If MINI purists have recovered from the launch of the Countryman, Clubman, Roadster and Coupe, it’s time for them to be up in arms once again with the arrival of a five-door version of the standard MINI hatchback.
It makes complete sense, though – the five-door hatch market is twice as large as that for three-doors, and MINI admits people have been going elsewhere as its car only has three doors.
But does it work or does it ruin what is the current Auto Express Car of the Year? We’re pleased to report that it’s as brilliant as the three-door, with a surprising dose of practicality.
So let’s start with some numbers. An extra 72mm has been added to the wheelbase, which has all gone straight into rear legroom. There’s also an extra 89mm of bodywork at the back, meaning an extra 50 litres of boot space, giving a total of 278 litres – still less than a Ford Fiesta, but a decent enough space that’s easy to access.
Then, there’s the price – our Cooper S costs from £19,255, a £600 premium over the three-door, which is mirrored throughout the range (which follows that of the three-door with One, Cooper and Cooper S and three petrol or diesel engines). Economy takes a slight tumble – 47.9mpg vs 49.6mpg – and CO2 rises by 3g/km. Not a huge difference in the general scheme of things.
You won’t notice the 0.1-second increase in the 0-62mph time, either. The 2.0-litre turbo engine offers real punch from low revs, while the whoosh from the turbo and distant pops from the exhaust up the excitement level, too.
Of equal importance is how practical the new car is. The five-door is new from the windscreen backwards, but from the front seat it feels identical to the three-door car: there’s the same high quality, typical upright MINI driving position and loads of hi-tech kit available on the all too tempting options list (which now includes ultra premium MINI Yours bits).
To get into the front seat, you’ll have to open a shorter door complete with window frames – unlike the three-door. It doesn’t make getting in any more difficult, but the rather stubby rear doors look a bit unusual and are the only real sticking point to five-door ownership. The opening to the back seats isn’t exactly gaping, especially at the bottom where you have to angle your feet to get them inside.
Once you’re in, you’ll be surprised by the space. The rear seats appear quite upright, but are comfy enough, while we managed to get a six foot tall passenger behind a six foot driver with reasonable comfort, if not legroom to spare. Headroom is good, though, so you’ll be more comfortable than you would be in a Fiesta. A third passenger in the middle is possible, but a poor relation.
All that extra space does have an impact on the looks – it’s not quite as cohesive as the three-door MINI, but still cute. Those small rear doors look odd and the rear seems to lift up at the back, but the same smiley front end with fancy LED driving lights remains. As does the driving experience, which has the ability to thrill, even at low speed, while the ride comfort compromises of MINIs of old are long gone.
Set the adaptive dampers to Sport and it’s still firm, but not wincingly so. You can even tune the Sport setting to leave the adaptive dampers in comfort mode, but still enjoy sharper throttle response and steering.
That steering remains light, but quick to react, with seemingly zero body roll for MINI’s traditional go-kart feel. Prices remain reasonable, but with every MINI, it’s more about where your price finishes than where it starts, such is the array of options. The MINI is now a seriously advanced bit of kit, with everything from head-up display to an auto box that works with the nav to select the right ratio. Clever stuff.
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