The Mini One proves that going for the base model doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss out on the good things in life
Photos: Ben Chia and Leow Ju-Len
Once upon a time, going for a base model meant that one had to contend with a car that’s as basic as it gets. But these days, even an entry-level variant does come with some frills and features that would usually be offered on some top-spec models.
The Mini One provides for a great example of this, and you can see a stark difference in progress that’s indicative of this greater automotive trend. While it was undoubtedly a fun little bundle of joy to drive, it wasn’t so long ago that the most affordable Mini came with a pared down interior that’s as sparse as it gets (as you can see in this throwback review).
In contrast, the latest iteration of the Mini One comes with a whole swathe of modern niceties, to the point where you could easily mistake it for a top-spec Mini, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a bargain basement ride at all.
The central touchscreen display, for instance, has been updated with the latest version of Mini’s infotainment operating software, and it feels utterly slick to operate, with moveable ‘apps’ like a smartphone, and plenty of scope for customisation. The instrument cluster is also now all digital, and it gives the One’s cabin a thoroughly modern feel.
It also comes with neat convenience features, like wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity, and Mini’s Voice Control (the brand’s version of BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant), while the car is also hooked up to the Mini app, from which you can do things like lock and unlock the car, and locate where you’ve parked it, simply by using your smartphone.
It’s all very nice of course, and it makes the One feel like a much more premium car than its price tag suggests. But the appeal of a car like this has always been the way it drives, and thankfully, the latest version doesn’t disappoint in that area.
The entry-level Mini is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo three-pot, and develops 102hp and 190Nm of torque. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, the car’s light weight (around 1,300kg) means that the One feels zippy and energetic to drive, with the engine ever so eager to squeeze out every ounce of horsepower that it can muster. It’s not super fast by any means, but there’s enough in it to make darting around town entertaining and fun.
It marries that eagerness with its lively nature, with the One offering handling that feels like almost no other hatchback available out there. The steering is sharp and light, and the car is immensely chuckable in the corners. It does trade that off with a slightly harsh ride, but it doesn’t feel as bad as some of its sportier, more powerful siblings, like a Mini John Cooper Works.
The One we’ve driven is the 5-Door model, which means it gets, well, five doors. While the added practicality and ability to offer easier access to the rear is welcome, for all intents and purposes the back seat is still a bit of a tight squeeze. It can still accommodate average-sized adults at a pinch, but we wouldn’t recommend putting your friends there for long journeys.
Still, who cares about your friends, when the Mini One is such a entertaining proposition for, er, one. There’s plenty in it for the keen driver, and the updated features means that you won’t feel like you’re giving up on modern conveniences. For that, the Mini One could very well be the one Mini for you.
Mini One 5-Door
|Engine||1,498cc, inline 3, turbocharged|
|Power||102hp at 3900-6500rpm|
|Torque||190Nm at 1380-3600rpm|
|VES Banding||A2/ – S$15,000|
|Price||S$128,888 with COE|
|Verdict:||Base model Mini gets updated tech and features to make it an even better proposition than before|