There is something about drinking a fine red wine. It never gets old, bland or boring. The Mini One, the entry level of the range, is exactly like this. It shares the exactly the same body shape as the cooper but, yet, it’s toned down to a more affordable package, which is still pretty great.
Take the 1.6l Dohc engine; it produces 72kw and 153nm and sprints to 100kph in 10.5 seconds. Strangely though, it does not feel slow. It must be the low seating position and go-cart-like feel of the car. It’s hard to believe that an entry level car like this could be this good when the road gets twisty. The 6 speed manual gearbox is great. The chunky gear nob fits my hand perfectly and there is a completely solid feel of the box. Upshift and downshifts are so easy with a moderate feeling clutch. It’s not too hard and it’s not too light for my liking. In top gear, which acts as an overdrive, you are purring along the freeway with reduced rpms to bring the overall fuel consumption down. Mini claims 700km on a 40L tank and you know what? It’s totally possible! Fuel consumption is rated at 5.4l combined with a 4.4l extra urban – not bad for a 1.6 petrol engine that produces only 127 g/km of emission.
The driving position, as previously mentioned, feels sporty. I can’t believe something in this end of the market could actually be this good. There is slight body roll, but it’s not excessive and the damping is not too hard. It seems like a great balance between comfort and sport. It’s harder than an Opel Corsa, but softer than a VW Golf GTi, if you know what I mean.
Interior quality is good. As a base spec, we obviously did not have all the extra trimmings but, honestly, it’s not really noticeable. There is no multifunction steering and the steering wheel is not leather wrapped – so what? I doubt you need your steering wrapped in leather. With Mini being backed by BMW, I get the BMW feel when driving it. It just feels so solid.
The retro centre speedo with integrated ratio is great. It takes some time getting used to it, but once you are, the numbers are big and you can easily monitor things from the driver’s side. The radio is a six speaker unit, with 2 speakers up front and 2 in the rear and yet again for a car under R200 000, quality is surprisingly good. It also features an AUX line in. I would have preferred USB, but Aux will do. USB is, however, available as an option.
There are 6 airbags; 2 in the front, 2 on the sides and 2 curtain airbags, so it does not surprise me that this car has an NCAP 5 rating. Look, it’s not the biggest car in the world, and space may be a tiny issue if you are two big guys traveling together on a long journey, but the added safety is a plus point in anybody’s book. It also features tire pressure monitors that warn you if there is anything wrong with your tires. I did get a notification and it turned out my tires were overinflated – probably due to the temperature of the road.
Talking about size; it’s not as big as a Corsa on the inside for instance, but I, with my 1.9m frame, fit in the Mini much better because of how well the seats adjust. They move all the way to the back and it’s not often I run into a situation where my feet don’t reach the controls.
The boot is 160l; not big by any means, but it’s do-able and you should easily fit 2, maybe 3 tog bags in there. The seats are 50/50 split, so flip them flat and you have 680l. Much better now, isn’t it?
Over all, the Mini should definitely be considered if you are looking at an entry level car. It checks all the safety aspects, is economical and has superb handling.
If you can live with the size, I highly recommend it.