The model in question
I recently had a Cooper five-door on test and after some time with the car I have to concede that this model and configuration makes the most sense - to me at least, in the Mini stable. This five-door Mini is a new departure for the brand as it now competes with the likes of the Golf 7, Mazda 3 and even the 1 Series in terms of pricing, premium feel and performance but, in reality, it offers space comparable to a Polo or Fiesta.
I drove the Cooper S hatch last year and I adored it but I have to say that after the 1.5-litre turbo triple in this Cooper, makes the S model’s big 2.0-litre feel unnecessary as the Cooper provides more than enough performance for a car of this sort with 100kW/220Nm (230Nm on over-boost), while keeping the fuel bill low.
I drove the car like a hot hatch and still managed 7.8 litres/100km, which is more than acceptable. The six-speed manual gearbox was also a pleasure to use with solid shifts and relatively short throws.
From a design perspective I’m not a big fan of the five-door Mini; it simply looks too long, however, that being said, it is a better take on a practical Mini hatch-based four-door than the Clubman in the previous R56 Mini was. In five-door guise it loses its sporty/cute appeal and comes across all grown-up and stretched, which it is, by some 13 centimetres.
Longer and more boring to drive?
Driver engagement and fun are two areas where Mini products never seem to disappoint and despite the five-door model gaining some length and weight, it’s still a thoroughly fun little car to drive. The handling and driver feedback is great and while you aren’t getting a track monster you are getting a very exploitable chassis and a car that likes to be thrown around.
Typically Mini interior
The ergonomics, design and usability has its typical Mini quirks with a massive circular centre display complete with an iDrive-type system, aircraft-like switches and a plethora of contrasting material surfaces and colours.
It’s also a dramatic departure from Minis of old with enough space at the rear for two adults, a boot about as big as a Polo’s and levels of material and refinement that its sister-brand, BMW exhibits in the likes of the 1 Series.
Moving up a notch
That being said, the Mini is no longer the entry into the BMW family that it once was. Take my test unit for example, with options, it’s over R370 000 and you now get the full-fat 100 000km BMW Motorplan with the car.
The Mini five-door is quite a compelling product for someone looking for a more practical version of what has always been a bachelor(ette) vehicle. It isn’t the most capacious, or the most affordable but it is unique and solid in terms of build and feel and is fun to drive. These attributes are what make a Mini, a Mini, and why I think it’s brilliant.