The Mini 1499 GT name wonâ€™t be so familiar, but the car that inspired it might be: the 1970s Mini 1275 GT. Itâ€™s a special edition that looks sporty thanks to its standard John Cooper Works bodykit, and will turn heads courtesy of black alloy wheels, gold detailing and 70s-inspired side stickers.
But looks are deceptive. Because under the bonnet is not a high-output motor, but a detuned version of the Mini Cooperâ€™s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, producing just 101bhp. This new engine replaces the old 1.2-litre in the Mini One, and itâ€™s been launched here first as a distinctive special.
The idea is to offer better value to customers. Miniâ€™s selling this for a meagre deposit of under Â£300, then just Â£300 a month on finance. Add in good economy and decent CO2 emissions of 115g/km, and youâ€™ve something whose running costs rather hark back to the good old daysâ€¦
Oddly, you have to rev the engine a bit like motors from the old days to release the performance. Weâ€™re used to turbo petrol engines responding with little revs on the dial, but the Mini is flat if you donâ€™t spin it to 6000rpm. Itâ€™s hard to get the best from it if youâ€™re not in a sporting mood.
This, though, is a car with a sporting bent, so itâ€™s fortunate the handling lives up to the Mini reputation. Fast but confident steering dives it into bends quickly, and thereâ€™s lots of feedback so you can sense when theyâ€™re reaching the limits. The lightweight engine helps make front-end response nimble, too.
Mini 1499 GT
Engine: 3cyl, 1499cc, petrol, turbo
Torque: 140lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Top speed: 119mph
Official economy: 56.5mpg
CO2, tax band: 115g/km, 24%
The 1499 GT has standard sports suspension, which cuts roll. This does mean the ride isnâ€™t as smooth as, say, a Volkswagen Polo, but it never descends into genuine discomfort. You feel the road surface but are not harshly battered by it.
We like the standard sports seats inside, which are great for those in the front. Not so for rear-seat occupants; this is a cramped three-door car, just like the original Mini. And you donâ€™t get sat nav as standard either, just a colour infotainment screen that includes DAB and Bluetooth.
Mini has thought about this though, and fitted a smartphone holder behind the steering wheel. It lets you port music to the stereo while following sat nav from your device: itâ€™s a neat solution that helps keep the 1499 GTâ€™s price affordable.
Unlike many other Minis, this is a model thatâ€™s great for younger drivers, simply because itâ€™s so affordable. The price tag of less than Â£300 a month includes a yearâ€™s free insurance and all your servicing, so all you have to do is put fuel in it. For a car thatâ€™s so much fun to drive, this is a very tempting deal â€“ so long as youâ€™re quick, that is. The 1499 GT name also refers to how many theyâ€™re going to buildâ€¦