The Right Ingredients: Driving the Mini One 5dr LCI

Like all lovingly crafted dishes, the secret to putting a smile on your customers’ faces lies not just in what’s added into the mix but also in the ability to select how much exactly to put in. The same can be said of cars. Big power, a finely tuned and well set up suspension, a balanced chassis, a communicative steering, an engaging transmission, a soulful soundtrack and perhaps, a beautiful cabin are just some of the ingredients one can mix and match to put together a machine that’s a joy to drive.

Getting the mix right, however, takes plenty of knowledge and experience. Experience which given how well their cars drive, this marque has plenty of and with their latest updated Mini One, they’ve knocked out another joyful machine wrapped together with an important key topping, the right price point.

With BMW keen to spend more time developing the next iteration of the Mini story, they have for 2021 released a second LCI generation across the entire range, refreshing the aesthetics inside and out and outfitting the current generation of Minis with new tech toys to keep it current and up to date.

While the exterior proportions and overall shape has remained distinctively the same, the most obvious styling revision is obviously up front with a very noticeable restyling of the front grille which is now larger and with a new gloss black outline, now graphically blends with the lower half of the front bumper instead of floating above and on either side, the fog lamps have been removed in favour of a pair of slim vertical air intakes.

While this new face might be on the receiving end of some unfortunate “hipster-esque” visual references, it does look much more coherent in real life as you take in the aesthetics as an overall whole instead of focusing on just a single detail.

Unfortunately, because this is the entry-level variant, you miss out on a fancier set of side markers along the flanks but we’re pretty sure this is an easy fix with Mini’s high level of customisation add-ons. What you do get, however, are a selection of fantastic colours with our test car’s Island Blue making a case for itself. Mini have always had a fantastic palette of shades to choose from but this Island Blue is particularly striking, and with those 17″ alloys as standard equipment, give the One a much more premium initial impression.

Finishing off towards the rear, the lower half of the bumper has also been restyled to feature more angular lines and even on the base-level Mini One, a slight hint of aggression. While I’ve always thought the 5-door variant to be the “ugly duckling” of the entire range, somehow with those wheels and this shade of blue, the stylist at Mini have got it spot on.

Inside, the Mini One also benefits from this latest refreshment with a significantly larger 8.8-inch infotainment screen, their fantastically clear and minimalist 5-inch digital driver display and a newly designed multi-function Sport Steering wheel. All welcomed features we used to expect only on more premium variants.

Also now found on the Mini One that used to be the reserve of higher specced siblings is a full leather interior where we used to see fabric. As always build quality on the new Mini is excellent and solid with quality materials used throughout the interior on most surfaces, yet again disguising the One’s entry level positioning. Unfortunately, all Minis still suffer from a rather weak aircon system which needs to be turned up for full effectiveness in our local climate.

As you might expect, the Mini 5-door is one with actual all-round usability as the rear seats on the 5-door is available with some decent legroom. While it’s still not the most capacious hatchback around, it does represent a significant improvement over the 3-door with egress and ingress also benefitting greatly from the 2 extra rear openings.

For practicalities, the 5-door has a slightly larger boot than its 3-door sibling with 278 litres of space available (against the 3-door’s 211 litres). While the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, pushing them down does increase space to a very considerable 941 litres.

Thankfully, these added practicalities have not affected the car’s drivability and charm. While it does still have a rather firm ride, the car’s stiff chassis and dampening do their job decently to keep harshness at bay from the cabin. This firm ride does of course contribute to the One’s ability to dive itself into corners with gusto, flicking from left to right and left again keenly with little complaint.

With 100km/h taking a leisurely 10.5 seconds to attain, this isn’t in any way a quick car. but once behind the wheel, you’d quickly learn to forgive it because this lack of outright power and speed forces you to learn how to best make use of the 102 horses you do have. The Mini One causes you to learn how to be a quicker driver, how to have a fun time enjoying what you have and ultimately, allows you to build a better relationship with the car.

The last time I drove a Mini One, its price point sitting just shy of the Cooper variant made it a difficult proposition to pick over its better equipped and slightly more powerful sibling. This time though, things have changed.

At S$128,888 (as of writing), the Mini One 5-door now represents a rather significant amount of savings over its Cooper equivalent. How much in savings? As of writing, the standard One in 3-door form is a cool S$56,000 less than its Cooper equivalent. And the best part of that? The One doesn’t in any way feel over S$50,000 less of a car. So if you’re not keen to splurge on a Cooper S (S$201,888), the Mini One is a perfectly put together Mini recipe mixed in with an entry-level price for added smiles.

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