Understanding the psychology of “want” requires years of study, decades of research, a natural aptitude, and a capacity of inspiration.
The science, or more accurately art, or even more accurately black art, of irrational desire triggered by the intangible is nigh on impossible to get right. Steve Jobs was arguably the greatest practitioner of this Jedi Mind Trick the world has ever seen.
The folks at MINI may have something to say about that, though. For $129,888 you can get more space, more power, more gizmos… more… metal. From almost anywhere except Cupertino.
It is a generous wad of cash by any metric for a teeny tot with only 101hp. But no specification sheet can account for this most precious of intangible qualities.
Having this car makes me happy.
Just look at it! Look! The bright colours, the stripes, the super cute applications of gloss black trim. And that’s just the way it came from the factory. If you want, you can customise it a million different ways. I feel young again, don’t you?
MINI interiors, particularly in this latest generation, have always been wonderful places to be. There is a huge but superbly well-judged variety of shapes, colours, and playful elements, such that your eyes and fingers always have something fun to fall on.
You just don’t get a big neon strip of pulsating light in your Mazdas and Volkswagens, nor do their warning bongs sound anywhere as cuddly. It’s delightful.
Quality is impeccable as well, with every touch point feeling substantial and solid. Certainly, the tactile satisfaction of running your fingers over the surfaces swing even the new Volkswagen Golf’s textures into the sand trap.
My specific clump of chuckles on wheels has tan seats with cross stitching, part of the MINI Yours package applied to give the car even more personality.
Ooh, I love it. They’re comfortable and a treat for the eyes, contrasting nicely with the black dashboard and tasteful chrome accents. Manual adjust only, mind, with no memory. But who is counting when they’re smiling?
This most recent facelift, the second in this model’s generational life cycle, brings worthwhile upgrades that lift the atmosphere even further.
The enlarged central display is skinned even more prettily, and the now-digital instrument display matches the car’s attitude and aesthetic well.
There is a flattening of many control surfaces, with the centre console, steering wheel buttons, and the accents around the aircon given the 21st century Apple-style treatment, evolving from bubbly bulbous shapes to panels of flat gloss black.
IT IS JUST RIGHT
Now we come to the elephant in the room. Is this MINI big enough, and more importantly, is this MINI small enough?
The answer to both is “Yes”, which is some feat.
No elephants are going to fit in the back, but five doors bring welcome utility and useability to the equation. This car can now conceivably serve as an only car, and you might even call it practical.
The amount of space available behind is not going to worry a Corolla or Golf (there’s the Clubman for that), but for groceries with the family? It’s fine.
Seats folded, I picked up a second-hand, 1.2-metre-long study table, and stacked luggage on top of it with little bother. I am 1.7m tall, and could also sit comfortably behind myself without knees touching the seat backs.
And, if the front passenger is willing to be generous, a baby seat will fit into the back snugly. Larger strollers will struggle for admission to the boot with the seat backs upright, however, so do try before you buy.
Critically, the extra apertures have not robbed the MINI of its lovability. Unlike the awkwardly inflated Fiat 500L, which is decidedly not bauble-like, the MINI 5-Door’s preserved proportions still speak to the giggle centres in our amygdalas.
RUN, SKIP AND HOP
On the road, remarkably, the 5-Door feels indistinguishable from its 3-Door sibling. This is probably the maximum size of MINI that still carries that inimitable, irrepressible sense of smallness behind the wheel.
So, one nips through the city like a little devil, absent from worry about the extreme corners of the car.
The brand’s signature chuckability survives, and this is a car you still yeet around the city in a darting, puppy-like manner – unlike how you would pilot any other hatchback.
That your kids can clamber into the back through their own doors is a bonus with little perceptible dynamic penalty.
Per modern MINI, this means that the control surfaces lie on the hefty side to impart a sense of confidence and substance rather than the twinkle-toed featheriness a Suzuki Swift trades in. Necessary? Perhaps.
Despite the name and size, the car is not particularly light, and this engineering direction is probably the best solution for a car conceived and built like this.
SPIN IT TO BOOST IT
On to the engine, and here again is a pleasant surprise. Just like the job it does in its corporate BMW 116i sibling, this little entry level lump does a decent job.
MINIs need to feel energetic, and the motor weaponises its turbocharger to good effect at low to middling speeds. Venture above 5000rpm and the lack of puff becomes apparent, but otherwise there is a smartly judged proportionality of response to input.
Its operating character also feels unstressed and comfortable in its own skin. In many ways, this behaviour is preferable to some other motors with higher outputs, but seem flogged to within an inch of their lives. Mercedes’ 1.3 Litre unit in the A200, for example, feels like Kevin Hart. Little man, always shouting.
Still, if your priorities are maximum fizz with a minimum footprint, might I point you in the direction of the Suzuki Swift Sport? It is worth a test-drive, for educational purposes.
Want trumps need, every time. With five doors, do we now have the perfect marriage? Ultimately, with the MINI, it’s not just the car.
The showroom is a playful, vibrant little place. If I bought this fun machine I’d have the coffee mug and the tote bag and I’d buy the oh-so-adorbs itty bitty MINI socks for my baby niece.
MINIs are a lifestyle, is what I’m saying. They brighten your life.
You can’t put a price on that.
MINI One 5-Door 1.5 (A)
ENGINE 1499cc, 12-valves, inline-3, turbocharged
MAX POWER 101hp (102PS, 75kW) at 3900-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 190Nm at 1380-3600rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO 81.8hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 10.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 192km/h
CONSUMPTION 19.2m/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $129,888 (after $15K VES rebate)
AGENT Eurokars Habitat