Preview: 2015 Mini 5 door
Lovely sharp steering, an alert chassis and a new-found sense of refinement thanks to a fresh structure: it's safe to say that the brain trusts at Mini still have their collective fingers on the button of all things groovy and chic.
2015 Mini 5 door: Frivolities no longer feel Fisher-Price tacky
2015 Mini 5 door (Cooper/Cooper S)
BASE PRICE: $22,240 /$26,740
ENGINE: 1.5L turbo three-cylinder/2.0L turbo four-cylinder
POWER/TORQUE: 134 hp 162 lb.-ft./189 hp 207 lb.-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION L/100 km: to be determined, premium fuel required
COMPETITION: VW Golf and GTI, Fiat 500L, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, Honda Fit
WHAT?S BEST: handling, fuel economy, new-found utility
WHAT?S WORST: not really a five-seater
WHAT?S INTERESTING: available with first-in-class LED headlights
HENLEY-ON-THAMES, ENGLAND?Since assuming stewardship of the Mini nameplate in 2000, BMW has not only beat the odds by making a success of this premium priced subcompact, they?ve managed to find enough sub-niches within the niche to make your head spin.
Get ready for another onslaught. This third-gen ?new? Mini, which bowed last year in three-door hatchback form, uses an all-new BMW front-wheel-drive platform that will underpin future rides from both Mini and BMW. So it?s safe to assume it will be d?j? vu all over again as the brain trusts at Mini, with their collective fingers on the button of all things groovy and chic, will come up with further intriguing takes on Mini-ness to entice the hip and hip-at-heart.
I?m here in England to sample the second iteration of Mini v 3.0 to spit from the Oxford womb.
It?s called the Mini 5 door. It has five doors. It seats five (well, not really). It?s aimed at those who want the Mini driving experience with more utility baked in. The 2015 Mini 5 door will arrive in Canada late this year in two variants ? the three-cylinder 134 hp Cooper 5 door at $22,240 and the four-cylinder 189 hp Cooper S five door at $26,740. Both are turbocharged and both ask for premium fuel.
But wait. Hasn?t Mini all ready done this with the Mini Clubman wagon-thingy and the Mini Countryman crossover? To avoid any overlap with the new 2015 Mini 5 door, the Clubman is discontinued and the Countryman is now only available as the $29,900 all-wheel-drive Cooper S ALL4 ? the front-drive Countryman is gone.
Here in ol? Blighty we drove the Mini Cooper S 5 door. The heavily trafficked roads prevented any real hooning (as did the fact that this was my first time driving on the ?wrong? side of the road), but as far as I could tell, this lengthened Mini feels pretty much like the 3 door Cooper S. That is to say lovely sharp steering, an alert chassis and a new-found sense of refinement thanks to this fresh structure.
While a six-speed manual transmission is standard, these cars were fitted with the optional six-speed Steptronic Sports automatic transmission with paddle shifters that swaps cogs smoothly and responds to paddle inputs with useful alacrity.
There are three drive modes ? Green, Mid and Sport. Green dulls the throttle response and optimizes the climate control for max efficiency. If fitted with the auto tranny it enables a coasting function wherein the engine will decouple from the transmission and drop to idle at speeds between 50 and 160 km/h. Sport mode sharpens the throttle response, wakes up the tranny, gives the exhaust more bark and firms up the steering and the dampers if fitted with optional dynamic damper control.
My advice with any of these new Minis is to pony up for the adaptive dampers. It takes the sting out of the ride for day-to-day motoring.
Compared with the Mini 3 door, the Mini 5 door sees a wheelbase stretch of 72 mm, it is 161 mm longer overall and the roof is 11 mm higher. Once through the smallish rear doors and plunked in the nicely contoured year seats, it?s a pretty comfy place for two adults. Headroom is generous, and with the front seat set for my height, I could ?sit behind myself? no problem. Yes, there are three seatbelts back here, and you just might get away with squeezing in three skinny kids. Luggage space behind the 60/40 rear seats is up 30 per cent. With said seats folded forward, you could make a very decent run to Costco, although the load floor is not flat.
Styling, of course, is purely subjective, but I think Mini has done a fine job in making this lengthened version look sharp and cohesive.
Likewise, the interior of this third-gen new Mini shows a vast improvement in material and build quality over the outgoing car. It still has plenty of whimsy though. The round central display that shows the excellent infotainment graphics (now controlled by a large iDrive rotary knob) is ringed in a giant LED glow stick that changes colours depending on the drive mode or function you?re accessing. Quite fun, really. And now that this interior is truly premium, such frivolity no longer feels Fisher-Price tacky.
The Mini 5 door can be fitted with head-up display, park assist and a camera-based adaptive cruise with forward collision warning and mitigation.
We didn?t drive the three-cylinder Cooper 5 door model, but having experienced the 134 hp, 162 lb.-ft. turbo three-pot in the regular Mini hatch, I can attest to it?s terrific power delivery, smoothness and fabulous fuel economy. For those looking at this interesting new offering from Mini, I?d suggest the 1.5L three-cylinder is all the engine you?ll ever need.
Peter Bleakney has been contributing road tests and feature articles to Toronto Star Wheels for more than 20 years. He is also a regular contributor to autos.ca and an award-winning member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His travel expenses were covered by the manufacturer. . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org