Vehicle Style: Five-door light sports hatch
Price: $40,700 (plus on-roads), $48,470 as-tested
Engine/trans: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.5 l/100km | tested: 6.5 l/100km
A MINI Cooper hatch with five doors? Surely such heresy is enough to have Alec Issigonis, inventor of the original Mini, turning over in his compact, space-efficient grave.
But, as luck and smart design would have it, the new Cooper five-door isn’t a bad rig.
For a premium of $1100 you get everything there is to love about the MINI but with two extra doors, not to mention an appreciable increase in interior space.
It’s an intermediate step between the small and perky three-door hatch and the larger, less lively Countryman micro-SUV, and it’s perfect for those who find the three-door too small.
This scribbler spent a couple of weeks behind the wheel of the performance-focused Cooper S version and found it well-suited to his suburban DINK lifestyle.
For the majority of trips, there was just one passenger for company, but the extra utility of properly usable rear seats and doors definitely came in handy on more than one occasion.
Giving a lift to a friend or two is certainly less of a chore when they don’t have to contort themselves past the front seats getting in and out.
In Cooper S form it’s got just enough (but certainly not too much) space along with plenty of zip for the occasional mountain blat.
The cost, however, is a little eye-watering for such a tiny five-door.
Standard features: Keyless ignition, climate control, reverse parking sensors, foglamps, trip computer, sat-nav, 6.5 inch colour display with remote controller, sports seats
Infotainment: AM/FM tuner with USB input and on-board music storage, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity.
Options fitted: Dynamic suspension, head-up display, reversing camera, driver assistance package, active cruise control, LED headlamps, Dark Cottonwood trim, digital radio tuner, Navigation System Professional.
The dashboard is identical to the three-door and so is the centre console, but the addition of two more doors means the front doors are shorter and the B-pillars are further forward.
The wheelbase is also 70mm longer, and much of that increase is devoted to giving rear passengers more legroom.
It’s still not overly generous back there, but it’s more liveable than the cramped rear quarters of the three-door. However, the five-door’s small rear-door apertures don’t make it easy getting in and out.
So it’s no great people-mover then, but that’s hardly a surprise. And while the back seat may be tight, it’s not exactly a sardine tin either.
If you’re only giving lifts to friends and family every other week, it’s fine.
At 278 litres the five-door’s boot is barely more capacious than any other light hatchback, but it is appreciably bigger than the three-door’s puny 211 litre load area.
Its reconfigurable false floor also helps maximise the utility of the boot, and 60/40 split rear seats allow larger items to be carried - such as when we picked up a TV unit from our favourite Scandinavian flat-pack furniture store.
In-cabin storage is also decent, with a glovebox that’s able to swallow a medium-sized handbag, a smaller lidded enclosure above it and door bins in the front.
But while it’s certainly more versatile than the three-door, the MINI Cooper S five-door is still a car that’s compromised by its packaging and proportions. Want more space in your MINI? Buy a Countryman.
ON THE ROAD
- 141kW/280Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol inline four-cylinder
- 6 speed automatic with paddle shifters, front-wheel drive
- Disc brakes at front and rear
We like the way the Cooper S drives. Some have criticised it for not being as sharp an instrument as the preceding generation, but we love it for its accessible performance.
With 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque, the 2.0 litre turbo inline four is not as muscular as other hot-hatch engines at this price point, but it feels plenty zippy enough in the five-door’s 1240kg chassis.
There is a slight weight penalty with the bigger body, and the difference in mass between a similarly-specced three-door is roughly 65kg.
However, out on the road, it doesn’t feel all that much slower for it.
With a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds it’s just 0.1s behind the three-door, and 0.3s behind the VW Golf GTI.
The stretch in wheelbase has had a more profound effect, with the five-door feeling a little less lively in corners and a little less eager to rotate than the nimbler three-door.
It still corners beautifully though, with a high resistance to understeer from its grippy Pirelli P-Zero rubber.
Our tester was equipped with the optional six-speed sports automatic (a $2650 option), which brings paddle-shifters to the steering wheel.
It’s a solid transmission with excellent gearing and a docile nature around town, and it will hold gears right up against the 6500rpm redline in manual mode provided Dynamic Traction Control is activated.
The exhaust also crackles on the overrun if the drive mode selector is set to ‘Sport’, which pleases our inner hoon.
Any failings? Well, around town the ride is just too brittle. Our car had the optional electronically adjustable dampers, but with the mode set to ‘Normal’ the chassis is still too stiff to be labelled “comfortable”.
The trade-off is superb FWD handling.
Conversely, when pushing the Cooper S hard, you will find the limit of front-end grip, especially when accelerating out from a tight corner.
The omission of a proper limited-slip differential allows the inside wheel to spin up before it’s grabbed by the traction control system.
ANCAP rating: The Cooper five-door has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control (switchable), stability control (switchable).
Dual front, dual side and full-length curtain airbags are standard equipment, and all five seats come equipped with three-point seatbelts.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Without any options, the Cooper S five-door automatic costs $40,700. That puts it in competition with hot hatches from the next size category above, as well as warmer variants of Audi’s A1.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Cooper S always had plenty of character; the five-door adds space and versatility to go along with it.
While it doesn’t lag far behind either for fun factor, it’s nowhere near as practical nor can it match the dollar-for-dollar value.
And this is where it loses a point or two in a direct face-off.
Also, start ticking options boxes and the costs can mount up quickly. Want a reversing camera? That’s $470. Digital radio tuner? $300.
All up, our tester was loaded with an astonishing $10,420 in extra equipment, taking the price of this tiny five-door hatch to a smidge under $49k.
With Audi’s raucous S1 priced at $49,900, we’d opt for that instead.
But if all you want is that distinctive MINI styling in a five-door package (and the Countryman doesn’t do it for you), by all means go for the Cooper S five-door.
It’s a quirky alternative to other premium hatchbacks, and the MINI experience certainly isn’t spoiled by the extra doors.
MORE: MINI News & Reviews
PRICING (includes GST, excludes LCT and on-road costs)
MINI One - $24,500
MINI Cooper - $26,650
MINI Cooper D - $31,800
MINI Cooper S - $36,950
MINI Cooper - $27,750
MINI Cooper D - $32,900
MINI Cooper S - $38,050