Mini hatchback long-term test

The Mini hatchback is consistently among the UK's bestselling small cars, but is a recent update enough to help it challenge the class leaders? We've got four months to find out...

Mini hatchback front
  • The car Mini Cooper 3dr
  • Run by Darren Moss, deputy editor
  • Why it’s here To see if a recent facelift is enough to elevate the Mini to small car class honours
  • Needs to Make urban commuting a joy, while also being comfortable and practical enough for longer motorway trips

Price £18,210 Price as tested £24,820 Miles covered 2060 Official fuel economy 54.3mpg Test economy 36.6mpg Options Navigation Plus Pack (£2000), Comfort Plus Pack (£1600), automatic gearbox (£1400), 17in Cosmos alloy wheels (£1000), darkened rear glass (£250), Mini driving modes (£200), piano black interior trim (£160) 

18th October 2018 – four-seat fun

There’s no getting around the fact that my Mini hatchback is not a big car. Despite jibes about it having gotten longer and wider over the years, it’s still fundamentally the same size as its rivals, which include the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. And that means it’s ideal for someone who, like me, doesn’t travel with all four seats filled very often. It does, however, still need to perform when those situations arise – and as the nights get longer, so too does the queue of am-drammers wanting a lift home from rehearsals.

Mini hatchback long-term test

“How do you pull the seat forwards?” asks one, and I explain that there’s a handle on the back of the front seats to tilt them, creating a gap through to the rear seats. Helpfully, though, this is a bit stiff, so needs a good shove to create a large enough opening to step into the rear seats. Said friend’s face drops when she sees the precious little space behind my driver’s seat – even if I pull it forwards, it’s going to be a tight fit. Still, with a bit of heaving and some questions as to why I chose a Mini of all things as my new car, we were all seated.

Even four-up, the Mini’s 1.5-litre petrol engine still felt nippy. And nippy really is the right word – the engine is a little bogged down at low revs if you have all its seats filled, but once you’re moving it’s delightfully flexible. Coupled with light steering, it’s easy to see how this Mini has earned a reputation for fun handling. It darts into corners – coupled with an ‘ouch, bloody hell Darren’ from the back seat – and you rarely have to make corrections mid-corner to keep it on your chosen line.

Mini hatchback long-term test

Despite the close quarters, my passengers were quick to compliment the Mini’s interior, and especially its LED light ring which circles the infotainment display. Yes, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but the fact that its colours change depending on what you’re doing – red and blue for the temperature, for example, or pulsing green when the stop/start system is activated – is still impressive. And following Mini’s recent trim restructuring, it’s now standard across the Mini range.

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