There was an awful lot that could’ve gone wrong when, almost 20 years ago, BMW relaunched MINI. Yet from the retro-inspired styling to the UK-based Plant Oxford production facility, the modern MINI has in fact been a complete triumph, serving as a masterclass in how to make an old brand relevant to new consumers.
Admittedly, the modern MINI in its many forms does not appeal to everybody. Some, for example, point out that even the smallest MINI these days is anything but mini. However, all cars have their critics, and anyway, it’s not like sales have suffered as a result.
So to the car that is the subject of today’s column, the recently facelifted 2018 MINI hatchback, the first examples of which have now arrived on the used market. They are easy to spot, too: just look at the LED rear lights and if they feature a Union Jack emblem you know you’re in business.
Other, less obvious, changes, include that every model features a full infotainment system measuring either 6.5 or 8.8 inches depending on whether you opt for a car with the optional Technology Plus pack, and you might even find a car with personalised extras such as 3D printed puddle lights and indicator inserts (don’t worry, if they say ‘ Welcome Dave’ you can pay to change them).
Another technological highlight, albeit optional, is the availability of LED headlights with adaptive Matrix technology. These can alter their beam according to what kind of road you are driving on so that, for example, in country and urban environments they use a wider beam to light up more of the side of the road. Additionally, they will blank off parts of the high beam that would otherwise dazzle oncoming traffic, all the while keeping the rest of your path fully illuminated.
When it comes to the driving experience there’s not a great deal that’s changed about this 2018 MINI compared with a pre-facelift example, but that’s no bad thing because what we have here remains a terrifically entertaining car.
The fun starts with the interior, which with its high dashboard and quirky toggle switches leaves you in no doubt you’re in a MINI product. That the height-adjustable driver’s seat can drop you right down on to the floor only enhances the connection with a classic Mini, too.
Then there’s the ride and handling, which with its firm, darty nature, and weighty steering makes even the more basic versions of the MINI feel distinctly sporty. By the time you’ve worked your way up to a Cooper S with its near 200 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre engine you’re moving into hot hatch territory, with so much grip that you’ll be able to keep up with much more expensive cars so long as the road in question has a few twists and turns.
What really impresses about the modern MINI though is that it combines this agility with a really grown-up side that allows you to complete longer journeys with ease. For aside from a bit of wind noise around the windscreen it’s actually an accomplished motorway companion, and thanks to the use of upmarket materials never feels anything less than a premium product.
Things kick off with the MINI One, which from the 2018 facelift uses a 1.5-litre engine delivering 102hp and a 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds. The next step up is the Cooper, which has the same engine with 136hp and 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds, followed by the 192hp Cooper S with its 0-62mph time of just 6.8 seconds. For high-mileage drivers MINI also offers diesel engines, including a Cooper D that averaged more than 70mpg in EU fuel tests and yet can still get from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2 seconds.
And then there’s the true performance model in the shape of the John Cooper Works, which upgrades the already quick Cooper S to produce 231hp, not to mention a wicked exhaust note that pops and bangs when the car is driven hard. Thus equipped you’ll be able to get from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds, as well as truly make the most of the MINI’s brilliant chassis.
Don’t forget either that nowadays the MINI is available not only as a three-door hatch but also with five doors, complete with a longer wheelbase to create more space for passengers in the rear, and a bigger boot. The result is anything but mini, but what you do get is a car that can genuinely rival the likes of the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta when it comes to practicality.
WHY BUY USED RATHER THAN NEW
The obvious answer is that buying used can save you thousands of pounds, although if you’re going to run the car using a PCP finance deal it’s still worth closely comparing prices because dealers will generally save their best rates for new cars.
There’s also the fact you won’t be made to wait to drive away in your new MINI, and all the while you’ll still have the balance of the original three-year, unlimited mileage warranty to fall back on if there’s a problem (do check this is transferable, however). Additionally all approved used MINIs come with the reassurance of having gone through a full inspection, plus a year of roadside assistance and MOT cover, meaning that if the car fails its first MOT MINI will pick up the bill for whatever needs rectifying (as ever, be sure to read the small print).
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many MINIs will have been ordered originally with a transferrable TLC servicing package, which for a fixed cost covers all servicing for up to the first five years of the car’s life. You can find out if the car you’re interested in buying is covered under a TLC package by visiting the MINI website.
As ever, searching for a used MINI via CarGurus will allow you to easily find great deals from top-rated dealers, whether you want to search locally or nationally. In doing so CarGurus helps to cut out the uncertainty from the traditionally tricky process of buying a used car – all you need to do is decide if those Union Jack rear lights are cool or corny.
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