-value Cooper is just as much fun in real-world use and is far from slow.
At the top of the range, there’s a performance-focused John Cooper Works hot hatch, which gets a more powerful version of the Cooper S’s 2.0-litre petrol engine and feels noticeably quicker than that car.
Mini Hatchback hatchback ride
With the exception of the Cooper S, Mini has left the suspension well alone. That means even the Cooper feels pretty firm, generating plenty of vertical movement over typically undulating British roads. Thankfully, well-judged damping stops the car from feeling like a pogo stick. In fact, the only time it gets upset is over a particularly vicious pothole or if you encounter mid-corner bumps at speed.
Enter a typical town and you will find yourself jostled around a little on roads that a Volkswagen Polo would smother far more effectively. The Mini is certainly affected a lot by the choice of wheels you go for; 17in or 18in ones may look good, but they won’t do the ride any favours.
Indeed, we’d recommend sticking to smaller wheels for the best ride comfort. If you’re tempted to splash some cash on big rims, consider the optional adaptive dampers because they make the ride more pliant than the standard shock absorbers. If you do want a sportier drive, you can always flick them into their sports setting. One thing we would avoid is the fixed sports suspension; it’s far too firm for our liking.
Mini Hatchback hatchback handling
We’ve driven cars with the Mini Driving Modes fitted – this is optional on all trims apart from the range-topping JCW version – that bring three variable drive settings.
In default mode, the steering is well-weighted and feels quick off the dead ahead, giving it the trademark darty Mini handling; a tight turning circle also helps with around-town manoeuvring. However, the steering can feel slightly nervous on the motorway and can self-centre a bit aggressively as you exit tight, low-speed corners, while the Sport setting is unnecessarily heavy.
The car handles corners just like you’d expect a Mini to, with sharp turn-in and loads of grip. The Cooper and Cooper D actually feel a touch more nimble than – if not as fast as – the Cooper S, thanks to their lighter engines, but all will wash wide through a fast corner sooner than some might expect, given the Mini’s sporting pretensions. An Audi A1, for instance, actually has slightly more grip at the front and so will resist scrubbing wide through a corner for longer than the Mini.
Mini Hatchback hatchback refinement
The engines in the Cooper and Cooper D are remarkably refined; you feel barely any vibration through the steering wheel or pedals, and a muted off-beat thrum is all you hear unless you really put your foot down. That said, the Cooper D can get a bit gruff at higher revs.
The Cooper S sounds suitably sporty, thanks in part to a system that directs engine noise into the interior. More irritating on all models is wind noise over the windscreen and A-pillars that is very noticeable at motorway speeds.
The six-speed manual gearbox that’s standard across the range is a bit notchy and has a heavier shift action than you might expect of a small car. However, the clutch is light, so it’s still easy to drive around town and it’s matched with accelerator and brake pedals that are appropriately sensitive and easy to judge. The Cooper S gets a system that matches the engine revs to the ratio selected on downshifts in Sport mode, making it very smooth – even in hard driving.
A new seven-speed Steptronic double-clutch transmission is available with the One, Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S models, while an eight-speed standard automatic transmission is available on the hot JCW variant. The Steptronic 'box is very smooth, offers slick shifts and copes equally well with smooth town driving and faster A-road driving.