Buying used: Mini Cooper S v Nissan Juke v Volkswagen Beetle

Buying used: Mini Cooper S v Nissan Juke v Volkswagen Beetle
Buying used: Mini Cooper S v Nissan Juke v Volkswagen Beetle

It’s style above all with these three – but which is just like so last year?

Retro sells. The Volkswagen Beetle was the first car to prove this, and the reborn Mini soon took up the concept by reviving a legend of yesteryear. For the fashion-conscious, both have proven successful. But you don’t have to go retro in order to have a style icon, as Nissan has proven with the Juke crossover. There’s nothing retro about this, yet it’s just as stylish as the other two.

Mini Cooper S

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
List price when new: £18,075
Price today: £9500
Power: 181bhp
Torque: 177lb ft
0-60mph: 7.7sec
Top speed: 142mph
Fuel economy: 48.7mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 136g/km

Driving experience

But after they’ve shone on the catwalk, which makes the best secondhand buy? We’ve collected them together to find out. Right away, it’s quickly back to reality for the Beetle. It might look great, but it’s cumbersome to drive at low speed, due to the heavy, twirly steering. The ride is clunky, too. It’s a bit like a great-looking shirt that’s so uncomfortable to wear.

It gets better with speed, where it feels well set up, and the 1.4-litre turbo engine is punchy. The engine certainly outshines the Juke’s aggressive power delivery, which is rapid but a bit hard to control. Same goes for the ride: it’s OK if you hit bumps in the right way, but shimmery if you don’t. The Mini betters both of them, with razor-sharp steering, a fun-to-drive feel and good body control. It’s scrabbly on wet roads, but even this is somehow in keeping with its effervescent nature.

Nissan Juke 1.6 DIG-T Tekna

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
List price when new: £18,095
Price today: £8500
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 177lb ft
0-60mph: 7.4sec
Top speed: 134mph
Fuel economy: 40.9mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 159g/km

Interior

Inside, the Beetle is a mish-mash of bold retro features and contemporary Volkswagen buttons. It feels roomy up front, with a really spacious feel thanks to the large side windows, but rear legroom is very restricted. It’s a similar story for the Mini: lots of classic style features, fine visibility but extremely limited boot space. The Juke is less appealing, although it does have a few interesting features that lift it above the norm. Pity visibility in this ‘modern’ car is worse than the ‘retro’ ones, though…

Running costs

The Juke is the cheapest to buy secondhand, though, by a fair margin over the Mini. Surprisingly, the Volkswagen is more expensive than both of them, because most people when new chose higher-spec engines rather than the cheaper entry-level motors. The VW is also the most expensive to maintain, although it’s the Nissan that has the worst average economy.

Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI 160 Sport

Engine: 1.4-litre petrol
List price when new: £21,220
Price today: £10,000
Power: 158bhp
Torque: 177lb ft
0-60mph: 9.1sec
Top speed: 129mph
Fuel economy: 42.8mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 153g/km

The Mini builds itself a lead here. It’s cheaper to run than the other two, and fuel consumption is significantly better, despite this being the potent Cooper S model. This means CO2 emissions are lower, which saves you money on road tax. Brand reliability is more average, with the Nissan coming out top here: the Volkswagen is below average and there are a few question marks over the longevity of this engine, too.

Verdict

So which is our pick? Well, it’s not the Beetle, despite its fashionable charm. It’s too expensive to buy and to run, and a bit compromised overall. The Juke isn’t perfect either, but it is amusingly fast and, significantly, cheaper than the other two to buy. Pity it’s not more sophisticated to drive, though: its modern looks only take it so far.

The Mini thus wins it. The extra purchase cost over the Nissan is worth it, and you’ll probably save this on fuel bills and maintenance costs anyway. OK, the boot is tiny and the ride can still be firm, but it’s an absolute blast to drive and has a beautiful interior; overall, it simply oozes appeal. It’s one style-conscious car that’s certainly not a fashion disaster.

Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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