Oxford, England -- The Mini Cooper Hardtop 4-Door is manufactured at a plant on Eastern Bypass Road, an embarrassingly prosaic name for the “city of dreaming spires.” Groves of trees in this land wear poetic labels like Tankers Table Wood, and in South Oxfordshire, the Chiltern Hills village of Nettlebed has a way of not only rolling off the tongue but also stinging the imagination. Naturally enough, the roads wending through the district are well suited for testing the 4 Door, a new model for 2015. We drove the 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 4 Door nearly 200 miles on bustling motorways and obscure byways to learn who would want this hatchback and why.
“Ugghh, Mini 4 Door,” a car-savvy friend messaged during our time in England. “I suppose they will sell, sort of like a Panamera.” His streak of purism is stronger than our own. Rear doors, the obvious next step, became possible after a new body shop was built at the plant. It’s not as though Frankenstein’s monster has been created here: At 101.1 inches, the 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door’s wheelbase grows only 2.9 inches, yet the rear bench accommodates three people. At 157.4 inches for the base Cooper and 158.0 for the Cooper S, the Hardtop 4 Door will never be mistaken for a Packard.
By looking so natural, the rear doors convince us we must have seen them before. And how is entry and egress? Even for someone of medium stature, getting into the backseat means assuming a backwards cannonball posture. (After executing the plunge, we await our score from a panel of judges.) Once through the small portal, we find comfortable enough seating on the flat cushion; claims of small gains in leg, shoulder, and headroom are plausible. The middle position -- which has a shoulder belt integrated into the backrest -- is best suited for the child who is thrilled to be riding in a Mini or for the kind of uncomplaining, loyal pal so often depicted in beer commercials. Getting out again, opening the liftgate, and fiddling with the removable bottom tray, we discover a cargo area of 9.2 cubic feet, a half-foot greater than in the 2 Door. Of course, intending to play 18 holes at Drayton Park Golf Club, we would have just laid the 60/40-split seatbacks forward and loaded in the sticks.
Taking our turn in the leather-and-cloth sport seat behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, we find the 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door a most pleasant place to do business, the environs tastefully trimmed with dark cottonwood and not a trace of carbon fiber. The driving position is upright and commanding (considering that the car’s overall width is, within a fraction, the same as the track of a GMC Yukon). All-around view is excellent. Controls are unambiguous, and we quickly get used to the lava lamp effect of the LED-ringed central instrument, whose lustrous signaling fits several variations in circumstance.
On the road, the 4 Door is certainly not hurt by the additional wheelbase. Even at just 2930 pounds, it feels like a midsize car. It’s stable on the undulating lanes where poets may have strolled while measuring out their iambs, and on motorways, the stretched Mini is happily blasé about its duties. Thanks to full framing around the side windows, the cabin remains rattle-free, and the predominant sound as we barrel along is the insistent rumbling from the Pirelli P Zero tires. We keep things on the sensible side of 90 mph, so we can only imagine the din likely at the claimed top speed of 144 mph.
The 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door comes to the United States early next year with two of the six gas and diesel engines available in the 208 countries where Minis are sold. For the States, the Hardtop 4 Door has the twin-turbo, 1.5-liter three-cylinder, making 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque while enabling a 0-to-60 mph dash in just 7.6 seconds. But we drove the twin-turbo 2.0-liter four, with output of 189 hp and 207 lb-ft and a dash of 6.5 seconds. The potent four was matched with the optional six-speed automatic. Three driving modes govern the behavior of the steering, suspension, and powertrain, and of course we enjoyed the resolute Sport over Mid and Green settings. It’s all so well developed and executed, we could see ourselves driving the Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door for the long term. The only thing to complain about is how fast $10,000 in options can be added to the base price. Our test car came in at $35,900 including shipping and handling.
And upon reflection, we see the wisdom of defying tradition. Mini says the 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door will woo reluctant customers who deem the coupe to be insufficient. Furthermore, they say, customers are more loyal to four-door hatchbacks. What exactly is being lost by extension? The base price is only about $1000 more than the two-door version of the Hardtop. We’re reminded of something crazy that happened to a vehicle whose name is associated with fanciful-sounding places like Rubicon and Moab. Last we heard, the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was outselling the original two-door by about 50 percent. It would be no surprise to see something similar happen at Mini.
2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4-Door Specifications
On Sale:January 2015
Base Price:$22,300/$25,950 (Cooper/Cooper S)
Engine:Turbocharged 1.5-liter DOHC 12-valve I-3/134 hp @4400 rpm, 162 lb-ft @1250 rpm; Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4/189 hp @4700-6000 rpm, 207 lb-ft @1250 rpm
Transmission:6-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
Layout:4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, front-wheel-drive hatchback
L x W x H:157.4 x 68.0 x 56.1 in (Cooper); 158.0 x 68.0 x 56.1 (Cooper S)
Weight:2750/2815 lb (Cooper, manual/automatic); 2895/2930 lb (Cooper S, manual/automatic)
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