The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
The Mini is nothing less than a fashion icon, and while there’s an element of style over substance, it still makes a great used buy — at a price.
Pros
Class-leading performance and economy
Good fun to drive
Great build quality
Cons
Cramped in the rear and small boot
Firm ride
This model was replaced in early 2014

Mini Hatchback Mk 2 review (2006-2014)

Class-leading performance

More Info

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.

 

The drive

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.

 

The interior

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

Factfile

Price:
£18,870 (correct at time of publishing)
Engine:
1995cc, 4 cylinders
Power:
143bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque:
225 lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission:
6-speed manual
Acceleration:
0-62mph in 8.1sec
Top speed:
134mph
Fuel:
65.7mpg (combined)
CO2:
114g/km
Road tax band:
C (free for the first year, £30 thereafter)
Dimensions:
L 3729mm, W 1683mm, H 1407mm

Mini Hatchback rivals

 

Additional material by Richard Dredge.