Small Car, Huge Personality
There’s no denying the Mini’s popularity. The 3 millionth Mini rolled off the assembly line in the Oxford, UK plant in 2014. The Mini’s style, for instance, is distinctively English design, and has only evolved through generations, rather than have a completely new look for each time a new generation models comes out. It is similar to other iconic models like the Porsche 911 and the Volkswagen Beetle. If you’re dealing with a car as popular and as iconic such as the Mini, you’d naturally want it to have a distinct identity that even from miles away once a spectator spots it, it instantly knows it’s looking at a Mini and nothing else. Despite its broad appeal, practical buyers will find Minis a little bit too, well, Mini, and Mini has realized this issue. They knew that 70% of small hatchbacks sold globally have 5-doors. Now, what if you slightly massaged the iconic shape of the Mini, and introduced the practicality of two more rear doors. Well, this is what you get, the Mini Cooper S, for the first time in its lifetime as a 5-Door version.
The Mini Cooper S 5-Door continues that distinctive Mini look, only slightly less charismatic than the three door, mainly due to the roof’s length remaining unchanged, while the rest of the body has been stretched. This results in the rear of the Mini more raked compared to the 3-Door version. Depending on the exterior color combinations and design elements you select, however, the 5-Door Mini may look just as great as the 3-Door, especially in this particular model configured with British Racing Green, White roof and door mirror caps, and 17 inch Tentacle Spoke Alloy Wheels. It’s a cheeky small 5-door hatch that together with its LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights, and LED front and rear foglamps, the Mini commands a huge respect at the motorway and in the city. Don’t take it personally though. People aren’t staring at you. They’re staring at the Mini Cooper S 5-Door you’re driving.
The interior is decisively Mini, with many of the typical Mini funkiness remaining, and more. The Mini used to be not exactly the most user friendly car in the world, as the windows switches and speedometer used to be located in the center console. Not the case anymore in the new Mini Cooper S. All these design traits and switchgear have been moved back to a more traditional position. The Mini Cooper S’s BMW iDrive based infotainment system has a more ergonomically designed controller, because in the previous generation, it used to be a tiny small knob designed for chipmunks. Everything feels more traditional and more ergonomic so that even first time Mini owners won’t have any issues controlling the car’s functions. Premium and upmarket are the first adjectives that come to mind when describing the interior of the Mini, and it should be, as it is a premium brand to begin with. The lovely retro toggle switches remain, and simply starting the car or turning off the start/stop system through those toggle switches is already a story of its own. Like the exterior, the interior can be specified with many design choices. This particular unit is specified with lovely details such as the Cottonwood veneer, Satellite Grey interior scheme, and Ambient LED Lighting that changes color either randomly, or depending on which driving mode you’re in.
Space and Practicality
The 3-Door Mini Cooper meant that the only way for you to fit people in the back seat is that if you hated them so much you’d want to torture them throughout the journey to the shops. Not so with the Cooper S 5-Door. It rides on a stretched platform of the 3-Door Mini, with a wheelbase that’s longer by 72 mm (2.8 inches) and a length that’s longer by 161 mm (6.3 inches). Thanks to the rear doors, entry to the rear seats is a lot more civilized, especially to that unfortunate adult who failed to ride shotgun and needs to seat in the back. The procedure is plain and simple. Just open one of the rear doors, and finally, you can fit a full size adult back there, and you won’t need to break your friendship in order for them to sit in there.
The driving position is great and typical of BMW group vehicles, the seat cushions can be extended for more thigh support. The range of adjustments, as with typical European cars, are plentiful. As a matter of fact, even with my 179 cm height and I adjust the seat height to its lowest position, I have more than enough headroom, enough for me to grow an afro for myself. The Mini has great all around visibility, thanks to its iconic boxy shape. Combined with its smaller dimensions, the Mini is a pretty easy car to drive especially in heavily congested Manila traffic.
