BMW first revived the Mini Cooper all the way back at the turn of this century. The model has become one of the most desirable small cars to date. Earlier models have even started appreciating in value.
Seven-year cycles are the norm for Mini iterations, but the current 3rd generation has been around a little longer. The delay is down to new designs for the Mini’s UKL1 Platform and a partnership with Great Wall Motors to bring the 4th Generation Mini as an all-electric model.
Just because the 3rd Generation of the hatch is due to be superseded next year, it’s no reason to ignore her. In fact, now is the time to start sizing up a used 3rd Gen Mini Cooper. That way you’ll be ready to pounce on a bargain when her 4th generation little sister hits UK roads.
Under the hood of the Mini Cooper (technical specs)
The longer lifecycle of this Mini means there have been a few more updates and facelifts than previous generations. The cute and capable Mini was updated in 2018 and again in 2021.
A little longer and wider than previous generations, this Mini initially came with six engine variations. Two 1.2 litre 3-cylinder petrol engines, two 1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol engines, a 2 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine and a 1.5 litre, 3-cylinder diesel. Diesel engines stopped being offered in July of 2020. The change was in response to new European emission standards.
Each of the engine types are matched to a choice of transmissions – a standard 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, or 6-speed sports automatic. For us, it’s the 1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol with 136 PS and a 6-speed manual transmission that offers the best driving experience.
Performance and comfort
If nothing else, the Mini Cooper is great fun to drive. The good news is though, that there is something else – a lot of something else.
Different driving settings – Green, Mid and Sports modes – offer slightly different driving experiences. Depending on your choice, the acceleration, suspension and climate controls will be adjusted. Generally, you can expect a nimble and responsive ride from a Mini Cooper.
The electric model, released in 2020, has near-instant acceleration (as most electric cars do) and will go from a standstill to 62mph in under 8 seconds. If it is speed you’re interested in, keep your eyes open for a John Cooper Works (JCW). She’s a pricier model but the quickest of them all.
The suspension and dampers create a fairly smooth ride but it depends a lot on the wheel size you go for. The smaller 17” wheels deliver better comfort. If you do opt for larger wheels, look out for a model with adaptive suspension.
Interior & exterior styling
The Mini’s exterior styling is iconic. The latest generation is 98mm longer and 44mm wider than previous iterations. There’s also an extra 7mm in headroom, not that you’d really notice.
Inside the Mini Cooper is compact but comfortable and the cabin feels like quality. It’s not leather surrounds but you’ll get plenty of soft-touch plastics and sturdy knobs and switches feel substantial.
Up front, passengers get more legroom than any other small car on the market. The back seat is a different story, but the car’s name should be a giveaway on that. Seats are low, so there’s no problem with head room.
The back only takes two adults, and once they’re in there’s room enough to get comfy. Actually getting in can be a bit of a challenge.
As for boot space, it’s not as big as the Ford Fiesta, but you’ll still have enough space for a weekly shop or a few bags to head off on holidays with.
Mini Cooper accessories
Front parking sensors and a rear-view camera come with the Comfort Pack plus trim, but the 3 door hatch is small enough it shouldn’t be necessary – she’s a doddle to park. Bright LED headlights are standard kit, and adaptive headlights that automatically dip are an option with all trim levels.
Bluetooth connections, DAB radio and a large 8.8” colour screen is standard across all models. You’ll even get a couple of USB ports for charging and connecting other devices.
Sat Nav is not standard, so if that’s a feature you enjoy (or would like to begin enjoying) keep an eye open for used models with the optional Navigation Pack. Apple CarPlay is standard though so if you’re an iPhone user navigation and music apps can be synced through the infotainment system.
As a small family car, the five-door model will win every time. The earliest models of these were released in the later part of 2014. Parking is a breeze in all models and made easier with the Comfort Pack if that’s a manoeuvre that gets your heart racing.
There are Isofix points for kid’s car seats, but getting seats into the back via the stubby rear doors can be a bit tricky. Still it’s far easier in the five-door hatch than the three-door model. As for safety, Euro NCAP gave her four-stars which is pretty good for a smaller car.
One Woman Owner Verdict
We love a Mini and there are a few of our team who wouldn’t trade theirs for the world. Whether you’re looking for a small car for commuting or as a family car to haul your kids and shopping about, the Mini offers value for money and a fun drive. She’s done well in reliability ratings over the years too – something worth considering if you’re looking for a small used car. All up, the Mini Cooper is a worthwhile motor in our book.