The first thing that catches the eye are the standard 15in rims, with skinny 175/65 R15 low rolling resistance tyres. They make the car look as if it is using four emergency replacement wheels: a bit of a car stylist’s nightmare, really.
Open the door and the One doesn’t look cheap at all, however. All materials used in the cockpit are as good as the ones found in the more expensive Cooper and Cooper S variants and there is no shortage of switches in the centre console or trademark toggle switches.
The car we drove had some optional extras fitted, including a sports leather steering wheel with cruise control and Mini Driving Modes. This allows the driver to choose from Green, Mid or Sport modes. Each modifies accelerator response, steering effort and engine acoustics and, unlike similar systems in other cars, here you can actually feel the difference.
Choose Green and the circular centre console flashes a green arc and the engine gets notoriously less responsive, but never to the point of feeling sluggish. In the instrument cluster, fitted to the steering wheel column, appears a scale indicating how many range 'bonus' miles the driver won by driving in a economy-friendly way.
Change to Sport and the three-cylinder engine comes alive, without ever sounding like a typical three-pot. The engine note is surprisingly pleasant, with a roaring sporty sound.
Press the accelerator and the One feels more rapid than the 0-62mph figure of 9.9sec might suggest. The torque curve starts to rise from very low revs and delivers a convincingly swift response across a wide range of engine speed.
The gear change is a true joy for the keen driver. This new six-speed manual performs great automatic rev matching on downshifts, which the driver can override if they apply some well-judged heel and toeing. Fifth- and sixth-gear ratios are a little long, to save fuel when driving on the motorway, where wind noise is not as low as it could be.
And we come back to those skinny tyres. True, city driving is not affected by them and motorway fuel consumption actually benefits. But turn onto a B-road to exploit that famous go-kart-like Mini handling and soon the tyres start to come up short in terms of road holding and precision. Tyre degradation even becomes an issue, when the tyres start to bend, under heavy cornering.