Overall rating: 4/5
We're not sold on the gangly looks of the new MINI 5 door, but it's hard to argue with the business case, and we expect the target audience to love it. With that in mind it's well-packaged and drives with almost as much verve as the three-door model. The Cooper SD is the pick of the line-up too with its silky new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine.
In the Metal:
Admittedly, the attractiveness of a design is subjective, but if this category was scored solely on what I think of the looks of the MINI 5 door then it'd be an even lower rating. As it is I'm not really a fan of the new MINI's bulbous nose and exaggerated 'MINI-ness' - and the 5 door doesn't improve the design. From some angles and in some specifications it's striking in a good way, but overall I find that the angle of the rear window gives the car an odd look. Spend plenty of time playing with the online configurator to make sure you choose the right colour/wheel combination, which of course is nigh on infinite in choice.
Nonetheless, regardless of what I think of the 5 door's looks, it is a neat bit of packaging. Overall it's about 161mm longer than the three-door MINI and 72mm of that is in the wheelbase. It translates into perfectly acceptable rear legroom (for the segment) and a third seatbelt on the back seat. The middle passenger's legs need to go either side of a sizeable centre console, but we don't expect those that need to carry five adults regularly to buy one of these. Boot space is up from 211 litres in the three-door to 278 litres in the 5 door, and it can be expanded to 941 litres by folding the back seats down flat. Still not a patch on the Countryman's capacity, nor the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, but it beats its key rival, the Audi A3 Sportback. And the MINI's interior ambience more than lives up to that billing too.
MINI has done a good job on the 5 door's chassis, keeping the brand's fun-to-drive vibe largely intact, but softening out the car's responses a little to suit its new remit. Hence the steering isn't quite as sharp as the MINI Hatch's, though it's more direct and feelsome than most in this part of the market. Likewise, the way the car turns in and tackles a challenging road can still paint a smile on the driver's face, but driven back-to-back with the regular car it'll feel a little less agile and willing to play. In fairness, it's only when driven quite hard that this becomes apparent, and that's probably irrelevant to the vast majority of 5 door buyers. This particular model rides on large wheels on low profile tyres so it's not the most comfortable of the range, but it's still better than the previous generation MINI in that regard.
The new 2.0-litre diesel engine in the Cooper SD will impress everyone though. Its performance and efficiency stats above are remarkable enough, but it's the newfound refinement that we're most taken by. Not only is the engine quieter and smoother than its predecessor, the power delivery is less peaky, making for deceptively quick progress. All the test cars at the launch were fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission, which is technically the quickest accelerating yet most frugal way to have your Cooper SD. It's a smooth gearbox left to its own devices, with a well-judged Sport mode, plus paddles behind the steering wheel if you wish to take control for yourself. There's rarely a need given the torque-rich nature of the engine's delivery and the quick response of the gearbox when you push the accelerator all the way down.
What you get for your Money:
There's no getting away from the fact that the MINI 5 door is highly priced. Less money will net buyers a more practical five-door hatchback. The Cooper SD in particular is eye-wateringly expensive at €29,390 (before you add in the cost of the automatic gearbox). By way of compensation, the MINI is well-equipped these days and the 5 door version is less than €1,000 more than the three-door hatch, which really isn't bad. We reckon the Cooper D model is all that most buyers will need and it starts at €24,710. All variants will be available in the 5 door body style in time, including the entry-level MINI One and One D.
In the same week we drove the new MINI 5 door, the company celebrated two production milestones. Three million MINIs have been manufactured since BMW started production in 2001. A million of those have been exported from 'Plant Oxford' in England. The USA is the brand's biggest market, followed by the UK, Germany, China and France.
The MINI 5 door is one of those cars that will sell like hotcakes regardless of what motoring journalists say about it or, indeed, how good or bad it actually is. There's undoubtedly a massive market for a more practical MINI hatchback out there. Thankfully it still drives well, and while it's not as spacious as the mainstream family hatchbacks, it's a good deal more useful than the regular MINI Hatch. Job done.