5-door Mini fun, but no family car
Mini Cooper S five-door AT
Johannesburg - Mini seems to have a car for every season and reason. I’m waiting for a double-decker version (I’m only half-joking).
After the three-door hatch, various coupés, roadsters and crossovers, Mini has now launched its first five-door hatchback. Along with the addition of two rear doors the wheelbase is extended by 72mm, the length by 161mm and the roof height by 11mm compared to the three-door version.
But banish any thoughts that this is a family Mini. The extra length still doesn’t make the back seat a place where normal-sized adults will feel like happy campers. When I tried to stuff my six-foot self back there, my size 11 feet barely squished into the footwell, and even then my knees were jammed up against the front seat backrest.
Accept that the five-door Mini’s back seat is for the ‘lil ‘uns, and you’re in business – just appreciate the fact that you don’t have to manhandle baby seats back there through the front doors.
The 278 litre boot is 67 litres larger than the Cooper three-door, and I can confirm that with the rear seats folded you can squish a 29” mountain bike inside the car, which was an unexpected surprise.
Whatever family pretensions it may have, the five-door Mini is still first and foremost a fun driver’s car that places agility ahead of practicality – and the Cooper S version we tested throws some real pace into the bargain too.
BRISK TURBO ENGINE
The Mini 5-door launches in SA in two versions: the Cooper is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol three-cylinder that pushes out 100kW and 230Nm, and the Cooper S uses a two-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo which fires 141kW and 280Nm (300Nm with overboost) to the front wheels. Both versions are available with either a manual or Steptronic automatic transmission.
Paired with the automatic gearbox and launch control, the Cooper S slingshotted to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds in our Gauteng altitude test, which matches BMW’s claimed sea-level figure.
This, along with a 232km/h top speed, is more than brisk enough to make you grin (or look around nervously for the traffic department’s greed traps).
The car scoots off smoothly with a minimum of torque steer, and the adrenaline is raised by a sporty chortle from the exhaust. Fuel consumption doesn’t break the bank and our test car averaged just under 8 litres per 100km (Mini claims 5.5 litres) in a combination of town/freeway driving.
The new-generation Mini has a better ride quality than the old one, but in Cooper S trim it’s still firm and jarring when you drive over less-than-smooth roads. Dips and undulations are fine, but drive over a pothole or speedhump and you just about need to wear a kidney belt. The optional Dynamic Damper Control with adjustable suspension stiffness might be a good bet to tick off on the spec sheet.
AGILE ROAD HOLDING
Of course, the upshot of this firm suspension is the nip-and-tuck handling. Larger and heavier it may be, but the five-door Mini still has the characteristic zippy and quick-turning nature which makes you yearn to enter it in gymkhanas.
There are three driving modes to choose from: normal, eco and sport, with which the driver can adjust the throttle response and steering (and gearshift points if it’s the auto transmission) using a rotary switch by the gearlever.
One of the main interior changes to the new-generation Mini is that the speedo and tachometer have moved from the centre of the dash to behind the steering column. The dinner-plate-sized circle in the centre of the dash now houses the infotainment, aircon and navigation display, operated by a controller in the centre console.
Circling this display is an LED “mood” ring that changes colour according to which function’s active and how fast you’re driving the car.
The new Mini is gizmoed-up to the eyeballs with features (either standard or optional) that include a head-up display, a parking assistant that automatically steers it into a parallel bay, active cruise control, and Mini Connected which offers extensive smartphone integration.
Apart from all the gadgets there’s a premium feel to the Mini’s cockpit, with a soft-touch dashboard and some fine chrome detailing. Ergonomically the car’s improved as well; for instance the window switches, which were in the dash in the previous-generation Mini, have been moved to the doors where they’re easier to locate.
Buyers are able to customise their Minis with a large selection of decorative roof and exterior mirror options, bonnet stripes, seat covers, interior surfaces and colour lines.
Priced at R398 823, the Cooper S five-door is sold at an R11 200 premium over the three-door. With those two extra passenger apertures and a bit more boot space it serves up Mini’s typical fun-to-drive recipe in a more practical package, but with those cramped back seats it’s still no family hauler.
Mini Cooper S five-door AT
Engine: 2-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
Power: 141kW @ 4700 - 6000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1250 - 4000rpm
0-100km/h (tested): 6.8 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 207km/h
Consumption (claimed): 5.5 litres per 100km
Price: R398 823
Maintenance plan: Five-year/100 000km