Battle of the 3 Cylinders: MINI vs. Ford

The idea of a gas powered three cylinder engine was crazy talk (for those who liked SMART) only a few years ago but now there are two new models featuring such power plants on American shores. Enter the all new for 2014 MINI Cooper and The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost 1.0l. Two cars with small engines targeting very different customers but both dreaming of high fuel economy. Autoguide put these two head to head.

The MINI is expensive for a subcompact, but you can see the point of paying the premium as soon as you step into the car.

Noises and vibrations are surprisingly minimal in the MINI even though it uses a boosted three-banger. Surprisingly, the Fiesta isn’t terrible either.
Ford says you should notice a considerable fuel savings with 31 mpg in the city, 43 on the highway and 36 overall. Those ratings reflect Ford’s recently reduced rating.The MINI with a manual model is officially rated for 30 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and averages 34 mpg combined.

What’s the verdict? If you haven’t guessed which one is best click on over to the Autoguide to find out!


  • LiYuhao

    For the price of a bare bones MC 1.5T, you can have a Fiesta ST that rips the rug out from under its feet, and even crushes the Cooper S. Really, you can even go for a Focus ST which really has a nice interior, two times as much power, and will put the MINI in a hole at any time.

    • Jason

      And yet and none of that applies to this article.

    • Random

      And yet MINI is still the Benchmark for all other brands. I guess they are doing something right. I know what both a MINI and a Focus feel like after driving for 2 years. You get what you pay for with the Ford…

      • LiYuhao

        MINI is the benchmark? that’s hilarious. Ford’s 1.0L turbo engine has been out for a lot longer than the B38 1.5L engine. Ford also has had much higher quality standings in just about every segment they compete in vs. MINI, and you can’t really compare a base Fiesta at $16K to a well-equipped Cooper at $25K. Compare a Golf, Focus, or Mazda3, and they all eclipse the Cooper in performance, style, quality, and pricing.

        • Random

          Style is a matter of opinion. I guess there is a butt for every seat. Quality is debatable. Again you get what you pay for in regards to price. If MINI was not the benchmark then why does everyone use them to compare against. Besides this article was about there being a 3 cyl motor in a car for sale in the US. Funny how The fuel economy is the same on a smaller motor. To bad Ford had to lie about fuel economy to get back on the map.

        • LiYuhao

          What are you talking about? You seem like you have no idea what in the world you are going on about. Who is benchmarking MINI’s? I’m sure Ford doesn’t as their 3-Cyl was out way before the MINI’s, the Fiesta is older than the MINI, and the Fiesta out drives the MINI, even with a torsion bar!

        • The MINI has better material quality, performance and style to a Mazda3, or a (non-ST) Focus or Fiesta and with the F56 is in the same league as the Golf.

    • LiYuhao

      How does that have nothing to do with this article? It’s comparing two rivals that are priced accordingly, and are the same body style (hatchbacks). Just because a base Cooper costs as much as a Fiesta ST, doesn’t mean the two don’t relate since one is the sporty model, and one is the base model.

      • jbkone

        Nothing to do with it because the article is about 3 cyl engines, not 0-60 times or the ST of anything.

        • LiYuhao

          They are direct competitors. They also have similar powertrain options. The only reason the Ford lost is due to it’s shitty trim level.

        • minicooperracer

          Have you personally driven both models the article talks about? You do realize that MINI also offers upgraded levels and engines as well right? The writers chose the base model of each hatch for a comparison and noted that yes the MINI was more expensive and people know that. It is also justified for the price being higher based on the fact the the interior is so far superior. If MINI wanted to be cheaper then they would have to cut back on some things that people know they are paying for now. This was not a test done by Ford or MINI, this was just an opinion piece about the differences between the two and if you like the bare bones cheapest thing you can get then get the Ford. I personally prefer the MINI and I am willing to pay for the quality.

        • LiYuhao

          Yes I’ve driven both. The Fiesta is only available with the 3-Cyl on a base trim level. Have you driven an ST? It dominates the supermini category. The Focus which is also available with the 1.0L is a better match on pricing and features. The Focus ST is a direct rival for Cooper S. Instead of the Cooper S being faster than before it’s slower. By over a half second in almost every test I’ve seen.

        • minicooperracer

          Actually I disagree with it being slower than before… As a person who has been racing them since 2005 and driven every make and model at track events, the 2014 S is faster than the outgoing model. I have driven the Fiesta and just not for me. I have not driven the ST and never opposed to a test drive but I was keeping with the article as I have driven it. I can say that I truly miss my 2006 Cooper S (that was the year before the turbo) the most in appearance and handling. I think Ford has put up some better quality lately and I am not opposed to them but for various reasons, MINI just works better for me. I have a JCW Coupe now that is my daily driver and track car and it makes me smile every time I get in it.

