Last week MINI invited European journalists to drive the new five door for the first time. While we won’t be driving the car until later this fall, these reviews give us our first real look and MINI’s latest five seater. The early verdict? Read on.
>The MINI 5-door is a worthy addition to the range of our reigning Car of the Year, and adds surprising practicality to the fabulously fun package of the three-door car. The MINI is better than ever to drive, easier than ever to live with and cooler than ever to look at, plus has an array of advanced tech, too.
>There’s something about the MINI we love – that’s why we made it our Car of the Year. This latest version has taken a sensible pill and rides better than before, but without diluting the thrill factor. It has the rare ability to make every journey fun. In fact, just sitting in it is enjoyable. MINI ownership will make you feel younger, and some people will pay a lot for that. The fact that a Cooper S is so much cheaper than a Golf GTI is the icing on the cake. The GTI remains a supreme hot hatch, but of the two, it’s the MINI’s keys we’d grab first.
The inflated proportions speak for themselves – you’ll either love it or hate it, depending on your perspective and, most likely, historical allegiances – but there’s no arguing with the extra room onboard. The boot swells by 67 litres over the three-door’s and there’s nearly three inches of extra legroom for those in the back.
It’s worth dwelling on the practicality issue at the top of this Mini five-door review. Aimed at young families and those who’ve outgrown the three-door, the extra room could be the difference between sticking with the Mini brand and shopping elsewhere.
No worries on the dynamics front. The stretched wheelbase has done little to dent the eagerness of the Mini’s chassis and this feels every inch a member of the new Mini family. It’s bang up to date and doesn’t feel a few years off the pace in the same way that the even bigger Countryman can on occasion.
>The roof is about the same length as the hatchback’s, to keep it looking small. So to accommodate the stretch, the rear screen is quite raked, and below that the tail swells into a slight bustle over the boot. Trouble is when you see the tail alone, it looks like an MPV driving backwards. Or if you have a long memory, the whole car looks like an Austin Maxi. Which was an enlarged version of the original Mini. Fair enough then.
>Does it still feel like a Mini? It’s about 60kg heavier, model for model. So the 0-60mph time is dulled by a couple of tenths of a second, which isn’t enough to be noticeable. The handling is very much the same, which means brilliant. Super-fast-reacting, neutral, highly controlled. You’re intimately involved, thanks to abundant feel from the seats and from one of the very best electric steering systems anywhere. If we’re being picky, the five-door isn’t quite as throttle-steerable as the three-door. On the other hand, it doesn’t react quite as twitchily on a motorway, which is a benefit.
>Cue BMW with its research that 75 per cent of people who own five-door cars don’t have children in the household. That sounds suspiciously as if it falls into the category of 85 per cent of statistics being made up on the spot, but it’s still reasonably safe to conclude that it’s not necessarily that people always require the carrying capacity of five-door cars, but that they like the convenience of knowing it’s there should they need it.
>The Mini 5 Door is 16cm longer than the three-door model
In that context, a five-door version of what is already an extremely popular car makes complete sense, even if it looks a bit frumpy from some angles. What’s more, upgrading from three to five doors costs the same as it does with the Mini’s rivals, namely £600. Consider that they don’t feature longer wheelbases or bigger boots when you add more doors, and it suddenly seems conspiciously good value.
>First, I drove the Cooper S with the new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine with 141 kW/192 hp and 280 Nm/206 pound-feet of torque (300 Nm/221 lb-ft with over-boost). It is fast and delivers its power spontaneously. But the Cooper S lacks the so-called ‘ go-kart’ feeling of the 3-door variant. That is no surprise as it puts 1240 kg in the scales (60 kg heavier than the 3-door) and it is higher as well. That does not mean that I am disappointed by its handling, especially when realizing that this is a family car that people buy with a different mind set than when they want a go-kart. However, the added weight in combination to the longer wheelbase result in a better stability, especially on somewhat bumpier roads. And also at speed on the short stretch of Motorway, the Mini proved to be very stable.
>Handling in tight turns is trustworthy with Cornering brake control and the electronic limited-slip differential, that apply brake force to control wheel spin. The engine is quick and works very well together with the quick-shifting 6-speed sports automatic. And when you push the throttle, over-boost function of the turbocharger adds for a more sporty feeling, however short it is. And when you are a bit too optimistic, the electrically assisted EPS unit with Servotronic function helps to get you back on track again
>Now, as you’ll know, no 1315kg car can feel remotely like a go-kart, regardless of whether or not it’s front-driven as the Mini is. Over the three-door, what Mini has done to try and convince you otherwise is tweak the spring and damper settings on the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear end, and the steering tune on the electrically-assisted steering, to retain the smaller Mini’s agility. To an extent, it has been successful on that front.
>As the switch moves to that sporty mode, the quick, responsive but feeless steering increases in weight. And, if you’ve got a car equipped with the optional adaptive dampers of our test car, which rode on optional 205/45 R17 tyres, you’ll find the ride goes from merely mildly uncomfortable to all-but unbearable. I can’t help thinking the sweeter ride and handling spots will come further down the Mini five-door’s range. Or in fact, will remain in the Ford Fiesta range instead.