MINI hatchback - Interior & comfort
The MINI's interior has finally come of age: it’s clearly laid-out and feels well built
One of the best bits about driving a MINI is sitting down nice and low, with the pedals, gearlever and steering wheel all perfectly within your reach. There’s lots of adjustment in the supportive driver’s seat and in the steering wheel, allowing you to get set up perfectly. Also, it doesn't feel quite as claustrophobic as the old car, where you occasionally seemed a bit boxed in. Now it feels a lot more airy and spacious.
MINI hatchback dashboard
If you've driven a MINI before, you'll be familiar with the layout of this latest model's cabin, although the latest setup is far more stylish and higher quality than it’s ever been. The huge central speedometer is gone – in its place is an infotainment screen controlled from a rotating knob on the centre console. For the 2021 facelift, MINI changed the touchscreen system to make it work more like a phone does and has started fitting the 8.8-inch screen as standard (it was previously an optional extra).
A ring of coloured LED lights surrounds this screen and they change colour depending on which mode you have the car in. If your MINI is fitted with parking sensors, they can work as a visual aid to let you know how close you are to the car behind, too, while you can choose which colour you want them to be if you’ve got a model with ambient lighting. There’s also a piano black piece of dashboard trim that incorporates a backlit Union Flag, to really striking effect.
A minor bugbear with the previous MINI was that the electric window switches were located just underneath that large central speedometer. If you were unfamiliar with the layout, you could spend minutes looking for them. Now, they sit in a more traditional spot on each door's armrest with the mirror controls. The starter button and other controls are situated below the climate control dials as toggle switches instead.
A new gripe with the MINI’s interior is that the steering wheel buttons feel cheap and rattly. Given that they’re going to be used regularly and that the MINI is an upmarket supermini, this is a little disappointing. Likewise, the row of numbered buttons underneath the screen are now touch-sensitive panels and they’re hard to hit while driving.
Every MINI comes with LED exterior lighting, air-conditioning, foglights, the aforementioned infotainment screen, DAB digital radio and a Bluetooth phone connection. More recently, many features from the previously optional Pepper and Chili packs have been made standard, so every model now has automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers, and projectors that cast MINI logos on the ground when the doors open.
The MINI hatchback offers a mix-and-match scheme between engines and trim levels. The least expensive is the Classic, which can be chosen with either One, Cooper or Cooper S power.
Move up to the Sport or Exclusive and the choice becomes Cooper or Cooper S. The Sport trim adds an aggressive bodykit, special alloy wheels and a racy interior theme with dark headlining, sports seats and 'John Cooper Works' logos in prominent locations. While the sporty touches are nice, the use of JCW badges on a lower-powered model makes the real one feel less special.
Exclusive costs the same as Sport, but trades the aggressive look for a more upmarket theme, with a unique style of alloy wheels and subtle chrome trim outside, and a lavish leather interior within.
MINI has recently added MINI Teleservices and MINI eCall to the range as standard. MINI Teleservices monitors the car's condition throughout its life, and can detect if there's an issue with the car. If an issue is detected, it's able to contact your preferred MINI dealer to arrange an appointment to get it checked.
MINI eCall is a safety system that alerts the emergency services if the car is involved in an accident, and can report on the speed of the car at impact and how many airbags were deployed.
MINI offers a range of option packs through which you can fine-tune your car's specification list. The Comfort pack, for instance, adds climate control, heated front seats and rear parking sensors, while the Comfort Plus pack goes further with front parking sensors and a reversing camera, and dimming interior and exterior mirrors.
For the full hi-tech experience, you can add the Navigation pack, that includes Apple CarPlay as of March 2018, along with a built-in 4G internet connection and improved Visual Boost radio. Navigation Plus Pack introduces a digital instrument cluster, traffic updates, wireless smartphone charging and access to the MINI Connected smartphone app, allowing owners to check on their car, send destinations to the sat nav and even lock its doors remotely.
There's also a wide range of individual options and it's easy to get carried away. You can choose things like coloured accents to brighten up the interior and it's genuinely worth doing if you don’t mind paying more per month – this car is all about style, after all.