Both of those Volkswagens offers more rear accommodation than the Mini, even with its newly found rear doors. The door opening is relatively small so access a touch restricted, while legroom remains a premium once you get inside.
Interior materials are sound, though, rear and front. Soft-feel plastics abound, metal (or metal-look) highlights are used where and how they ought to be. And it’s interesting in here; thoughts from the minds of creative people have gone into it. That’s not something to be overlooked.
Besides, if things are a little tight in the back for grown-ups, if you’ve ever tried placing a child seat into the rear of a three-door Mini, you’ll find this version far superior. It even adds a third rear seatbelt, making it a five- rather than a four-seater. For many, and I suppose this is the five-door’s point, it turns an un-buyable car into a genuine proposition.
Your £21,675 also gets you a decent slug of performance. The 2.0-litre BMW turbodiesel engine produces 168bhp at 4000rpm and 266lb ft of torque from only 1500rpm. Driving through the conventional torque-converter transmission, it’s good for 0-62mph in 7.3sec and a top speed of 139mph. That’s a big engine for a small car but, still, it returns 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting only 109g/km of carbon dioxide.
It’s quiet, too; impressively so given its size and relative potency. At low revs it’s hardly audible, and if you ask more of it, and the auto usually keeps it at a point in the range where it’s extremely happy to deliver, it revs with enthusiasm and an impression of power rather than gruffness.
The six-speed auto operates as good autos do, while its response can be altered by a switch behind the gearlever. Throw it to the right and it will do its best for economy. Throw it to the left and it will do what it can for dynamism. The chassis has more than one mode too. Switch it to the left and the Mini’s display will tell you it’s trying to give you “maximum go-kart feeling”.
Now, as you’ll know, no 1315kg car can feel remotely like a go-kart, regardless of whether or not it’s front-driven as the Mini is. Over the three-door, what Mini has done to try and convince you otherwise is tweak the spring and damper settings on the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear end, and the steering tune on the electrically-assisted steering, to retain the smaller Mini’s agility. To an extent, it has been successful on that front.
As the switch moves to that sporty mode, the quick, responsive but feeless steering increases in weight. And, if you’ve got a car equipped with the optional adaptive dampers of our test car, which rode on optional 205/45 R17 tyres, you’ll find the ride goes from merely mildly uncomfortable to all-but unbearable. I can’t help thinking the sweeter ride and handling spots will come further down the Mini five-door’s range. Or in fact, will remain in the Ford Fiesta range instead.