        • TurbochargedChili

          You can disagree until the cows come home, but every real world test has revealed it’s slower than the R56 S LCI and PRE-LCI. 6.9 0-60 – Autocar, 6.8sec – 0-60 Car and Driver, and 15.4 sec 1/4mile – Automobile Magazine.

        • lawrothegreat

          Nonsense. Autocar (29/11/06) tested the R56S, 0-60mph in 7.1s, 0-120mph in 31.6s. Autocar (02/04/14) tested the F56S, 0-60mph in 6.9s, 0-120mph in 27.0s. Get over it.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I’ve read those Autocar tests of the R56 S and they are 0-100km/h not 0-60. Usually 2-3 tenths of a second slower to 62mph than 60. It’s also the slowest test I’ve ever seen of the R56 S. Check out Car and Driver, Motortrend, Automobile, Insideline, Road and Track for actual 0-60’s of the R56 S. The LCI model ran a 6.2 for C&D, MT, etc… It was consistent across the board in times. The F56 S has been slower than all of the US testing of the R56 S, by EVERY magazine that has tested it. Motortrend says they miss the flexibility, low end punch, etc… You can argue it’s better but it’s numbers don’t lie. .84g on a skidpad is not impressive. Ive seen econoboxes with cheaper, less grippy tires pull better numbers. It has too much roll, under steer, and gets upset too much when driven hard to ever be a really fun vehicle. Randy Pobst didn’t like it as much as the R56 S and said it didn’t inspire confidence, the brakes faded fast, and it never felt powerful.

        • TurbochargedChili
        • r.burns

          Only 766 miles on the F56 S !!!

          totally unbridled

        • FuckBMW

          Dude, MINI and quality do not go into the same sentence. I’m done with BMW’s bull after having to pay for my TIMING CHAIN replacement 2400 miles out of warranty – even though they know it’s an issue with the N14. Screw BMW and MINI. it’s all about the money.

    • James Hawthorne

      The Fiesta is the drivers choice. It just gets left behind with the interior, but that’s due to it’s low level trim they tested. It’s supposed to be redone soon as well. The Focus is undergoing an update for 2015, and will be available with the 1.0L engine, and will be a more direct price comparison but it will offer more space, and even higher quality interior bits. I would compare the Focus against the Cooper simply due to pricing. I think the Focus would pull away from each equivalent Mini.

    • lawrothegreat

      For all of their strengths and they have many, the interiors of the Fiesta and Focus are cheap and an absolute eyesore to look at. You need a pair of binoculars to look at their screens and the styling reminds me of those awful all in one hi-fi systems in the 1990’s.

      • TurbochargedChili

        Eyesore? You obviously have cataracts. The Focus and Fiesta ST’s both don’t have huge black strips across their mouths, or the hideous fish mouth shape. The Focus and Fiesta both get Aston-Martin esque grille shapes, and don’t have obtusely styled gargantuan taillights.

        • lawrothegreat

          We probably all have cataracts to some degree. If you read my post you’ll see that I’m talking about the interior styling.

    • carcrazed

      Right out of the gate you are wrong, first sentece = fail Maybe do some research before you spout off.

  • Kevin Bartlett

    Can’t believe the hate I see toward MINI. I like the new cars, not enough to get rid of my current one, but if I needed a car I still think MINI is where I’d go. Anyway, good little write up, echoes what I think I’d pick too, you won’t care if its got 3 cylinders if its still a nice place to sit and enjoy a ride/drive.

    • BudD

      I would no categorize my dislike as “hate,” but I seriously dislike the new design of the F series.

      • R56HATER

        The S model also just lost to the Fiesta ST and outside of MF, has been disliked for its engines power output and it’s weak numbers. It’s been slower in every test I’ve seen. Can’t blame that on one test, as every magazine does their own testing and has come up with slower performance data, and really pathetic skidpad numbers. .84g is like a freaking Hyundai Elantra pulls.

        • lawrothegreat

          Which is just nonsense. Autocar tests of the R56S and the F56S show performance improvements, not huge but the F56 is quicker. Lateral front end grip is noticeably better, torque steer vastly reduced and a simple remap capable of taking it to 240hp at least. Is the R56 stronger in some areas, yes, just like the R53 was over the R56, but overall the F56 is a better car.

        • TurbochargedChili

          That’s why it lost to the Fiesta ST, and their performance numbers are slower.

        • lawrothegreat

          In Autocar’s road test dated 26/03/14, they give first place to the F56S, second place to the Fiesta ST, third place to the Audi A1 TFSI S-line and fourth to the DS3 THP sport. They also tested the F56 as being quicker than the ST.

        • TurbochargedChili

          They also said the GT86 had enough power. lol.