Storage places inside have never been a strength for the Mini, but I managed to find more cubby spaces to store my everyday clutter. There are two glove boxes, one of them is neatly covered by the Cottonwood veneer, two large cupholders, both enough to fit my not so premium large 7-11 Gulp, and because the Mini has always been a 4-seater in mind, the center storage runs from the front up to the rear passenger seats, and the third cupholder is located in apparently the most undignified position to put a cupholder. Boot space has also been enlarged, up from 211 liters to 278 liters (67 more), which also makes it bigger than the Audi A1 Sportback’s by 8 liters.
The Mini Cooper S 5-Door is equipped as standard with a version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. It is a great and intuitive system to use, and if you are purchasing the normal Mini Cooper 5-Door, it is an option worth selecting. Through Mini Connected, you have concierge services readily on tap and other connectivity features that you may also find in BMWs. The Cooper S 5-Door is also equipped as standard with Sports Seats covered in a leather and fabric combination, which will keep you in place under hard cornering on the track or simply on a winding road. As standard, all models are equipped with 2-Zone Climate Control, Start/Stop engine idling shut off system, Velour floor mats, and a Sports Steering Wheel with sport grips on the side. Other features equipped as standard for the Cooper S 5-Door and optionally on the normal Cooper 5-Door are Anthracite headliner, Cruise Control, and the Mini Excitement Pack, which is basically the set of LED Ambient Lighting I mentioned when discussing the interior.
The Mini’s safety credentials is also very impressive, with ABS with EBD, Traction and Stability Control, ISOFIX child seat mounts, a pop-up bonnet that prevents injuries when you unfortunately hit a pedestrian, and a plethora of airbags. The Cooper S’s Cruise Control has the ability to apply a certain amount of braking when it exceeds the speed you set the Mini to maintain.
The Mini Cooper S 5-Door, being the hotter variant of the Cooper 5-Door, is powered by BMW’s B48 turbocharged and direct injected 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine, shared with the BMW 320i and 330i. Now, because this is a turbocharged engine, power and torque is spread in a very wide rev range, owing to its punchiness even from higher gears, which not only does it make overtaking a whole lot easier, it also makes this car accelerate very quick. It produces 189 hp from 4,700 to 6,000 rpm, and 280 Nm of torque at 1,250 rpm via a 6-Speed Automatic with Steptronic, driving the front wheels. This powertrain combination propels the car from 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds, whilst returning a claimed 4.6 l/100 km. Let’s take it out for a spin to see if the fuel consumption claim is true.
How It Drives
Naturally, being a premium hatchback focused on providing that trademark “go-kart” feel, the first thing that I wanted to test when driving this Mini would be to drive it on a winding country road with plenty of fast corners. Once being able to find one, I then switched the Mini to Sport Mode, which turns the cabin lights from varying colors to sinister red, sharpens the throttle response and gear changes, and finally, it makes the exhaust a bit louder while producing a really good raspy sound. Under hard acceleration, you can tell the turbos are producing a lot of boost.
This Mini Cooper S is fitted with anti-roll bars and McPherson Struts on all four wheels. On paper, it may sound pretty basic, but out in the real world, well goodness me, this Mini brings a huge smile on my face when driven hard. Being only exposed to performance cars just recently, it’s natural for me to be a little too easily impressed to the handling capabilities of this Mini. The steering, for instance, might be an electric power unit, but the feel and precision is so good, it feels like a hydraulic steering that’s just a little bit lighter than usual. Each wheel movement is felt through your fingertips and you can immediately tell if the front wheels are turning at your every command. The chassis balance and rigidity is oh so good, with no understeer that kills the handling, even on extremely tight corners. As a matter of fact, the Mini Cooper S, with the traction control off, will have the tendency to have lift-off oversteer, not a good experience if you’re on public roads, but if you’re out on the track, you’d have plenty of fun, since you can use the throttle to control how the Mini will attack a corner. Just as impressive as the driving dynamics is the fuel consumption of the Mini in this kind of situation. 6.9 km/l was my fuel consumption at this pace, which is impressive for the kind of performance potential it had.
