Test Drives

MINI One review: The One’s A Winner


It hasn’t taken long for MINI to make a return to Cat A, with the brand seemingly determined to have a presence in the segment. Ordinarily, the standard MINI Cooper would have sufficed, but of course, recent regulation changes meant that the Cooper’s output of 136bhp from its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine ensures that it just nudges itself into Cat B, being slightly over the 130bhp threshold needed to acquire a Cat A COE.

No matter, for the MINI One is here. Now, regardless of whatever protests any other brands might make, there’s no denying the bare facts. The MINI One has a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that produces 102bhp, very much well under the 130bhp benchmark, and therefore qualifying it for a Cat A COE easily. The authorities can run all the dyno tests it wants, but the One is further proof that using horsepower to delineate between ‘premium’ and ‘mainstream’ brands merely makes a mockery of our automotive scene right now.

READ MORE: Car Industry: COE re-cat is a failure

Leaving aside political debates, we arrive at the inevitable question: With just 102bhp powering a now bigger-sized MINI, does the One feel underpowered? It only takes a quick drive to reveal the answer, which is, not at all actually. The powerplant feels exceedingly lively, always willing to rev and move the car along eagerly. It’s no performance hatch of course, but you’ll appreciate the One’s dartiness, and its strengths lies not in its ability to get you from A to B quickly, but rather the way it makes you feel while on the way there. There’s never a sense that there’s not enough power unless you’re doing long highway runs, and if you commute mostly within our city the One will delight you with its enthusiastic nature, gamely indulging you whenever you want that little spike in power to slot into that gap in traffic.

And even if you decide to take the road less travelled, the MINI continues to impress. Like its bigger- engined siblings, the One offers a fantastic ride and handling balance that makes it such a lovely car to drive. Steering is sharp and offers plenty of feel and feedback, there is a good amount of grip, and unlike MINIs of old, the car even rides well when you’re just settling down on a cruise home. It’s almost magical how MINI has managed to come up with such a fun car that’s so well-rounded.

READ MORE: Less is More

Being the entry-level model though, the One does do without much of the frills that you find in the more expensive Cooper and Cooper S models. Among the obvious omissions include the LCD multimedia screen that controls the infotainment system (which means no sat-nav either), electric seats, keyless entry, and LED headlamps (the One makes do with standard halogen lamps instead). That said, despite the pared down interior, the One does have a few goodies still available, such as Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic headlamps and wipers and keyless ignition.

If that is good enough for you, then the MINI One actually makes for a very compelling package, especially when you consider its retail price of $123,300, including COE. That makes it over 20 grand cheaper than the MINI Cooper (which is already a pretty good deal to begin with), and puts it head to head against the likes of a Cat A Volkswagen Golf. It’s an apple to orange comparison, sure, but if you’re a young working professional with that kind of money to spend, you can now spend it on a MINI. And you’ll be assured that you won’t be getting an inferior product, for the One can stand alone as a brilliant offering in itself. In fact, unless you need the extra power or the lavish features, the One almost makes the other MINIs seem irrelevant in our market.

READ MORE: MINI’s plans for 2014

Engine 1,198cc, 12V, turbocharged in-line 3
Power 102bhp at 4250-6000rpm
Torque 180Nm at 1400-4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 195km/h
0-100kmh 10.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.0L/100km
CO2 112g/km

Price $123,300 with COE
Availability Now

Also Consider: Volkswagen Beetle 1.2, Fiat 500

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