The 2008 Mini One arguably does everything a Mini should do - it is small, easy to park, has those classic mini looks and is cheap to run. Most are familiar with the positives of this type of car, and I do not need to review them here. However having owned one, it is now my opinion that BMW are far from hitting a home run with this vehicle for a number of reasons.
1. The engine. The 1.6 Liter petrol engine the car comes equipped with makes good power once revving. The issue however is torque, or severe lack of it. Off the line, it develops a flat spot that at best could be described as irritating, and at worst dangerous. It has a terrifying ability to lose all power at critical moments (such as a give way turn into a small gap) while the transmission sorts itself out, changes down and then the motor builds up enough revs to deliver useful power. There can be a delay of up to a full second from when the accelerator is floored and when the car actually starts responding. What follows then is a nauseating surge in power higher in revs, once whatever situation you were in in the first place that necessitated the power has long since passed.
2. The transmission. My particular vehicle came fitted with a 6 speed automatic transmission, with tiptronic paddles for the steering wheel. In my opinion 6 gears is too many for an around town automatic. The vehicle is constantly changing up and down, which does not make for a smooth ride - especially in slow moving, stop/start traffic. The constant shifting actually becomes annoying.
3. Ergonomics. Unusual for a BMW designed vehicle, but this car is an ergonomic nightmare. There are simply design errors that are utterly inexcusable. For a start, unless you have the seat all the way back, you have practically have to dislocate your shoulder to reach behind the seat to put the seatbelt on. Even then, the belt often gets stuck between the seat and the internal door arm rest.
The handle for the automatic transmission perfectly obscures the designators that tell you which gear you are in (i.e. drive, neutral or reverse) which are located on the passenger side of the transmission.
Operating the indicators can best be described as infuriating. They have been designed so that a light push will just turn on the relevant indicator until released again (e.g. changing lanes) while a full deflection push will leave them on until the turn is complete. However there is such a fine line between the two modes that often it is near impossible to turn the indicator off again. For example, I will go to change lanes on the motorway, flick the indicator and it remain on. I then flick the indicator back the other way to turn it off, and instead it will turn the other side on. What follows is a cycle of left-right-left-right until finally you get the pressure just right so that the indicator will turn off entirely.
The rear view mirror also has an amazing ability to sit at the perfect height to obscure traffic lights when sitting at an intersection.
Finally I simply cannot understand why BMW decided to fit paddle shift to the steering wheel of the entry level, non-performance model of the Mini. Ignoring the fact that they are practically impossible to use unless the steering wheel is dead straight, would it not have made more sense to incorporate stereo tuning and volume controls onto the steering wheel instead?
And so there you have it. I know what you are probably thinking - the Mini One is the no-frills base model and to an extent you may be correct. However what I do know is that this is no excuse for simply poor design. Spend over $30,000NZD on a car and you expect a certain standard to be reached.
The Mini One is an inadequate car dressed up and 'funkified' if you will by the Mini brand. Buy one, and you will see that once you get past the novelty factor, you are left with car which will continue to disappoint. Stick with the BMW 1 Series, a VW Golf or similar small car. At the end of the day you will get much more out of them.