What is it?
BMW has never pretended that entry to Mini ownership is cheap. The least you can spend these days is £11,160 for the new 1.6-litre Mini First, and that comes with a specification a bit too spartan for most of today’s owners. No air-con, for instance. For practical purposes, Minis start at around £14,000.
Once you’ve bought the car, however, the savings begin. Residuals are rock-solid; quality and reliability compare with cars costing five times as much. Just write that cheque, Mini people say, and you’re on to a winner.
For 2011, Mini is taking a couple of useful economy steps. First, by launching this bigger-engined First, still with 74bhp but with its torque output boosted by 17 per cent to 103lb ft. Second, by launching a ‘Minimalist’ version of the Mini One, which has steel wheels with wind-cheating flat hubcaps, low-resistance tyres, regenerative braking and standard stop-start for its 97bhp version of the 1.6-litre engine, all for a premium of £330 and a total price of £12,950.
What's it like
The Minimalist’s main function is to cut a One’s emissions to 119g/km (just below the tax break at 120g/km). In all other respects, a First makes more sense.