Charismatic, totally individual and instantly recognisable, the MINI is a true British icon. First produced in 1959, and revived by BMW in 2001, it somehow achieves the feat of being super-trendy, yet remaining essentially not much changed from its original ancestor. It might be underpinned by first-class German engineering, and equipped with all the modern comforts, conveniences and safety features you'd expect – but the MINI's carefree, audacious heart is still firmly in the 1960s.
Used MINI cars come in a variety of guises – there's even a van. The one you probably have in your mind's eye is the Hatch – a great all-round option and a pleasure to drive, with fluid handling, a composed ride, easy acceleration and agile steering. The engines are as efficient as they are responsive, delivering fuel economy of up to 81mpg, and the retro dashboard is striking but also highly usable. There have been three generations since the relaunch, and there's also a more spacious five-door version, launched in 2014, which offers a bit more headroom and legroom. There's also the Clubman, the Hatch's longer, more practical big brother, which combines style and quality with genuine practicality - six-foot passengers will be fine in the back.
The sporty option is the two-seater Coupé, manufactured from 2011 to 2015, which features an aerodynamic design and a rear spoiler that raises at 50mph. Similar to the Hatch inside, it's powered by either a 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 2.0-turbodiesel; the former delivering 211bhp, 192lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 6.4 seconds in twin-turbo JCW guise (John Cooper Works, named after the racing car maker who developed the original Mini). The diesel delivers better fuel economy but is also very rapid, hitting 62mph in just 7.9 seconds.
The rugged-looking Countryman SUV is the most practical model. Available with four-wheel drive in both generations, it's pretty large, with a high roof, low seats and wide body which allow even the tallest drivers to get comfortable. There are three seats in the back, with ISOFIX points on the outer two, and the back doors open nice and wide for easy access. The back seat splits 40/20/40, so you can carry long, narrow items with two passengers in the back, and there's a decent boot with a low load lip which helps when lifting heavy items. The Paceman, launched in 2013, is a sporty-looking, four-seater coupé version of the Countryman with a lowered suspension, efficient, powerful engines and the option of four-wheel drive. It too offers decent room in the back and a reasonable boot.