Mini’s entry-level model may sound diminutive, but how it performs is in no way small at all.
Photos by Azfar Hashim
Just one look and you already know this is the latest F56 Mini. And that’s it, nothing more.
But pop open the bonnet, and you see a little metal thing covered with plastic with the words ‘TwinPower Turbo' and then 'Mini' proudly inscribed on it. And so you go on and assume it’s the Cooper.
And then you start to look around. “Hmm… Still a Cooper”, you thought.
Surprise, surprise — this is the newest base model Mini. The cheapest one (no pun intended) you can get your hands on. It is so well packaged, you can’t even identify it’s the lowest priced version. So at this point, we can safely conclude that Mini did a wonderful job of packaging it to have an exterior equivalent to the Cooper despite the glaring $20k difference in price.
But you have to be sharper eyed to know this is the One; first and foremost are the different wheels; the 16-inch alloys seen here are reserved only for this variant. Secondly, the plastic strip gracing the front registration plates are finished in matte, compared to the glossy type seen on the Cooper. Thirdly, the pair of headlamps that doesn’t get the Xenon treatment and LED ring daytime running light. Lastly, the exhaust tailpipe that has no shiny chrome tip.
Then you open the driver’s door.
So you get semi leather/fabric seats all around; to be honest, it’s not bad at all and I would really choose this over the full leather set. Besides looking ‘hipster’, it doesn’t trap heat — useful after parking under the hot sun for twenty-six years while you were away working in the office. Also, these are the similar huggable type — again — as seen in the Cooper.
Another dead giveaway? The missing graphic-rich LCD screen; instead what you get is just a simple head-unit. ‘Simple’ it may seem but surprisingly as you toggle around with it a bit more, you can also set up the sound system, Bluetooth and car’s setting, for example whether you want to drive with the daytime running light on and whether you still need the car’s headlamps to light your way after locking the car; that sort of thing.
Other than that, everything else remains practical, which also means you get a nice cockpit with a perfectly-sized steering wheel (Mini remains one of the best when it comes to driver’s ergonomics, mind you), adorable engine start/stop switch, easy to reach gear shifter, useful storage spaces and cubby holes, cool air-con control switches and even auxiliary slot for your ieverything.
Now here is the most important part of the car: what’s running it. Under the bonnet of the One lies a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. Yes, you read that right. Three. San. Tiga. Transmission is a 6-speed automatic.
And with that, you get an output of 102 bhp and 180 Nm, together with a century sprint timing of 10.2 seconds. Now to be honest, it does sound a little gruff compared to a similarly sized engine from VW; and the only cause of that, according to my zero engineering background, is the missing cylinder. But on that note, it’s not that bad once you get used to it, which should be easy considering how spirited it is at piling up the revs.
This little hatch is surprisingly quick at darting from one lane to the other and covering gaps - really useful for CBD dwellers. Credit goes also to the gearbox, which, although a little jerky, does its job very well holding on to 2nd and 3rd instead of shifting up prematurely when you’re driving during peak hour. Out on the expressway, it could still hold its own; doesn’t seem intimidated by bigger cars at its tail. At all.
In terms of ride and handling, I am glad to report that it still delivers fun by the buckets. Pity though, the standard Pirelli Cinturato rubbers seem to complaint and break traction rather early, which thwarts highly spirited driving along twisty roads - thank the powers up there for the alert stability program! Oh by the way Mini didn’t scrooge up: Mini Driving Modes is still standard, giving you the option to drive between Green, Auto and Sport. It handles well enough in Auto, but if you like things to be stiffer and more engaging, Sport should be the default choice.
At the end of the day, the Mini One is the small premium hatchback that does the job it was designed to do really well and with much satisfaction. The big surprise is how feisty it behaves for our urban traffic, which is exactly what you need. And when you get bored and want some little action, you can rest assure it is, very much, an able handler; just remember to change those rubbers though.
Last but not least Mini, good job for not exercising cost-cutting measures that could've potentially cheapen the car.