First Drive: Mini Cooper S 5-door
WHAT’S NEW?: At the risk of stating the obvious, the main focus here is the addition of two extra doors. Granted, the Countryman might also be a genuine five-door car, but Mini’s take on this apparent duplication is that the Countryman is an SUV, albeit a small one, making it an unfair comparison.
So, what we have here is a slightly longer Mini hatch - all the better to accommodate rear seat occupants - boasting more cabin and boot space, plus the added flexibility to attract families and active types seeking a more practical Mini hatch.
LOOKS AND IMAGE: You’ll have to look closely to really spot the changes in the transition from three to five doors. The extra length is modest (72mm between the wheels) and it does little to harm the look of this third-gen car’s already expanded dimensions.
Inside this five-door model is the now familiar new-look Mini fascia, complete with oversize central display, tweaked minor controls, the inclusion of a BMW-style i-Drive controller and chunky steering wheel. The result is a car that retains the trademark BMW era Mini look, but also boasts a more mature, grown-up feel.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY: No question, this expanded Mini will be a welcome sight for anyone with a small family looking to remain faithful to the brand. The car’s rear doors aren’t the largest and access could be more accommodating, but once inside there’s reasonable legroom even for adults. The car’s boot also receives a welcome boost, as along with the flexible boot floor and additional storage, folding the rear seats liberates a decent amount of space.
BEHIND THE WHEEL: Despite the expanded dimensions of the five-door car, it remains loyal to the fun ethos of the three-door model. On the move, the extra length and weight barely registers, which means you can still throw the car around if so inclined. At launch, the choice between Cooper S petrol and Cooper SD diesel means the difference between a feisty, rev-happy experience and a more relaxed but no less potent one, respectively.
Both 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, they can also be had with BMW’s six-speed dual clutch transmissions if you don’t fancy the extra workout associated with the manual shifters. Factor in a switchable eco-normal-sport mode plus optional electronic sports damping and you don’t need to sacrifice a thing in the pursuit of a performance Mini driving experience despite the car’s increased focus on practicality.
VALUE FOR MONEY: The Mini is an unusual proposition in that it’s often hard to make direct comparisons with so say rival cars. In basic trim the car benefits from a few options, although these can prove surprisingly good value. Likewise engine choice, as BMW’s efforts to reduce consumption and emissions have resulted in some seriously tax-friendly numbers. Plus, spec your car well and you won’t lose your shirt when it’s time to sell it on.
WHO WOULD BUY ONE?: Continuing the Mini’s classless approach to motoring, company executives routinely state that there’s no one definitive buyer profile. That said, it’s pretty obvious that the five-door hatch will likely appeal to buyers seeking a little more space for a growing family. And if you just want some added versatility this model is probably a smarter choice than the larger Countryman, especially if the whole SUV culture isn’t your thing.