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Mini First (2009) hatchback CAR review

Published:01 February 2010

Mini First 2009
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

Hip, urban young things take the fun Fiat 500 very seriously, and now, it seems, so does Mini – with the launch of the new entry-level First, the company is targeting the slinky Italian directly.

Where does this new Mini One slot into the range?

The First usurps the Mini One’s entry-level slot, undercutting that car’s £12,345 price tag by almost £1500. At £10,950, it also undercuts Fiat’s range-topping 1.3-litre diesel 500 by £150. However, the more comparable 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol 500s are still significantly cheaper, prices ranging from £8300 to £10,905.

Do the maths add up? Well, the Mini people say there’s a far larger pool of potential buyers at the First’s price point than the One’s.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s sloooooooow. The First shares its 1397cc four-pot with the One, but it’s down 20bhp to 74bhp, and torque takes a 15lb ft hit to 88lb ft. With 1135kg to lug around, that’s slow, slow, slow. Even if you couldn’t care less about speed, you will notice that this car is more gutless than a Billingsgate Haddock.

The rest, of course, is classic Mini – a sharp, grippy chassis; great steering; strong brakes; a smoother ride that the first-gen new Mini.

It’s much cleaner, right?

Nope. THe First still churns out a way-off-the-pace 128g/km, still returns 53.3mpg – a 318d does better, and certainly won’t take over 13 seconds to hit 62mph. To add insult to injury, the First is still in the same group five insurance bracket as the One too.

By the time you realise that the standard One’s air-con has been stripped (it’s £665 extra, please), and you’re actually not allowed to spec the One’s optional sat-nav, alloys or cruise control, then, well, you have to really not want a 500.

You could argue that there’s something quite nice about the simplicity of the proposition, but there’s no arguing about the lack of performance, which – if you do spec air-con – is saving you just £800 over the far fleeter, equally frugal, equally insurance-friendly One.


Yes, the First makes Mini ownership more accessible, it still embodies most of what we love about the brand and it makes sense to Mini when seen from the vantage point of spreadsheets and tabulated car sales – yet it doesn’t quite add up as an ownership proposition.

If you can, stretch to a Mini One or go secondhand. If neither of those options work, take a look at a Fiat 500.

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Price when new: £10,950
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1397cc 16v 4-cyl, 74bhp @ 4500rpm, 88lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 13.2sec 0-62mph, 109mph, 53.3mpg, 128g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1135kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3699/1683/1407


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  • Mini First (2009) hatchback CAR review
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