It's a hoot to drive, whether you're hot-footing it around town or high-tailing it on the motorway
It's lovely to look at, comfy to sit in and only a few of the controls are a bit fiddly
Almost as good as it gets: six airbags, non-skid brakes and Isofix child seat mountings
It's as well-built as the best BMW, so don't worry about breaking down
There's plenty of room up front, but leave tall friends and travel trunks at home
You get alloys, electric mirrors/windows and a CD player thrown in, but air-con costs extra
Driving a Mini is a bit like piloting an oversized go-kart: the Cooper is nippy, agile and so much fun you'll be grinning from ear to ear on every journey. The Cooper is reasonably comfortable, too, as long as you resist opting for bigger alloys wheels; they may look great, but they make the ride firm.
There's a wide range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, but the two we'd recommend are the 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel and the 181bhp turbocharged 1.6 petrol; the 1.6 diesel brings low running bills and flexible performance, while the turbocharged S model offers proper hot hatch performance.
The Mini is packed with retro charm, from the groovy toggle switches to the huge, cartoon-like speedo in the centre of the dashboard. And it's surprisingly comfortable to sit in - as long as you're in the front. You'll need a shoehorn to squeeze anyone over 5'6 into the back seats and the boot is tiny; forget about a carrying a buggy unless you fold down the rear seats.
The Mini has a premium image, but although much of the cabin trim looks the part, some of the materials and switchgear are disappointingly plasticky. Standard equipment levels aren't all that generous, either: the Cooper gets air-conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking, alloy wheels and a CD player as standard, while Cooper S models add a few sporty design touches along with more figure-hugging seats.
Mini's reliability record isn't brilliant, with owners of rating mechanical reliability as merely average' in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey.
All versions of come with lots of safety kit, though, including stability control and six airbags. The Mini hasn't been tested under the most recent Euro NCAP crash-testing programme, but under the old-style system it achieved the maximum five stars for adult safety. Child protection was a bit disappointing, however, with only three stars awarded.
The Mini is one of the most expensive superminis, but don't let that put you off, because the payback is rock-solid resale values and remarkably low running bills. The TLC servicing package also helps offset the high price, by covering routine maintenance for five years for an outlay of just £150.
If practicality isn't an issue, you'd be foolish not to put the Mini on your shortlist.