        • Nick Dawson

          However, when Autocar’s sister mag, What Car?, tested the F56 Cooper vs Audi A1 1.4 Sports vs Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost this month, they awarded 1st place to the Fiesta, 2nd place to the MINI and 3rd place to the Audi, and concluded that the Fiesta was “An utterly brilliant small car that excels in the key areas”.

  • BudD

    Perhaps it is just a matter of time. Do I hear 2? How about 1 ? If 3 is good, 2 may be better; then a 1 cylinder should be best! Of course I’m being facetious, but the rationale is logical. Soon we may be confused when we hear the melodious rumble of a Harley-like V-Twin emanating from a V-Twin MINI on the interstate as Harley-Davidson’s lose their famous sound to the buzz of electric motors.

  • BudD

    If MINI is serious about following a non-traditional development path how about mulling over a V6, RWD, mid-engine! It could be a very compact, small displacement unit with turbo or supercharger to pump out great performance and economy.

  • F56HATER
    • F56EhNotSoBad

      Slaughtered is a bit strong. Look at the numbers. The S has better acceleration numbers than the ST, better interior, better fuel mileage. They admit that crappy all seasons ruined the handling. Not sure why Mini would give them one to test with all-seasons. I test drove both, didn’t like the ST’s seating position, interior, or clutch/shifter at all (C&D is being too kind). After all the magazine hoopla about how awesome the ST was, I was underwhelmed. I actually didn’t like the F56i either, until I saw it in a color other than goldfish yellow. It looks fine in dark colors, the interior is very nice except for some of the stupid moves like the tach and window switches, and it’s quiet while cruising, loud enough when driving hard. As an R53 owner, I REALLY hated the new F56 when I first saw it. But after two test drives of the F56 and test driving a crapload of other things (Fords, Mazdas, anything supposedly as fun at a similar price), I actually ordered another Mini. Yes, maybe it’s not as much of a hooligan as the first gen, but neither am I.

      • James Hawthorne

        The S is one tenth faster to 60. The old one was much faster.

      • TurbochargedChili

        Almost every car tested has all seasons. It doesn’t excuse the poor numbers. Look at the test sheet. It’s not very impressive.

        • Mark

          The S was the only car in this test with all seasons. Both other cars had performance summer tires.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I said in general. Not this test. Look at any Accord, Camry, Sonata, 3-series, etc… And they will 9/10 have all seasons. Look at the VW GTI tests from previous years. Always all season and always higher numbers. This was a pathetic showing for MINI.

  • RacerX

    Crazy Talk???? In 1984, my Dad bought me (very fortunately) a new car for college … with two conditions: It had to be a Chevy and under $6000. That narrowed the field (intentionally) to just the Chevette or a base Cavalier. However, at that time, Chevrolet was about to unveil (for CA/AZ/NV/NM) a revolutionary (for the time) new economy car called the Sprint – a re-badged Suzuki. I read all the articles and decided that this would be my new car. WITH the optional AM/FM/Cassette stereo, “sport” stripes and Air Conditioning, my new 1985 (it was kind of cool to have a 1985 in 1984 back then) Chevy Sprint’s MSRP was $5495.00. It was a 3-cylinder/5-speed and the car was actually fun to drive. I would routinely drive from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV and average 62mpg at comfortable (and often illegal) speeds. I loved the gas mileage and the around town performance for what it was, and I enjoyed it thoroughly until I could afford a new Honda Civic CRX Si.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      It weighed like 1500 pounds and had a 0-60 time of 2 minutes (15 seconds really). With today’s safety requirements that is a no go and that is why for many years there hasn’t been a great 3 banger in the US.

      That said, he Sprint was one of those rare cars- in the sense that in 1984 it had fuel economy that would be unseen for decades.

      You have to admit that these new three cylinders are impressive in output and the weight they are motivating!

      Love your take on the Sprint!

      • Karl

        Yeah, I wanted to get a Sprint at that same time. I live in Dallas, but my dad worked at a Chevy dealer and found one in Portland, OR with the specs I wanted. I flew up there on one-way ticket with a draft ready to drive it home. When I got there, the dealer tried to put me in a different car. Bait and switch, or he sold the one I intended to buy – I don’t know. Bought another one-way ticket home. Really ticked me off. Got back to Dallas and bought a Chevy Nova that was a essentially a Toyota Corolla made at a Toyota/GM plant in California. Wish I’d gotten the Sprint.

  • glangford

    In college I drove an early 70s Honda 600 with two cylinders! Maybe one day I’ll see myself in a three. I’d also give the nod to the mini, although cranking out 123 hp in a 1.0 in the fiesta is a feat indeed. It must operate with quite a bit more boost, making me wonder about long term reliability. Mini seems to prefer a formula of more displacement and lower boost, so I’d hope in the long term, better reliability. Time will tell. Now the comparison I’d like to make would be the Mini Cooper S vs the Fiesta ST. If I were buying I’d probably give the nod to the ST.


