Overall rating: 3.5/5
Sure, the Cooper S version of the new MINI 5 door retains 85 per cent of the engagement and fun of the three-door hatch, but the designation and remit of the junior hot hatch sit less well with the more practical body style than its diesel counterpart, the Cooper SD, which provides more or less the same go while using less fuel.
In the Metal:
Read our review of the MINI Cooper SD 5 door to see what we think of the new model's styling inside and out, as the Cooper S is no different. In summary, it's likely to divide opinion, but more importantly it's considerably more practical than the three-door MINI with acceptable rear legroom, a larger boot and easy access to the back seats for passengers and child seats alike. The low-set seating position of the regular hatch is retained, but the upright windscreen pillars mean that visibility out of the car is good. The shorter front doors with solid window frames feel a little odd though, especially if you've just jumped out of a normal MINI with frameless front windows.
As in Cooper SD guise, the MINI 5 door Cooper S trades a little agility and sharpness in the driving dynamics in return for a more relaxed experience overall. It's still rather good when you push it beyond the realms of 'normal driving', even if the rear end rarely comes into play as it does in the MINI 3 door. The electronic stability control is perfectly judged - and quick-witted enough not to detract from your enjoyment - while the difference between Mid and Sport settings for the car is tangible - thanks to less power steering assistance and sharper throttle response in the latter mainly - though the automatic gearshift and adaptive damping (both optional) are also affected.
In Sport mode the exhaust pops and bangs on the overrun, which is fun when you want it, though perhaps a little over the top ambling through villages. Indeed, the turbocharged engine sounds better at low to mid-range speeds than it does chasing the redline. The plentiful torque low down the rev range means that's not a problem, but keener drivers will explore the upper reaches of the rev counter regularly enough in search of the extra horses. That and a little noise, as this engine is very quiet at all other times. Despite what the figures say, it never feels any quicker on the road than the Cooper SD.
What you get for your Money:
At the time of writing, MINI hasn't confirmed pricing for the One and One D 5 doors, so the entry-level model is the MINI 5 door Cooper, at €23,270. That's not quite €1,000 more than the equivalent 3 door, which seems a reasonable step up. The Cooper S won't sell in high numbers here at €28,940 for the manual model, though there aren't as many direct rivals on the market with the same performance at that price point as you might expect.
There's a lot more to come from the new MINI platform, though possibly not before the start of 2015. The Clubman is expected to morph into a more conventional estate with an even longer rear overhang than the 5 door and a vertically split rear end. Before that though we should see the first new John Cooper Works Hatch.
The execution of the MINI 5 door is impressive: it drives nearly as well as the hatchback, is significantly more practical and convenient and retains all the quality and image that have proven the car to be a runaway success to date. We expect the 5 door to follow suit, not least because the market for five-door hatchbacks is double the size of that for their three-door counterparts. The Cooper S model is perhaps the least suited to the Irish market, however.