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Mini Hatchback engines, driving and performance

How does the Mini Hatchback drive?

If you're a keen driver, the Mini Hatchback should be on your shortlist. It remains incredibly level through corners and laughs in the face of quick direction changes. However hard you think you're asking the front tyres to work, the steering leaves you with the impression you could always turn even more aggressively, with the chassis never feeling like it's going to run out of grip.

All engines are smooth and powerful, but fundamentally sporty setup feels like an obvious pairing with the more powerful Cooper S or John Cooper Works units. Pick either of these setups and you'll find the Mini's steering wheel will wriggle like an excitable terrier if you floor it out of a tight turning.

The only criticism you can reasonably level at the Mini Hatchback on the road is that it's not the most relaxing choice. Firm suspension and hyperactive controls means it's not quite as relaxing as something like an Audi A1, although the car isn't so wired that long journeys become a hassle.

Is the Mini Hatchback comfortable?

The Mini is sporty and agile, which means it's equipped with fairly firm suspension to deliver that experience. That means bumps are felt through the base of your seat, and small vibrations from subpar road surfaces are heard as well as felt. Engine noise is mostly restrained, but the more powerful models pump artificial engine noise into the cabin when set to sport mode – this is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your tastes.

Cars like the Volkswagen Polo, Peugeot 208 and Audi A1 are all a little more relaxing on long journeys. That said, the Mini achieves a similar trick as more expensive BMW models by possessing firm, roll-resistant suspension that, somehow, manages to trim the nastiest impacts. As a result, bumps land as a dull thud, rather than a sharp smack.

What’s the best Mini Hatchback engine to get?

Diesel engines are out for the latest generation of Mini models, so you have a choice of either 1.5 or 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines. Thankfully, all models are punchy enough to get up to motorway speeds without fuss, so picking the entry-level 102hp One engine doesn't feel like a punishment.

We'd still recommend stepping up to the 136hp Cooper engine, because its more generous slug of low-down torque means the Mini feels almost effortless in all driving circumstances.

That said, if your budget allows, moving to the 2.0-litre Cooper S with 192hp turns the Mini into a genuine hot hatch, with hilariously zippy acceleration.

Beyond that is the 231hp John Cooper Works engine. This is, as you'd hope, even more aggressive when you floor it, and more willing to make the front tyres beg for grip under full throttle.

Mini Hatchback performance

If you like a bit of performance under your right foot, we think the Cooper S is the sweet spot in the range. It's more common and more affordable than the John Cooper Works, and misses out on that car's slightly more manic sports suspension. It also has the kind of power that feels impressive when you floor it, but not so overwhelming that you'll be putting your licence in danger every time you drive it.

However, if your budget doesn't stretch as far, the 136hp Cooper engine still feels pleasingly willing when you wring it out. It also has an appealing three-cylinder thrum that we found more likeable than the faux piped-in noises that accompany the more powerful engines.

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