MINI One review: 2014 first drive

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  • Smallest-engined MINI in a generation
  • Lowers new MINI entry point but doesn’t strip back the sophistication
  • Priced from £13,750 | On sale now

Richard Aucock | April 2014

The new MINI: all eyes to date have been on the Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S variants. Understandably so, as they’re the best sellers and, in the case of the new Cooper, the real headline-grabbers. 134hp, 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and 130mph, for £15,300, is astounding.

The drive of my life in a MINI Cooper S

But there’s been a minor revolution at the entry level of the range too. Previously, this used simply a detuned MINI Cooper 1.6. It’s done this for two generations now and, judging by the sales, most buyers prefer to spend the extra on a Cooper. The MINI One has never quite hit the mark.

So now, MINI is getting serious and making the MINI One a defined model in its own right. Out goes the lethargic old 1.6 and in comes a brand new 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder. It’s a downsized version of the 1.5-litre but its bespoke setup should allow it to become a much more convincing MINI for those on a budget.

It’s the MINI City E for the modern era. But is it as mean as it?

MINI ONE 2014

What is the 2014 MINI One like to drive?

If it weren’t for the ‘One’ badge on the back, we’d have had a hard job spotting the test MINI actually was a One. Like many owners are expected to, MINI had loaded it with options so it hardly looked bargain basement. Remember how the Mini City used to do away with fundamentals such as water temperature and oil pressure dials to meanly save cash? None of that here.

In action, it’s again not immediately obvious where you pay for the lower list price. The little three-pot engine is a throbby but discreet motor, that rorts cutely under acceleration but is also extremely sweet-spinning. You’ll have no qualms charging this to the redline because it’s almost turbine-like, despite the offbeat noise.

Thing is, you may be grateful of this when you press on, because you spend rather a lot of time driving through those high revs: 102hp and 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds means it’s not the fastest thing to whip through the gears in, despite the snickety and direct six-speed box. It’s upping the pace that you feel the One’s lack of power compared to the Coooper (it has around 25% fewer horses).

Best instead tap into something that’s new for MINI One buyers – torque. 132lb ft from, remarkably, 1,400-4,000rpm mean it pulls from low revs and, despite being micro-sized, always has enough in reserve to lug you along without troubling the gearbox. It’s this that makes the MINI One particularly city-friendly, especially as driving it like this will give you the best chance of reaching its very impressive 61.4mpg combined economy, backed up by 108g/km CO2.

There’s a ‘but’ here though, as we’ll see…

MINI ONE 2014

Is the 2014 MINI One frustrating?

The latest MINI uses the BMW UKL platform that’s set to appear in future 1-Series et al. So it can handle way over 200hp: giving it just 102hp to deal with does not tax it in the slightest.

But it’s the fact its chassis can clearly handle so much more that can frustrate. Quick steering and the sense of a low-mass front end combines with huge grip levels and general dynamic excellence to make it feel glued to the road. The limits of this car are way higher than the engine allows you to explore: you can drive the motor flat out but you won’t be driving the MINI on the edge.

Quite simply, the base MINI seems too good for the engine under its bonnet. Which sounds harsh, given what a sweet and likeable engine it is – but if you want to drive it like the MINI begs to be driven, you need at least a Cooper.

Then there’s fuel economy. 61.4mph is good. 62.7mpg is better – and that’s what the Cooper returns. 108g/km CO2 isn’t as good as the Cooper’s 105g, either. And, remarkably, despite having an engine 0.3 litres smaller, the One weights 5kg MORE than the Cooper! Maybe that feeling of a lighter front end is psychological…

The rest of it will still please. You don’t feel you’re buying a cheaper MINI by buying a One. Apart from the black bootlid finisher (unchromed as opposed to dechromed…), only the wheels are the stark giveaway: easily fixed from around £500. Better still, do as most buyers do and choose a Chili or Pepper pack, neutralising the spec gap between the two.

MINI ONE 2014

MR VERDICT: 2014 MINI One

The MINI One is the perfect MINI for the undemanding. The improvements in torque are quantifiable and the sweet engine is discreet and pleasant. However, the sheer ability of the MINI means those who want to fully exploit it will be frustrated.

The fact it’s less economical than the choice mainstream MINI – and heavier – also counts against it. And once you start indulging in options, the £1,550 price advantage will be eroded. It’s an impressive car but strictly for the budget conscious: you’re far better spending the extra and turning a four-star car into a five-star one. The Cooper is still the choice mainstream MINI.

Rivals

  • Ford Fiesta 1.0T 125 Ecoboost
  • Citroen DS3
  • Fiat 500
  • Nissan Juke
  • Vauxhall Adam

Specification: 2014 MINI One

Engine: 1.2T three-cylinder

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, six-speed gearbox

Prices from: £13,750

Power: 102hp

Torque: 132lb ft

0-62mph: 9.9secs

Top speed: 121mph

MPG: 61.4mpg

CO2: 108g/km

Managing Director at @editorial_mr. Runs a bit. Loves the motor industry. https://about.me/richardaucock
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MINI One review (2014)
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