Out on the highway, the Mini Cooper S feels very stable and secure for a small hatchback. The whole body feels solidly built with barely a squeak that kills its refinement and rigidity, traits which are confidence inspiring, especially if you want to nip through gaps in highway lanes. The seats have the perfect balance of comfort and support, which is handy in order to avoid driver fatigue if you are travelling from Manila to Clark International Speedway for a track day with your mates. Fuel stops won’t be a pain in the ass as well. Out in the highway, Eco Mode is recommended for eking out the most kilometers in a liter of fuel. Eco Mode dulls out the throttle response and the gear changes, and in this highway drive, we achieved 15.1 km/l at an average speed of 75 km/h.
Back in the hustle and bustle of Alabang, I switched the Mini Cooper S to Comfort (Normal) Mode. Throttle and gear changes are at their normal settings at this mode, and this makes the car livable in the stresses of city traffic. The ride in the city is generally firm, but not too uncomfortable. The Cooper S is fitted with Stop/Start technology, and shuts off the engine when at a set of lights. With my smartphone connected via Bluetooth to the Mini Connect system, I enjoy the world one can only savour when driving the Cooper S with an excellent set of speakers. With Madeon blasting through the speakers, I further appreciate the iDrive based system’s features, which has the capability to display song titles and details even if my music source is from Spotify. With a cabin that is refined and suitably well insulated from outside noise, with only a few wind noises from the upright A-pillars, my moment with the Mini Cooper S is as enjoyable as having an exquisite dinner at Nobu, while others are suffering from stresses the traffic in the Alabang metro is causing. I also get to further appreciate how Mini was able to finally make the cabin an ergonomic place to be in, with the window switches and other buttons back to their normal positions, a design that some Mini fans might not wholeheartedly appreciate. For this city drive, I was able to achieve 8.9 km/l at an average speed of 23 km/h.
On The Downside
The Mini Cooper S 5-Door is a bigger car, and thanks to its longer wheelbase, I finally fit in the back seats of this. While not as roomy as let’s say, a Honda Jazz, I still fit in there just fine. What isn’t fine is the center console I kept mentioning that runs from the front up to the rear seats. While the Cooper 3-Door is strictly a 4-seater, the 5-Door lets you fit a person in the middle, though I could only imagine a 5-year old being able to sit in the middle comfortably whilst not wearing a skirt. At least that’s one more person that you can finally fit inside the Mini Cooper S, making it a more sensible option for families who want to own a Mini.
The boot of the Mini 5-Door is bigger than the 3-Door, now at 278 liters from 211 liters (67 more). Compact is the word I’d use, since my backpack already swallows a huge chunk of the boot floor. It’s not exactly unusable, but hardly generous if a family would go on vacation. There is also a load lip once the seats are folded down, so sliding long items in and out may be difficult. On the bright side, the load lip is small, and won’t intrude much in getting things in and out of the boot.
Lastly, the Mini Cooper S 5-Door is expensive. Sure, it is a cheeky small premium car with plenty of personality, but at P2,800,000, it is even more expensive than the bigger (and perhaps more attractive) Mercedes-Benz A250 CGI Sport, priced at P2,580,000. It’s not like you’re losing out on performance, either, with the A250 being able to sprint from 0-100 km/h in the same 6 second range as the Mini Cooper S 5-Door. Don’t get too excited with the options, since certain options can be very expensive, and sooner or later, your Mini Cooper S 5-Door might be even more expensive than a BMW 320d Sport Line.
While the Mini Cooper S 5-Door is certainly expensive, the charm and character it possesses is already enough to be a selling proposition to many people, especially to the fans of the brand. Even as I mentioned that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a more attractive car to my eyes, the Mini Cooper S 5-Door is a more iconic looking car to many people, and perhaps many pedestrians will agree, as the Cooper S 5-Door attracts attention. To most people, the Mini 5-Door, even with its longer wheelbase, may seem too, well, mini, and we can’t argue with that, but what we can all agree on is that, the Mini Cooper S is a very desirable premium small hatchback, and being merely an evolutionary design change from the previous generation is proof of the car’s timelessness. Today, even after the life cycle of the second generation Mini Cooper, it still looks fresh and contemporary. Only a few cars can scream fun and possess a very huge character, but the Mini has a character that is distinct and instantly recognizable. Would you agree with me if I say that the Mini Cooper S 5-Door has as much character as a Lamborghini Aventador?
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
Overall: 4 out of 5