New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper: which is best?

Looking for a small, fashionable car? Should you pick something new, or, for the same money, something vintage on the used market?...

New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper – interior & equipment

New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper: which is best?

Both cars trade heavily on some of the design motifs their forebears used. The face of the dashboard on the Fiat 500 has plastic trim painted in the colour of the car to mimic the spartan, painted metal in the classic 500.

The interior in the Mini, despite its heavy design, is well executed with plenty of soft-touch plastics and switches that feel substantial. There are a couple of areas where the materials aren't quite so nice, but they’re generally in places you won’t touch very often. The Mini has a huge circular area in the middle of the dash, where the speedo used to be on early Minis, but is now where the infotainment is housed.

The Fiat is left trailing by the Mini in terms for interior quality and comfort. The Pop Star version in this test doesn’t come with seat height adjustment. There are no soft-touch plastics used inside the 500 either. You do get a simple colour screen and menu buttons to control the radio and CD player, with DAB radio being an extra cost option. You do get air-con as standard though, as well as alloy wheels, split-folding rear seats and heated door mirrors.

New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper – space & practicality

New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper: which is best?

The boot is a bit shallow in the Mini, although the squared-off shape means that it makes the most of the available room it has. If the car has the optional variable boot floor - available as part of the Chili or Pepper Pack - then the load area can be set up to be flush with the load lip and the rear seats (when folded). You can also use it to hide items below the boot floor.

You can get a couple of shopping bags into the back of a Fiat 500, but you’ll need to drop the rear seats if you need to fit anything more in there. And, there isn’t the option of a false floor to improve flexibility, so you had to lift heavy items over a load lip.

There’s only seating for two in the back of the Mini, but headroom is good thanks to the squared off roofline. Adults, provided they aren’t too tall, will be fine because the backrest is at a comfortable angle and legroom is decent. However, the front is much better in this regard since the seat has a huge range of adjustment. The windscreen is quite upright which helps give the interior a great feeling of space.

Passengers in a 500 are significantly worse off because there isn’t a great deal of head or legroom. But, it is a smaller car after all. Up front, the pedal area is a bit cramped and there isn’t a footrest for your left leg, a pain on longer journeys. You’ll also bash your left knee on the centre console because it juts out a fair amount.

New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper: which is best?