The new Mini five-door is now more than four metres long, weights around 1.4 tonnes, and is over 1.7 metres wide. Inside, there's enough space to seat four, and a fair-sized boot. It may not be small anymore, but is it a real Mini?
The neo retro design language is down pat, for sure, and the bulldog-like nose, bleached roof and the 'go-faster' stripes all look great. However, the new Mini does look disproportionately long now. You soon get used to it, but it definitely lacks that almost cube-like appeal of the three-door.
That go-kart like chuckabilty of the Mini is there in spades.
Of the additional 160mm length, 70mm has gone into the wheelbase, which has made for some rear legroom, but it's still less than in a VW Polo. The black interior makes it worse. The rear door is small, and the opening is restricted, so getting in and being comfortable is difficult. The rest of the length is used for additional boot space, which is up to 278 litres now.
The front seats are comfortable, and finding the right driving position is also dead easy. The steering feels a bit large and that’s strange, considering how sporty this car is – but you get used to it soon. The dash is what takes your breath away. Material quality is sound, soft -feel plastics are scattered all over, and the clever design poses as a strong contender for the best hatchback cabin around.
The quality and neo retro design of the Mini cabin never lets you forget that you are driving somthing special.
As on the regular three-door Mini, the speedometer is now above the steering wheel, and the big clock-like dial on the centre console still dominates the cabin. A big screen in the centre runs Mini's version of i-Drive, and a Mini Connected App that runs almost all your phone operations. Then there's a ‘driving excitement analyses’ that tells you just how well you are using the steering, brakes and accelerator.
The rear doors are tiny, but the legroom is just about enough.
The 2.0-litre BMW turbodiesel engine makes an impressive 168bhp and lots of torque. Acceleration is effortless in the midrange and regular taps on the paddles will keep the motor in its meaty rev band. So, driving in a semi-relaxed, semi-aggressive manner feels great. The conventional torque-converter transmission isn’t lightening quick, but performance is really strong. The 0-100 comes up in 7.4sec, and feels really fast. The gearshifts can be sped up via a switch, but the difference isn’t huge. At low revs, it’s hardly audible too, and if you ask more of it, it revs with enthusiasm rather than gruffness.
Then there's the 190bhp turbo petrol, which is not silky smooth, and has a rice rasp to it. It feels raw when revved hard, and top-end performance is so strong, spinning it hard becomes addictive. There’s also a sense of endless energy, which the diesel just can’t provide.
Both Cooper S engines offer enough grunt, but the petrol is better.
When driven hard, the longer wheelbase Mini Cooper really feels like a baby rally car. A longer wheelbase normally means a reduction in agility, but Mini has tweaked the springs and dampers settings to give the car more bite and a better turn-in. The electric steering has been made faster too. There's a nice balance that feels quite natural, and encourages you to push harder. The steering is a bit lifeless, but it is accurate and direct, so chucking the Mini around is undoubtedly plenty of fun.
The Sport mode tenses up the suspension a bit more, the bumps thump through the cabin with more resolve, and the car tramlines over rough patches. But hurl it at the next corner really hard, and the Mini delivers a bucket of front-wheel-drive thrills. It’s not nearly as agile as the three-door, and it does feel its weight when transitioning, but it drives so well, it is loads of fun.
The new Mini will come to India sometime in November this year, along with the three door, giving potential Mini buyers the choice between a bit impractical and loads of fun, and practical but slightly less fun. If you like what the new Mini has to offer, and need the extra space and better access to the rear seats, this is the car for you. It may not look quite as chunky or as compact as the three-door, and it may not be nearly as agile, but if buying the five-door allows you to cheat a bit and buy into your dream, go for it. If, however, you can choose between the two and are confused, stick with the three-door. It’s a bit nicer to look at, a bit nicer to drive and a bit more Mini too.