MINI hatchback review
“The MINI hatchback offers smiles and style in spades; although, it’s a bit cramped in the back”
- Efficient and powerful engines
- High-quality interior
- Great fun to drive
- Bouncy ride
- Expensive to buy
- Cramped rear seats and boot
Verdict - Is the MINI a good car?
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes the MINI great; it could be its cutesy looks, its retro charm or its ‘go-kart’ driving experience. Regardless, there’s plenty of reasons why it’s one of the best-selling cars in Britain; with a premium-feeling interior and range of punchy and efficient powertrains, the MINI works just as well as a sporty supermini as it does a fashion accessory. If you can live with the cramped boot and bouncy ride, there’s few affordable cars that can put a smile on your face quite like this.
MINI hatchback models, specs and alternatives
Point out a MINI to anyone in a car park and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t know what it is. Since the iconic car was resurrected in the early 2000s, the MINI has traded on its characterful, retro design, customisation options and what is often described – both by MINI itself and by those who drive them – as ‘go-kart handling’.
The MINI we know today is quite a bit more ‘maxi’ compared with the original Austin Mini from the 1960’s. Measuring at 3,821mm long in three-door form, the MINI, quite fittingly, slots into the ‘hatchbacks and supermini’ segment of the market, trading blows with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo, Audi A1 and the less-expensive but still fun to drive, Ford Fiesta.
The latest MINI was introduced in 2014 and boasts a high-quality interior, more interior space than ever before and a line-up of efficient yet powerful engines. A facelift for 2018 has kept the styling and handling broadly the same, but has added improved technology and novel features, such as Union Jack rear lights, as well as extra personalisation options.
Another update came in April 2021 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the first ‘new’ MINI rolling off the Oxford production line. The grille is much bigger and features a black surround, and the fog lights have made way for vents to cool the brakes. New paint colours and wheels are available, as well as a striking Multitone roof that shifts from blue to black. MINI also fitted an upgraded infotainment system and introduced a heated steering wheel to the options list.
These days, the MINI hatchback is offered in the traditional three-door layout or as a MINI five-door hatchback, which we've reviewed separately. There are three petrol engines on offer: a 1.5-litre three-cylinder called the Cooper with 134bhp; a turbocharged 2.0-litre called the Cooper S with 175bhp; plus hardcore 2.0-litre turbocharged John Cooper Works (JCW) models with 228bhp for real driving enthusiasts.
Our pick of the range is the entry-level Cooper as this still offers plenty of pep and is the cheapest petrol model to buy and run. MINI has discontinued all of the diesel versions of its hatchback, while the 1.5-litre One has also been axed from the lineup. A plug-in MINI Electric is now on sale, though, with up to 145 miles of range between charges.
A dual-clutch automatic gearbox with seven gears has replaced the old self-shifting six-speed transmission – something that may strike a nerve of MINI purists. Nevertheless, it's impressively smooth around town and offers almost imperceptible changes at higher speeds, while also boosting fuel efficiency.
Once you've chosen an engine, you then pick between the standard Classic trim or the more expensive Sport and Exclusive models, which add sporty and luxurious styling touches respectively. To add even more choice, there’s also now a Resolute Edition variant, boasting Rebel Green paintwork and gold accents on the exterior and interior.
No MINI is sparsely equipped, with air-con, cruise control, automatic LED headlights and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen standard across the range, as well as neat touches like a MINI logo projector built into each door.
The upside of the MINI’s high list price are strong resale values – MINIs hold their value very well thanks to a desirable image and an appealing interior. Euro NCAP awarded the MINI four stars out of five in crash safety tests, while it finished an impressive 11th out of 75 cars ranked in our 2022 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey.
What about buying a used or nearly new MINI hatchback?
There are always loads of MINI hatchbacks available for sale on the used market, and since the car holds its value pretty well, it makes a lot of sense to buy a nearly new model and save some cash. As it should be pretty reliable and all models are fun to drive, comfortable and stylish, you can’t go far wrong with a used MINI. You can check for prices of the current Mk3 model on our sister site, Buyacar.
Used MINI hatchback (Mk2 2006-2014)
The Mk2 MINI hatch was available in loads of different versions including various engines and trim levels, but as all models are great to drive, it’s hard to go too far wrong with any of them. The Mk2 isn’t as upmarket as the current car, but it’s still more upmarket than some rivals of a similar era and still looks very modern today. Be aware of costly engine problems with the more performance-oriented models.
- Read our full used review of MINI hatchback Mk2 here.
Used MINI hatchback (Mk1 2000-2006)
The first-generation MINI is even better to drive than the modern versions because it’s very light and nimble. The hot hatch Cooper S versions are huge fun, great value and are becoming increasingly sought-after, but all versions are fun and should be very cheap to buy. It’s getting harder to find examples in very good condition, though.