When we received the invitation from BMW (MINI belongs to BMW, everyone knows that!) for the MINI 5 door, the invitation actually read: “The new MINI 5 door (not to be confused with the next generation Clubman, which is a little farther off) represents…” When an automaker goes this far to clarify, it’s a sure sign that its product line is hard to understand!
The new MINI 5 door is positioned between the legendary MINI Cooper 3 door hatch and the Countryman, which also happens to have five doors but is much stockier. However, since the upcoming Clubman has six doors and is larger, we can expect that it will be marketed differently to prevent any confusion in the minds of the public.
The MINI 5 door is much more than a MINI Cooper with two extra doors. The MINI Cooper is designed to deliver a dynamic ride, regardless of the trim. The challenge for the engineers was therefore to make sure it remained just as much fun to drive after adding 72 mm to the vehicle’s wheelbase, 161 mm to its total length and 65 kilograms to its weight. To do so, they modified the calibration of the rear suspension and added reinforcements to strategic areas.
Two more doors, but just as much fun
So did these modifications succeed in rendering the 5 door as spritely as the Cooper? It’s hard to say. Our test drive was on narrow, and therefore not particularly fast, British country roads. And we only got to try the S trim with a Steptronic automatic gearbox. I’m guessing that if you were to take this car onto the track and push it to its maximum, the 5 door’s heftier weight and bigger size would play against it. But I also imagine that if you’ve purchased a five-door vehicle, perhaps sportiness wasn’t your top priority! And yet, the two additional rear doors haven’t compromised the vehicle’s road holding, and weight transfer is very well managed. You just need a bit more room to park it!
The other challenge for MINI was to avoid making the car look like a limousine, which would have gone against the MINI spirit. By juggling the proportions (the 5 door is 11 mm taller but not any wider), the designers did a reasonably good job with this aspect. I personally don’t find the 5 door to be as visually balanced as the regular Cooper, nor is it as attractive as the Clubman Concept we saw at the most recent Geneva Auto Show. Maybe it’s because of the unusual frames around the side windows? The three-door version doesn’t have these, and on the five-door version, I find these frames too square. The 5 shares certain body components with the 3, but due to its higher roof, longer body and window frames, everything from the B pillar onward is different. Even the hatch had to be redesigned to accommodate the extra 11 mm in height.
The rear section is where it’s at!
Inside the vehicle, it’s a hardline MINI all the way (both in terms of the design and the suspension). Up front, the interior is exactly the same as in the new three-door Cooper. This includes a modern dashboard that nonetheless has an old-school look, though it’s less of a caricature than the previous generation. The firm yet comfortable seats are true to German tradition.
The two additional doors make the car much more versatile, a quality that was until now reserved for the Countryman and Clubman. But the term “versatile” should be qualified for the 5 door. The two rear doors don’t open very wide, which means that any in-and-out maneuvers require a lot of flexibility. It would be really hard to get a baby car seat in—though I admit I didn’t even bother trying. But once you’re in, it’s not an oppressive environment. The rear seat back is a little too straight for my taste, but there was a decent amount of headroom and legroom for a person measuring 5’6’’. Another journalist who is 6’ tall reported feeling a little cramped in back.
Since this vehicle offers 61 mm more elbow room than the Cooper 3 door, MINI though they’d add a third seat. I’m at a loss about what you might do with it. Use it as a place to send kids for a time-out? The cargo hold has benefitted from the vehicle’s increased length and has stepped up its capacity by 67 litres, regardless of whether the seat backs are up or down (278 vs. 211, and 941 vs. 874).
In Canada, the 5 door comes in two trims: Base and S. Like in the 3 door, the base engine is a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower and 162 lbs.-ft. of torque. The S is equipped with a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 189 horsepower and 207 lbs.-ft. of torque. We tested the latter. Even though there’s a six-speed automatic gearbox, people with a hyperactive left foot will appreciate the six-speed manual. In all cases, the engine comes with a Stop/Start function that merits being shut off as soon as possible, because every time the engine restarts, it causes all kinds of bothersome vibrations.
While MINI refrained from quantifying its sales expectations in hard numbers, they did say that they are expecting the 5 door to be as popular as the 3 door. Its starting price is $22,240, with the S going for $26,740. By way of comparison, the baseline 3 door retails for $20,990 and the S for $25,490. In my humble opinion, the extra $1,250 you pay for the two additional doors is worth every penny. Moreover, to prevent the new 5 door from stealing sales from the base trim Countryman, MINI simply removed that model from its catalogue. From now on, the Countryman is an AWD vehicle. Knowing MINI, there’s good reason to believe that a John Cooper Works version is on its way.
As for the Clubman, I’m wondering if the invitation to its launch will say: “Not to be confused with our latest addition to the MINI line-up, the 5 door.”