Mini maxes out
BMW’s British-built fun-to-drive model gets longer taller and two more doors.
There is always a risk when you start messing with a well proven formula; but that is just what the BMW Group, which owns the Mini brand, has done with the 5dr Mini. Fortunately, none of the Mini’s charming character, sense of tradition and fun-to-drive nature has suffered.
Sure, there will be those who believe that an icon like the Mini should stay true to its roots and, as someone who grew up with the original Mini, I have not been totally convinced with the look of some of the BMW Group’s past efforts. The new 5dr, on the other hand, with its two extra doors is a sensible and practical evolution.
As part of the current third generation of BMW-owned Minis, the British built 5dr is the second body configuration in this new line, and the first Mini 5dr hatchback.
To me, some of the early photos did not do the car justice and seeing it in the metal was a pleasant surprise. Despite being 161mm longer, 11mm taller and the same width as the 3dr version, the Mini designers maintained the basic shape and I don’t believe it looks out of proportion.
Having two extra doors provides more versatility. To start with, getting in and out is much easier. An additional 72mm in the wheelbase and efficient cabin design also delivers substantially more interior space.
Not only is there extra rear leg and head room but the 5dr now seats five (albeit a tight squeeze with three adults in the back), whereas the 3dr is designed to only seat four legally.
The boot is a little bigger and has a handy under floor storage compartment, however, the car does not carry a spare wheel; only a puncture-repair mobility kit.
Mini’s unique charm continues with a large dash, toggle-style switches and steering column mounted instrument cluster providing a modern take on the retro styling.
Despite being a big improvement over the previous generation, not everything is placed efficiently and so it won’t be to everybody’s liking. Front seat comfort is good once you get the fiddly adjustments set. It is just not quite as good in the back.
The 5-door models employ basically the same mechanical configurations and spec levels as the 3rd generation 3dr. The Australian 5dr range starts with the Cooper version at $27,750 plus on-road costs, followed by the diesel powered Cooper D at $32,900 (plus ORC) and the high-performance Cooper S with a 2.0L turbo-petrol engine starts at $35,050.
A lower-priced, MINI One with a smaller-capacity engine is expected to join the range at a later date.
A smooth shifting 6spd manual transmission is standard, while the optional automatic transmission adds $2350.
As the current entry level version of a premium grade 5dr small car, the manual Cooper (which is the one we tested) presents well and comes appropriately equipped with more kit than you get in the average budget focused brands.
Standard features include rain-sensors with automatic headlight control, rear parking sensors, cruise control with braking function and a basic Bluetooth setup.
Fuel saving measures include an auto stop/start engine function, regenerative braking and an optimum gearshift indicator that advises the driver of the most efficient gear to select and when to change.
Then of course, in typical European fashion, there are pages and pages of extra cost options available if you wish to spend more money and further personalise your car.
Although the 4cyl 2.0L Cooper S is the performance focused version, the basemodel 3cyl 1.5L Cooper is something of a surprise packet. This is one of a new breed of relatively sophisticated direct-injection turbo charged petrol engines. While maximum power is a healthy 100kW, the key to its appeal is the 220Nm of torque, developed from a mere 1200rpm and maintained through to 4000rpm.
This broad spread of strong low- to mid-range torque and well matched gearing in the 6-speed manual provides excellent flexibility which is ideal for normal everyday use.
The MINI Driving Modes option, fitted to our test car, allows the driver to select between three distinct driving modes at the turn of a switch.
Mid-mode is the standard setting for normal everyday use, while Sport gives it a more aggressive throttle response and steering feel. Green-mode delivers a more fuel-efficient, relaxed (almost docile) driving style.
Over a week of driving, the majority of time in Mid-mode, our test car averaged a respectable 7.0L/100km. By using the Green-mode and sacrificing a good dose of the enjoyable performance and drivability, it would be possible to achieve a figure that’s much closer to the frugal 4.9L/100km official ADR fuel consumption.
The sharp handling, often referred to as a go-kart like feel, on which Mini built its reputation, continues but it does come at the expense of a firm ride.
Reassuring grip through the corners on country roads and direct steering that gives the car a nimble feel around town all adds to the Mini’s fun to drive nature.
The ride is not harsh but noticeably firm for this type of car. Standard wheels for the Cooper are light-weight 15-inch alloy wheels but our test car was fitted with optional 16-inch alloys and lower profile tyres.
Like BMWs, the Mini is covered by a standard three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with a computer calculated servicing scheduled according to driving conditions.
The fun-loving spirit of the original Mini lives on; but now it’s a premium quality small car. Adding two extra doors and stretching the wheelbase to create the 5dr hatchback is a practical evolution that provides easier access and more space in the rear. Don’t let the fact that the Cooper version only has a 3cyl engine put you off. Drive it and you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the flexible performance it offers for everyday use.