I know what you're thinking: how can this Mini be fun without the 'Cooper' name?
Yes there are a lot of questions surrounding the arrival of the Mini One. Is it fast? Does it have similar go-kart-like handling? Will it be as enjoyable to drive as its more powerful Cooper brethren?
Initially, only the Cooper models were available for the Philippine market. Quick, stylish and agile, the spritely hot hatch proved to be a favorite for those that want something fast, small and relatively practical. But with the introduction of the new excise tax, the Cooper range saw a significant price increase.
Enter the Mini One. Packed with a smaller three-cylinder engine and having slightly less equipment, it's the affordable alternative to the Mini 3-Door and 5-Door Cooper offerings. But is it as desirable and peppy? And will it prove to be a hit with fans?
No introductions needed for this Mini as this has the same shape and form as its stablemates. The round headlights, sloping hood and distinct rear are all signature Mini. The design may already be four-years old but the overall look and feel of the Mini One is still fresh. Place it beside any Cooper-badged model and you'll be hard-pressed to see any striking differences.
While it does serve as the entry-level model, the Mini One still comes with plenty of kit. For starters it comes with LED headlights and foglights. Even the daytime running lights are of the LED kind which were pleasing to the eyes. On paper, the Mini One comes with 15-inch alloys although the tester we had was fitted with bigger 16-inch alloy wheels (which I really liked). Four-wheel disc brakes, a rear foglight, and a tailgate-mounted spoiler round up some of the exterior features of the Mini One.
All in all, the Mini One is as cool-looking and dashing as the more desirable Cooper hatchbacks.
Like the exterior, the cabin is similar to the Cooper. It blends chic styling with simple ergonomics that is then draped in a mish-mash of gloss black trim, metal accents and soft-touch materials. Frankly, it's one of my most favorite interior designs as it is youthful, well-thought-out and unconventional. Perhaps my most favorite portions of the cabin are the motorcycle-inspired instrument gauges, aircraft-style toggle switches and the changeable LED ambient lighting that surrounds the center dash.
Controlling the infotainment system can be done by way of a BMW-style i-Drive system. It supports AM/FM radio, USB, Aux and Bluetooth connectivity. Besides those, the system also has a tire pressure monitoring system, and an engine oil level and quality checker. It can also be specified with navigation and Mini Connected services. For a car that is surely small, the Mini bounces back when it comes to features and options.
Accommodations at the back were adequate at best although we commend Mini for doing their best in making a somewhat spacious cabin. Individuals as tall as 5'9 will fit in the back just fine provided the driver / front passenger is as tall as I am (I'm about 5'7 ). The rear seats were pretty comfortable as well but you do have to mind your head when getting out due to the low roofline. Despite having seating for three, the rear bench is best suited for seating two full-sized adults only.
Thanks to it's slightly longer dimensions, the 5-Door Mini has a better cargo carrying capacity than the 3-Door. With the rear seats up, the hatchback can carry 278 liters of luggage. Fold the 60:40 split rear seats, and the Mini One can haul up to 940 liters of cargo. Not bad for such a tiny hatchback. But again, its small size means you can only put so much stuff in the Mini. If you're the type that wants to carry a lot of stuff around, we strongly suggest you go for the bigger Countryman SUV or the Clubman wagon.
Despite being called the ‘One’, this five-door hatch is not powered by a 1.0-liter engine. Instead, it gets a 1.2-liter TwinPower Turbo engine that is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. The inline-three produces a respectable 102 PS at 4000 - 6000 rpm along with 180 Nm of torque at 1400 - 3900 rpm.
My expectations for the Mini One were pretty high in terms of performance, despite having already driven the Cooper and Cooper S. I was not disappointed when I found out the engine was more than eager to deliver all its power to the pavement. Despite having only three cylinders, the turbocharged hatchback was spritely and quick on its feet.
What the Mini One lacks in sheer grunt, it made up for in revs. The three cylinder felt like it revved quicker; there was just a willingness to produce power quickly. The six-speed automatic was well-matched with the tiny engine and delivered smooth upshifts. However, I wished the Mini One had smoother downshifts when slowing down especially in city driving conditions.
Given the engine's small displacement, overtaking other cars on the highway has to be timed correctly. Sure, the turbocharged three-cylinder is peppy but you have to remember it lacks the raw pulling power of a bigger engine. Should you opt to go through the gears themselves, the six-speed automatic comes with manual select which makes for a more spirited driving experience (as well as safer overtaking). Sadly, the Mini One is not equipped with paddle shifters as those are only available on the Cooper models.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, the Mini One did pretty well in both city and highway driving. It was able to average around 9.0 – 10.0 km/l in light traffic and about 16.0 – 17.0 km/l along expressways.
Okay, so it's definitely not the fastest Mini out there, but being quick is not always the biggest draw now is it? Weighing just over 1200 kg and measuring less than 4 meters in length, the Mini One 5-Door retains the lightweight and agile handling as its stablemates. Thanks to quick and precise steering, the hatchback was a joy to drive through the twisties. Turn the wheel and the Mini One practically followed through with no delay. The short wheelbase, along with the far-flung wheels also paid dividends in delivering go-kart-like handling. Perhaps the only thing I can complain about its handling is the rather numb feedback from the steering wheel.
Small the Mini One 5-Door may be, I was surprised of its relatively quiet cabin and smooth ride. Yes, the suspension is still quite stiff, but when compared to the Cooper models, the One is slightly softer. Go over pock-marked roads and rutted streets and the ride will be less than favorable. However, wind noise, as well as engine noise were kept to a minimum. Cruising at a steady 100 km/h, the Mini One remained cool, calm and collected.
With a sticker price of Php 2,230,000, the 5-Door Mini One is not exactly what you might say as affordable. But considering that the cheapest 5-Door Cooper retails for Php 2,650,000, I'd say the Mini One in five-door guise is a pretty good deal. Sure it's down on power and has a little less features, but it is a Mini through and through.
What's more is that it still comes pretty loaded still. Standard features availabe in the Mini One include anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction control, auto engine start/stop, keyless entry, cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors with park distance control, rear ISOFIX anchors for child seats, rain-sensing wipers and automatic climate control.
It will never be as quick nor as agile as the Cooper and that is fine by me. Think of the Mini One as a modern interpretation of the original Austin / Morris Mini from the 60s. It has acceptable performance, reasonable riding comfort, zippy handling, decent luggage space, and sufficient legroom / headroom for four people. It just so happens to be a bit more fun than the original car.