What are they like inside?
If you just want an interior that’s comfortable and straightforward to use, look no further than the Audi A1 or Volkswagen Polo. The A1’s standard sports seats hold you in place better than the Polo’s through corners and it’s the only car here with adjustable lumbar support. Both cars have logical dashboards and offer enough seat and steering wheel adjustment to allow most drivers to get comfortable.
That’s not to say the Mini is uncomfortable. It isn’t, but its pedals are offset slightly too far to the right, forcing you to sit at a skewed angle, and the retro dashboard takes longer to get the hang of. The Mini is also the trickiest to see out of because of its narrow rear screen and chunky rear pillars, although the A1 is only slightly better in this respect. The Polo sets the standard for visibility, with slim pillars and big square windows all round giving a good view out, although many buyers will still choose to add the optional rear parking sensors.
Two average-sized adults will fit in the back of all of these cars. The A1 has the least rear leg and head room, and feels the most claustrophobic in the back, while the Polo’s wider, more airy-feeling interior makes it the best for those who regularly need to carry more than one passenger.
The Mini is the only one with a height-adjustable boot floor, which comes as part of the Pepper pack and allows you to set the floor so it’s flush with the boot lip. It also means there’s no annoying step in the extended load bay when the rear seats are folded. So while the Mini’s boot isn’t the biggest here (it’s fractionally smaller than the Polo’s but usefully deeper than the Audi’s), it is the most practical.
Interior quality certainly won’t disappoint in any of our trio. The A1’s interior is marginally classier than its rivals, if less eye-catching than the Mini’s.
The A1’s standard 6.5in colour screen is easy to use, thanks to a dial on the centre console. However, you sometimes have to double check what the shortcut buttons do because their functions change depending on which menu you’re in. Six speakers, a DAB radio and multimedia connections are included as standard, with sat-nav being an option when new.
The Mini gets a small monochrome readout as standard that's relatively intuitive but does look a bit behind the times. A 6.5in colour screen was a reasonably low-cost option and comes with a user-friendly rotary controller. Sat-nav was another extra cost option and comes with smartphone app integration. It’s an intuitive system that’s well worth looking out for. The widescreen version shown here is part of a pack and is rare to find on the used market.
The Polo has one of the most intuitive touchscreens in this class and all the essential kit you could want apart from integrated sat-nav, which was quite an expensive option. Most will have gone for the much cheaper Car-Net app, which allows you to mirror your iPhone or Android phone on the Polo’s display when connected via USB, so you run sat-nav apps from your phone and some voice control apps through the screen.
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