This is the cheapest Mini you can buy, but at $29,000 the Mini Ray is hardly what you'd call an affordable small car.
Mini used the Ray name on a previous entry-level model, but this latest variant echoes what was most recently known as the Mini One.
While it is important to note that its sticker price is a driveaway deal, which includes dealer delivery and on-road charges, you also don't need an economics degree to comprehend there are cars that cost the same money but come with either more equipment or more space, like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or Mazda3.
But then again, buying a modern Mini is more about its style and cheeky character than anything else.
Vehicle Style: Light hatch
Price: $31,500 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 75kW/180Nm 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automaic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.0l/100kms | Tested: 6.5l/100kms
Our Mini Ray test car is a three-door with the six-speed automatic transmission, which automatically lifted the ‘Driveaway’ price to $31,500.
The Ray comes in two colours - a flat white called Pepper White or (for no extra cost) a metallic black called Midnight Black. In typical Mini fashion, there's a selection of contrasting colours available for bonnet stripes and mirror caps to jazz up the monotone paint work.
Clear indicator light lenses and steel wheels also distinguish the entry-level Mini.
- Standard Features: Cloth trim seats, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, keyless start
- Infotainment: 4-speaker audio with USB port and Bluetooth telephone integration
- Cargo Capacity: 211-litres (rear seat in-place) / 731-litres (rear seat folded flat)
Let’s start with interior space. And don’t laugh too much because I took the Mini to a game of golf following a bet with a mate who arrives for 18 holes every Saturday in his Porsche 911.
I pushed the passenger seat forward, folded the rear seats flat, partly dismantled my electric golf buggy and took the driver (longest club) out of the bag. Once at the course, I parked alongside my mate with his Porsche and raced to see who had everything unloaded and ready for golf first... I won.
Anyway, backtracking from ‘Comedy Capers’ in the golf club car-park...Open the door of the Mini Ray and the glaring difference between it and the more upscale models is the steering wheel - it’s a plastic-trimmed two-spoker which I reckon is a bit too sparse.
Driver and front seat passenger score nicely shaped seats which provide handy support in cornering and in front of the driver is the usual round speedometer and driver information display.
But to the left, the hallmark massive round screen which on other models runs the satellite navigation screen... well it’s merely a four-line audio display in the Mini Ray.
Also missing are paddle-shifters for the six-speed automatic transmission, cruise control, and Bluetooth audio streaming.
Nonetheless that’s all totally understandable. Dollars (or should that be Pounds?) have to be pared somewhere for an entry-level model.
What isn’t short-changed - as you’d expect from a BMW Group company - is the quality of the trim materials (even the plastics on the dashboard are nicer than some), and the usual throwback Mini centre stack switches remain.
As for real-world space, those 1.8-metres or taller shouldn’t contemplate a trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast in the back seat but, with some determination, a Mini can be quite practical.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol (75kW @ 4250rpm/180Nm @ 1400rpm)
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel discs
When this Mini Ray arrived painted in Pepper White with bright pink bonnet stripes and mirror caps... well I have my suspicions about who was chuckling within BMW’s press department as I exited the driveway. For the record, other colour choices for the Mini Ray paint highlights are yellow or green.
While other Minis use a variety of alloy wheels, the Mini Ray rides on 15-inch steel wheels (with plastic covers) and Hankook tyres.
Mini’s punchy 75kW/180Nm turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder combines with smart ratios in the six-speed automatic transmission to make easy work of a light 1120kgs all-up weight.
Accompanied by the gruff three-cylinder exhaust note, the Mini Ray zips around the city and suburbs with aplomb but needs some early notification when called-on to overtake on the freeway.
Traversing the twisty stuff, the Mini Ray confirms it’s a Mini with the hallmark quick-fire steering response, flat, precise handling and little body roll - so sporty in fact you’re soon lamenting the lack of paddle-shifters for manual gear changes (you can use the gear lever for sequential manual gear changes... but we’re just sayin’).
As usual with Mini, the suspension is firm which can be a bit of a setback when roads crumble. But regardless of the circumstances, the Ray - like all Minis - is nicely refined inside with little road or tyre noise and good suppression of the external mayhem in the city.
ANCAP Rating: 4/5 stars - The Mini hatch range scored 31.78 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2014.
Safety Features: Six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Condition-based servicing (the car sends you a message when it’s time for servicing)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Audi A1 takes the chocolates in this league. Prices start at $26,900 for the three-cylinder 1.0TFSI but for $30,100 (plus on-road charges) you can secure the excellent Audi A1 1.4TFSI Sport with a 92kW/200Nm turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Fiat 500 is another city that draws some retro-flavoured style. The born-again Bambino starts at $18,000 driveaway and runs to $65,000 for the Abarth Biposto 695... but it’s a bit smaller than the Mini, not as comfortable to sit in or drive and the base model’s hard-working naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine pumps-out a feeble 51kW/102Nm.
We rate the Peugeot 208 very highly, and the GT-Line model with its 81kW/205Nm turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine driving via a six-speed automatic is pretty decent at $27,490 (plus on-road costs). Or shell out a few more dollars for the 208 GTi ($30,990 plus on-road charges) which is propelled by a 152kW/300Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. A brilliant interior and sharp driving dynamics ensure the 208 runs close to the Audi A1 among the best premium small cars.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
How much do you value style and/or how much do you covet a made-in-England tag ? These are some the questions for Mini Ray prospects.
If you by-pass Levis jeans for Pepe or you’d rather listen to Stephen Fry than Glen Fry then this compact hatchback looks great through patriotic, retro-shaded glasses.
But if you don’t much care where your hatchback is made or what badge it wears - as long as it’s jam-packed with features/technology and the rest - then frankly there are some better buys out there (for instance the Audi A1).
But the A1 doesn’t get you humming a few bars of Rule Britannia, it hasn’t starred in two versions of The Italian Job (the original starring Michael Caine was the best) or won at Bathurst.
Bottom line is the Mini Ray might be the most affordable model, but it is still a pricey - yet fun and funky - four-wheeled fashion accessory