Mini review

Mini Hatch on the road

This third incarnation of the "new" Mini retains the cute, retro looks of its predecessors, but offers more space and technology, along with improved efficiency and quality.

Fortunately, this newfound maturity doesn't come at the expense of the driving fun that Mini is famous for. For those after more space, there is also a Mini 5-Door, designed to compete with the Audi A1 Sportback.

Space 5/10

Seats four, but boot is small

There’s plenty of leg and headroom in the front. And two adults will fit in the back as long as they’re not especially tall.

However, getting to the rear seats requires quite a bit of flexibility; they’re mounted low and you have to bend double to avoid banging your head on the roof.

The boot is big enough to take a small suitcase and a couple of soft bags, but it’s still smaller than the boots in other upmarket hatchbacks such as the Audi A1 and Citroen DS3.

At least the rear seats fold down to let you extend the load space, and there’s a decent amount of in-car storage, including more cupholders than there are seats. 

Comfort 7/10

Choose the Cooper or adaptive suspension if this is a priority

It’s easy enough to find a comfortable driving position, plus the front seats hold you tightly in place in corners and are mounted close to the floor to make the Mini feel sporty.

In fact, the Cooper S model feels a little too sporty around town, thumping over speed bumps and potholes.

Fortunately, it’s more comfortable on faster roads, even when fitted with relatively large, 17-inch wheels, plus Mini offers an optional adaptive suspension system that lets you soften things off whenever you want.

This system isn’t necessary in the regular Cooper model, which generally feels more supple and forgiving than the S.

All of the engines are smooth, and while the Mini lets in a bit of wind and road noise at speed, these intrusions are relatively minor, so you won’t have to crank up the stereo. 

Dashboard layout 8/10

Looks good and most of the controls are easy to use

The previous Mini’s dashboard had plenty of retro charm, but it was a pain to live with because the controls were fiddly and they seemed to have been positioned at random.

Fortunately, the latest Mini has a much simpler design, while retaining most of the appealing design features we’ve come to expect from Minis, including circular air vents and old-school toggle switches.

The quality of the materials also impresses, although an Audi A1 feels even classier inside. 

Easy to drive 9/10

Compact size and good visibility take the stress out of everyday driving

Large windows give you an excellent all-round view, and while the current Mini is much bigger than the original, it’s still small enough to be easy to park.

You won’t have any trouble keeping up with traffic if you go for one of the Cooper models, either.

Most versions of the Mini are available with the option of an automatic gearbox; only the Mini One diesel misses out on this. 

Fun to drive 9/10

Cooper version is particularly entertaining

The range-topping Cooper S is properly fast, letting you overtake slow-moving traffic with ease. However, it’s the regular Cooper model that’s most fun, feeling that bit more nimble and eager to change direction.

Whichever version you go for, the Mini grips well in corners, and its steering really encourages you to attack bends because it's sharp and precise.

Only the gearshift disappoints slightly - it doesn't like to be rushed.

Reliability 6/10

Some rivals have a better record here

The latest Mini hatchback is too new to have been included in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but Mini itself doesn’t have a particularly good record; it finished 15th out of 27 brands in 2013.

Like the rival Audi A1 and Citroen DS3, the Mini comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, although a Vauxhall Adam is better here, giving you a 100,000-mile warranty with no time limit. 

Fuel economy 9/10

Most versions are very efficient

There are two diesel engines that average more than 80mpg in official Government tests, while the One and Cooper petrol models both manage more than 60mpg.

As with all cars, you’ll struggle to match these figures in the real world, but the Mini should be at least as efficient as its competition. 

Affordability 8/10

Fine as long as you don’t go crazy with the options list

The Mini will cost you more than a Fiat 500, but it’s priced in line with plenty of other small hatchbacks, whether you’re buying it outright or on finance.

Just bear in mind that the numerous personalisation options available can push the price up significantly.

One option that you definitely should add is Mini’s tlc package; it covers all servicing for five years or 50,000 miles, as well as the cost of any replacement parts that are needed to get your car through an MoT during that period.

Strong demand on the used market means you’ll get a large chunk of your initial investment back if you decide to sell your Mini on.

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Safety 8/10

All you’d expect from a modern hatchback

The latest Mini hatchback is still to be crash tested by independent safety body Euro NCAP, but we’d expect it to perform well because the previous Mini earned the maximum five-star rating.

Like the rival Audi A1 and Citroen DS3, the Mini comes with front, side and window airbags and a stability control system that helps you stay on the road in slippery conditions.

Options include a head-up display that projects your speed on to a transparent panel at the base of the windscreen so you don’t have to look down at the instruments, and a camera-based collision avoidance system that can automatically apply the brakes if it looks like you’re going to run into the vehicle in front. 

Standard spec 8/10

Lots as standard, and plenty of options

Every version of the latest Mini comes with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, a digital radio and a USB socket that lets you play your iPod through the stereo.

Mini also offers numerous accessories that let you personalise your car, including bonnet stripes, contrasting roof colours and a Chili Pack, which brings sports seats, front foglights, larger alloys, ambient interior lighting and part-leather upholstery.

Alternatively, you might want to add satellite-navigation or downloadable apps that let you access your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Mini also offers all kinds of 'lifestyle' accessories, such as bike racks and roof rails, but one thing you can't do with the latest models is fit a tow bar, meaning you won't be able to tow even the smallest of trailers.

Our favourite version

Cooper, list price £15,625

Options you should add Navigation system (£595), metallic paint (£250-£475) and tlc package (£299)

The verdict 8/10

There are plenty of small cars that are more practical, but the Mini combines stylish looks with low running costs, and it remains a very enjoyable car to drive.

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