What is the Mini Hatchback?
The Mini is BMW’s smallest car but one of its biggest hits. Ever since the BMW Mini was launched in 2001, the factory has been struggling to churn cars out fast enough, with myriad variations on the theme introduced — plus this second-generation car in 2006. Since then we’ve seen convertible, Clubman, Countryman, coupé and roadster variants, plus an array of special editions and ever hotter versions such as the Cooper S and John Cooper Works. The Mk 2 was finally replaced early in 2014.
The Mini Hatch Mk 2 has two sets of rivals. If you see it as a premium small car, it’s up against the Fiat 500, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Citroën DS3 and Audi A1. However, if you look at the Mini as a small family hatch, for the same money you can buy a VW Polo or Golf, BMW 1-series, Volvo C30 or Audi A3 — it depends on whether you value style over practicality.
Even with just the hatch there is a considerable choice of engines. But because BMW is behind the engineering, almost regardless of which you choose, it will have a better balance of performance and economy than any rival. We particularly incline towards the Cooper SD, which offers similar real-world performance to that of the petrol-powered Cooper S at a fraction of the fuel cost.
When you buy a Mini, you can be assured you’ll be acquiring one of the most fun and responsive hatchbacks money will buy. While its classmates may look fun, it is the Mini that delivers on the promise of its appearance, offering a precise and immediate response to each turn of the wheel and egging the driver on through every corner. It’s not quite the rollerskate that made the name of the first Mini back in the 1960s, but neither does it serve up such an appalling ride. The current Mini is no limousine but it’s comfortable enough for everyday use.
One of the secrets of the Mini’s wild success over the past decade or more is its individual appearance. We all know the brand is owned by BMW, but the inside is uniquely Mini and, if anything, even more characterful and distinctive than the exterior. The fit of every panel and the shape of every shiny switch presents the Mini as a cut above the norm and the reason its residual values remain strong despite the massive numbers now in circulation.
But while the first Mini was noted above all for its miraculous packaging, the current car is quite the reverse. Despite its considerable size, there’s room for just four on board, and those in the back will need to be very small children indeed to enjoy any chance of comfort. Likewise, boot capacity is hopeless, dwarfed by the carrying capacity of the likes of the tiny Volkswagen Up! and even the Smart ForTwo.
What to look out for when buying a used Mini Hatchback Mk2
Despite its premium status, the Mini can suffer from a variety of ailments, such as weak starter motors, failed speakers, cracked windscreens and paintwork that is chipped all too easily. Listen for rattles from the engine bay that signify the dual-mass flywheel is about to fall apart; if the electrics conk out, it’s probably nothing more than the battery’s earthing strap failing.
There have been three recalls for the Mini, because of the spectre of the rear anti-roll bar coming adrift, overheating brakes and an electrical short circuit. In each case only certain Mini derivatives were affected.
The one to buy
Mini Cooper SD
- £18,870 (correct at time of publishing)
- 1995cc, 4 cylinders
- 143bhp @ 4000rpm
- 225 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 8.1sec
- Top speed:
- 65.7mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- C (free for the first year, £30 thereafter)
- L 3729mm, W 1683mm, H 1407mm
Mini Hatchback rivals
- Citroën DS3 (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Volkswagen Polo (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- BMW 1-series (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
Additional material by Richard Dredge.