ENGAGE THE owner of a current Mini in a conversation about their car and you’ll undoubtedly be dragged into a long and passionate spiel about its go-kart-like handling and its neat interior lighting, a feature which, when it is parked in a dingy NCP, makes the cabin look a little bit like a hotel lounge bar.
Carry on probing and the owner might admit they spent a ludicrous amount of money on Union Flag mirror caps, while pointing to their Mini branded mug.
But ask them about the space in the rear of their Mini and watch while their excitement drains away as images of cramped, whingeing passengers and squashed pets enter their mind.
The car maker is well aware that as a three-door, its top-selling hatchback has lacked the practicality that having two extra doors confers. It knows, too, that five-door variants massively outsell their three-door counterparts in this segment and, importantly in this respect, appeal to fleet buyers. As a result, it has, 13 years since BMW launched the Mini with three doors, finally hit back with a five-door version.
It helps that the new UKL1 platform, upon which the Mini is based, can be stretched to provide that all-important additional rear cabin space. The five-door Mini is 161mm longer than the standard model. The extra length has created 72mm of additional legroom and 15mm of extra headroom for rear-seat passengers. At the same time, interior width at elbow level has been increased by 61mm.
As an added bonus, the Mini five-door’s rear luggage compartment is 278 litres ‒ 67 litres larger than the one in the regular Mini three-door. This is further improved by rear seats that can be folded flat for larger loads or set to a “cargo position”, where rear passengers must suffer sitting bolt upright in order to achieve a slight increase in boot space.
No question: clambering into the rear of the new five-door Mini is certainly easier thanks to the additional doors. They save passengers the chair-pushing and body contorting the three-door model demands. That said, space in the back of the car remains on the tight side.
It helps that the backs of the front seats are recessed for knees but anyone taller than even the average jockey may still find long journeys uncomfortable. If you play for the New York Knicks, forget it.
On the plus side, the latest generation Mini has come on leaps and bounds in terms of interior quality, and the five-door version continues this trend. Seat fabrics are plush but feel hard-wearing and the switchgear is now fashioned from far sturdier plastics. In addition, customers can specify the excellent Mini Connected infotainment system. This borrows the intuitive “click-wheel” interface from BMW, as well as a large 8.8in screen that perfectly complements a neat dashboard.
It remains trendy inside, especially so thanks to the selectable interior lighting and the pulsing luminous ring that surrounds the central dash that gives the cabin an air of jukebox chic, but which won’t be to all tastes.
There’s plenty of choice regarding engines, with as many as six variants on offer from launch. The Mini Cooper One kicks things off with a 100bhp three-cylinder petrol unit. The same engine develops 134bhp in the Mini Cooper model, while a 189bhp, 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine powers the hot Cooper S version.
Three diesels are also available: two three-cylinder units that produce 93bhp and 114bhp respectively, plus a 168bhp four-cylinder engine in the Cooper SD.
The £17,050 Mini Cooper D is the pick of the bunch if you’re not fussed by blistering performance. It offers an extremely tempting 78.5mpg from a very pleasant and refined engine, and at a reasonable price.
Adrenaline junkies should make a bee-line for the petrol-powered Mini Cooper S. Its added grunt and popping exhaust soundtrack trump its slightly lukewarm Cooper SD sibling.
Whichever model they decide on, potential owners should consider the Mini’s base price very much as a starting point, since the model suddenly gets very expensive when the options boxes are ticked. Then again, who can resist the Union Flag mirror caps, with the matching tea towel set?
Stretched but not stretched enough
Mini Cooper SD 5dr specifications
- Price: £20,050
- Release date: On sale now
- Engine: 1,995cc, four cylinder
- Power: 168bhp @ 4000rpm
- Torque: 266 lb ft @ 1500rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Acceleration: 0-62mph in 7.3sec
- Top speed: 139mph
- Fuel: 68.9mpg
- CO2: 109/km
- Vehicle tax band: B
Mini Cooper SD 5dr rivals
- Volkswagen Golf GTD, £25,765
For More powerful, more premium and more space inside Against It’s also more expensive
Search for and buy a used VW Golf
- Audi A1 Sportback 2.0 TDI, £19,260
For Badge bragging rights, stylish design, slightly cheaper Against Underpowered compared with Cooper SD, not as fun to drive
Search for and buy a used Audi A1