      I also had a 1972 Honda Z600 Sport Coupe hatch during the 1970’s. That 2 cyl 600cc (36 cu in) air cooled motorcycle engine put out 36HP. Had a top speed of 75MPH at the 6000 RPM redllne! Had 10″ wheel..only $30 for Michelins! O-60 took just short of 20 secs. It weighed 1310 lbs & was about 10.5 ft long…about the size of the Classic Mini. Had it for about 7 years & 75000 miles before the engine went. Fun while it lasted!!

  • Nick Dawson

    Here in the UK the ‘B’ segment benchmark is the Fiesta, the UK’s best selling car for the past five years, and deservedly so! The ‘C’ segment is the Golf and ‘D’ segment is the BMW 3er.

    All the major reputable auto mags in the UK consistently vote the Fiesta ST their favourite small hot hatch, and most recently all agreed, independently, that although the F56 was hugely desirable, the ST was ultimately more fun to drive. None has yet been able to compare the MINI One 1.2 three pot versus the Fiesta three pot, but on the evidence of the above and their high regard for the Fiesta EcoBoost 3 pot, I suspect that the Fiesta will win.

    So why do I buy MINIs rather than Fiestas? Well quite simply because the residual value of the MINI after three years ownership in the UK far exceeds that of the Fiesta.

    • James Hawthorne

      It might have a higher residual value, but you’re most likely going to have a lot more mechanical and electrical issues with the Mini than the Ford.

      • lawrothegreat

        Really? Since when has Ford been known for its reliable products? We clearly live in different markets.

        • TurbochargedChili

          Look at Consumer Reports, NHTSA’s vast complaints and technical service bulletins, and how MINI placed dead last for all manufacturers in a chart showing problems per car.

          This ( is just a few days ago for 2014 vehicles.

        • Karl

          The problem with MINIs is that the owners have been far more demanding than other owners of similarly priced cars. It’s probably because we think we’re buying little BMWs. I include myself in this category – since I’m on my 5th new MINI. MINI owners also like to complain a lot, and I think they are inclined to file more NHTSA reports than owners of other cars. Just look at the different blog articles. If a MINI owner gets a rattle in his car, he wants MINI to buy the thing back and then starts filing stuff with any agency that will take a report as a way to attempt to coerce the company into doing something. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how over the years the quality has gotten so much better with my MINIs, and I’ve liked my cars well enough that if I’ve had an issue, I take it to the dealer, and they fix it, all without bashing the company by filing complaints. In the end, I always figured that complaining so much about trivial issues only has the real effect of lowering the resale value of my own vehicle. It might feel great to constantly scream about something and threaten to sue unless I get compensated for my rattle, or high-pressure water pump, or clutch, etc., but for me it’s just easier to stay calm, take it to the dealer, and get it fixed under warranty.

        • Dr Obnxs

          This doesn’t hold water when you see other enthusiast cars that do well on the studies. Porsche is topping the charts on new car defects, and they have one of the most demanding buying demographic out there.

          MINI, BMW and Mercedes (and Ford via thier touch interface) are all suffering from the consequences of complexity. Tons of complexity means lots of problems, even if the individual parts are each pretty reliable.

        • c_hack

          Looking at my Consumer Reports, the last year reported for reliability was 2012. The Fiesta was below average, the Focus was well below average, and the Cooper S was average. The trend in reliability also shows MINI getting better and the Fords maintaining their fix or repair daily reputation.

          There’s only so much you can do with an Escort – its like putting lipstick on a pig. Its not even in the same league as MINI.

        • NewYorkNewYork

          I’ve had MINI’s and both of them have had at least 25 visits to the shop. I’ve never had a less reliable car. Only reason I put up with is because of how much fun it was to drive them. The new car isn’t anywhere close to being as fun as the older models, so when my R56 LCI S dies, I’ll be shopping for another brand. Most likely, VW or if Mazda has an MS3 by then that looks and drives as good as the new 3 hatch, but with more power, I’ll probably be torn between Golf GTI and MS3.

    • lawrothegreat

      The problem with hot hatch reviews is that journalists focus purely on steering feel and cornering speeds. Clearly these are really important and make a big difference to the amount of fun you have. However hot hatches are not supposed to be outright sports cars, you can buy an Elise for that. Instead they’re supposed to be everyday cars too, the sort you drive to the shops or you get stuck in, in traffic. The Fiesta ST pips the Cooper S to the post only just on the handling and feel and yet with VDC the F56 is a much more comfortable car day in day out with a vastly better cabin. I know which I’d rather own which is why I bought one.

      • StopDefendingTheF56

        That’s kinda the two most important parts of a HOT hatch.

  • Nick Dawson

    As a footnote, when your friends ask you, “Why did you buy a Fiesta with a 1.0 Litre engine?”, you can tell them that it develops more horsepower per litre than a Bugatti Veyron!