From £15,2507
New five-door Mini widens the car's appeal, but this particular variant is thwarted by the presence of more practical, cheaper rivals
Matt Prior
13 September 2014

What is it?

It is, Mini says, the first Mini hatchback with five doors. That might come as some surprise to those of you who’ve seen a Countryman, but Mini says: “Ah, we think you’ll find that’s a crossover or SUV, not a hatchback.”

Hmm. Let’s suspend reality for a moment and pretend that’s true and this also becomes the first Mini hatch – the world’s most famous small car – to measure more than four metres in length. It’s also quite an expensive Mini hatch. The addition of two doors brings with it a £600 increase over the three-door Mini.

The range’s starting price is therefore £14,350. In the Cooper SD form you see here – which we’re trying because it’s a variant we haven’t tried before, and because it was what was made available to us – the asking price is £20,050; or £21,675 with the auto gearbox that was also fitted. That’s demanding territory for a Mini. It’s pushing into Volkswagen Golf territory.

Of the five-door’s additional 16cm length over a three-door Mini, 7cm has gone into the wheelbase and is channelled straight to rear legroom. The front cabin remains the same.

The rest of the length goes behind the rear wheels, making luggage volume 278 litres – up by 67 litres. For the record, a Volkswagen Polo has a 280-litre boot within its 3972mm length. A Golf 380 litres within 4255mm.

What's it like?

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.

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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.

Should I buy one?

I wouldn’t in this specification. Whether you should at lesser specifications and price points is TBC.

There will be, as ever, more practical, cheaper alternatives to a Mini, but not all car buying decisions are made on those lines, thank heavens.

In the same way that it’s tempting to buy a wood-burning stove instead of a more efficient boiler because having a real fire makes you feel gooey inside, buying a Mini, as with most cars worthy of note, is an emotive choice.

Having a five-door makes that emotive choice open to more people. Which, presumably, is precisely what Mini was aiming for.

Mini Cooper SD automatic five-door

Price £21,675; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 139mph; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1315kg; Engine 4cyls in line, 1995, turbo diesel; Installation Front, transverse, FWD; Power 168bhp at 4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic

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Add a comment…
Norma Smellons 17 September 2014

@Dark Isle

Very true. Intriguing that you raise the spectre of ADO16. Is there not a strong whiff of it in this new five door Mini? In fairness to BLMC, they ploughed their own furrow, design-wise, under difficult circumstances. In fact, maybe the designers had rather too much leeway but it did at least produce some wonderfully characterful model lines. But to those who bemoan the alleged girth of the newer Mini vs the old, I say this. In which one would you rather hit a brick wall?
Dark Isle 17 September 2014

...

Norma Smellons wrote:

Very true. Intriguing that you raise the spectre of ADO16. Is there not a strong whiff of it in this new five door Mini? In fairness to BLMC, they ploughed their own furrow, design-wise, under difficult circumstances. In fact, maybe the designers had rather too much leeway but it did at least produce some wonderfully characterful model lines. But to those who bemoan the alleged girth of the newer Mini vs the old, I say this. In which one would you rather hit a brick wall?

Haha, clearly the Mini, that's not much of a contest, really! There's no questioning its safety even if the design leaves a lot to be desired. As for BLMC designs, the Austin/Morris/Wolseley ADO17 were pretty bad from the rear, but the middle section on the larger ADO61 (Austin 3-Litre) looked OK. But by the time that much delayed car hit the market in 1967/68 it was totally out-dated. At least that was very spacious inside, too.

Norma Smellons 17 September 2014

@Dark Isle

You exaggerate somewhat. It is many years since I have sat in an Austin 1100 but something tells me it would be cramped and horrid compared to most small modern cars. And could British Leyland really have taught anything to anyone, except perhaps how to screw everything up?
Dark Isle 17 September 2014

:-)

Norma Smellons wrote:

You exaggerate somewhat. It is many years since I have sat in an Austin 1100 but something tells me it would be cramped and horrid compared to most small modern cars. And could British Leyland really have taught anything to anyone, except perhaps how to screw everything up?

I guess I have the advantage, then. I sat in a Vanden Plas Princess 1300 the other day, a classic car enthusiast friend of mine owns it. It really is surprisingly spacious for such a small car, I was really impressed as it's quite a bit before my time. And while British Leyland had many problems, the structural strength of their cars was class leading. It wasn't all bad.

Dark Isle 16 September 2014

Comparisons

They should compare the new Mini with one of the Austin/Morris/MG/Vanden Plas/Wolseley/Riley ADO16 siblings! Amazingly the BMC saloons and estates were smaller on the outside than the new Mini hatchback yet are positively enormous inside in comparison. Even taking into consideration safety regulations, BMW could learn a thing or two about packaging.

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