When you think of stylish small cars nowadays, you’ve got a good few options to weigh up. The new DS 3 is a somewhat boutique car, the Twingo has some nice curves, the Corsa has a pretty front end and the VW Up! Is a characterful item too. These are all, subjectively, stylish, but they’re all stylish in a contemporary way.
A truly stylish item has withstood the test of time, while others tried to imitate, and remained at the top of the pecking order.
The Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper are two truly attractive cars which have been tweaked, improved but never neglected. Both stay true to their design when they were first created, the 500 in 1957 and the Mini in 1959.
Times have changed, though. The cars are both bigger, they’re both safer, they’re both more reliable and they’re both faster, a lot faster.
The Fiat 500 now comes in a venomous 595 package from Abarth, this model uses a juiced-up 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol engine to take the car from 0-60mph in just 7.6 seconds. This level starts from £15,090. Alternatively, you could go for the Competizione package at £20,290, which offers an extra 40bhp, meaning just 6.6 seconds from 0-60mph. … Nippy
The Cooper is now wider, more solid and safer than ever before. Purists will argue that it’s no longer miniature, but the same concepts exist. 4 wheels, right in the corner of a boxy chassis. A sideways front engine and razor sharp steering. Oh, and two racing stripes for good measure.
The Cooper S is the model that positions itself alongside the 595. Starting at £18,980 you get yourself a high spec Mini with a turbocharged 2.0 litre 4cylinder engine whooshing out 189bhp.
Comparing the two, it’s fair to say the build quality of the MINI is superior. That’s no huge discredit to FIAT/ Abarth, as their cars have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but there’s no questioning the fact that the MINI is a very well put together piece of kit.
On the road, the gap between the two narrows significantly. Yes, the MINI has more power than the 595 but the Abarth is a tighter, more lightweight package. Some experts even go as far as saying that the steering in the 595 is even more direct than that in the MINI, which is a big, big statement. The 595 is probably the zippy hatch you’re looking for if you want inner-city driving.
In terms of practicality, the MINI does take the win here but it’s not an awful lot to shout about. Both the Cooper S and the 595 will squeeze in 5 adults but it won’t be very comfortable in either. The boot space is also larger in the MINI but again, it’s not exactly a selling point. If you value practicality then you’d be better looking at some larger hatchbacks.
So which is the better out of the two?
As always, it depends. The 595 is certainly a more exciting car to take through the city centre or through a tightly woven track. It’s also easier to park and has stronger all-round visibility.
The Cooper S, on the other hand, is more solid on motorway journeys and has more power above 60mph, thanks to the bigger engine. On a stretched out B-road, the Mini may prove more enjoyable, but they’ll both be a riot.
MINI Cooper S
For an extra £3,000 on top of the Cooper you can land yourself in the John Cooper Works, at the very top of the MINI pecking order. While this does become rather pricey, this is the ultimate MINI, with more power, improved handling, bigger brakes and much more. It is a bit dear though…
|Abarth 595||Abarth 595 Competizione||MINI Cooper S||Mini Cooper JCW|
|0-60mph||7.6 seconds||6.6 seconds||6.7 seconds||6.1 seconds|