Yes Yes Yes oh YES: looks, heritage, superb drive, build quality
Oh dear me no: expensive, long list of options
I must declare that I am a Mini tragic!
Impossibly cute, unbearably perky and deceivingly quick, Mini 5 door plugs a gap in the Cooper range.
Before driving, we gave the metalwork a thorough once over. The Cooper is cute, very cute. It is evocative of days gone by, yet staying true to Sir Alec Issigonis’ original brief. It is British, as British spotted dick, lager, and games of soccer. The royals have owned and driven Minis, and you can’t get much more British than that. I can hear “Land of Hope and Glory” playing as we speak.
Mini Cooper (not the Drag Queen) below:
There is a wheel in each corner and a perky little engine up front, and there even a diesel to make the range more economical. The stop/start is a cunning plan to make the BMW group lower carbon emitting across all brands. Thankfully, you can turn that devil’s work off, even if you have to do it every time you turn the key.
Outside, the new mini looks like both previous generations. Why? That’s easy: it is the shape of a Mini. A car of another shape but the same size would never ever be a Mini. It would wipe away nearly 50 years of reputation and misty-eyed reminiscences in a single swish.
There isn’t a world of difference over the previous generation and from the front pillars forward, the 5 door and 3 door are the same. From there on you get 72mm extra leg room, 15 mm extra headroom and 61mm in elbow room. It doesn’t sound much but you would undoubtedly notice it if you didn’t have it. The cargo hold also has 67 litres of extra space, so no longer will your David Jones bags get crumpled in transit.
There are a few new colours but the electric blue Cooper S is still my pick and a saw a tasty little green Paceman for good measure.
After a bacon and egg brekky we headed for them-there hills. Once in the hills, the Cooper S came to life. In sport mode, the engine/chassis combo was a delight thanks to a platform shared with the BMW 2 Series Tourer. The paddle shifts were fast whether up or down and the steering was scalpel-sharp. She changed direction like a kitten on carpet with only the occasional chirp of a tyre in protest. The experience felt much faster than the 6.9 0-100 might have led you to believe. No matter how tight the bend, the Mini felt like it wanted to give more. That isn’t something you can find in a lot of cars, especially those with 5 doors. There is some fancy tech going on under the bonnet to make sure you look a much better driver than you actually are. Sadly, much of it was an optional extra.
I’ve no doubt the 6.0 L/100k (manual trans) would require a more delicate touch to achieve, but most of us would rather enjoy the full driving experience by keeping the auto in Sports Mode. She just loves being thrown about and even the roughest of roads elicit not so much as an unwelcome wiggle. With three on board, there were a couple of loud thumps around town but that’s to be expected. With only two big blokes aboard, the Cooper was more like big cat than a kitten. It devoured the tight corners far more capably than a little city car had any right to.
Cooper D below
Using the paddles put the Mini into Goldilocks mode. It is always in the right gear and the sharp shifts do a much better job than most humans with a clutch. In fact the 0-100 figures are 0.1 of a second faster in auto. Just imagine how much time that is if you own the Cooper for a hundred years!
141kw doesn’t sound like much these days but it gets you to 100 in 6.8 secs, uses 5.5 l/100k (auto trans) and emits only 129gms of CO2. Presumably that is only if you aren’t trying to get to 100kph in 6.8 seconds each and every time you see a green light. In auto mode the 6 speed auto will change up quickly so you are always in as high a gear as the situation allows so the engine is revving lower. Lower revs means lower fuel consumption and when you stop, the motor switches off. In this case the auto and manual are as good each other, and as easy to use.
I’m pleased to report the Cooper S passes our comprehensive “2 bags test” with much aplomb. A couple could easily indulge in a naughty weekend away. However, you could have a less naughty weekend by shoving a couple chaps in the back seat and packing fewer changes of clothes, not an easy thing for gay boys to do I know.
Mini has done a lot to give the cabin some razzle dazzle, but again, much that dazzle was optional. The fancy door lighting? Optional. The heads up display ($700), the 6 speed auto ($2,650), the driver assistance package ($1,350), dynamic damper control ($700), and the reversing camera ($470) were all optional. The total for the extras was an eye-watering $10, 420. With on-roads, the $38,050 Cooper S quickly breaks the 50k sound barrier and powers on past $53,000. For that many shekels you can have a Golf GTi, Holden Calais or the top of the line Volvo V40. Although the Mini is far prettier than the Golf, no one can deny the Golf is still the reigning Hot Hatch queen.
Cooper S below:
The infotainment system was another surprise. It has brilliant sound, but Bluetooth streaming, standard on a humble $16,000 Hyundai, is optional on most Mini models. That is a bit grim. We couldn’t get the streaming to work in the Cooper S and couldn’t work out if it was fitted or not. System input is via the “mouse” located between the front seats, and it allows you to navigate the menu tree. The menu is complex so isn’t the kind of thing you would want to tackle without stopping first.
The safety gear on-board is impressive. Apart from the standard equipment including 6 airabgs, Mini has a pop-up bonnet. Should you be unfortunate enough to scoop up an unsuspecting pedestrian, the Mini fires some pyrotechnic charges to instantly raise the bonnet making contact with the engine block less likely. A dented bonnet if preferable to a dented head.
Some of the optional extras are: Auto high beam, active Cruise Control, collision warnings including a braking function, Head up display, automated parking, parking sensors, active LED headlights, and a reversing camera. I would expect a reversing camera and parking sensors all round at this price point. Most of us would want this level of standard equipment so perhaps it will be so at some time in the future. There are 3 delicious engines to choose from including a diesel. The Mini Cooper (no, not the drag queen) has a 1.5L 3 cylinder Petrol twin turbo, the Cooper D has a 1.5L twin turbo diesel 3 cylinder and the Cooper S has a 2.0L twin turbo petrol.
Spike, the Mini Mascot as a Mini USB stick
I expected the 3 cylinders to disappoint as most do, but not a bit of it. There is no difference in power and torque, but you can hear a definite tri-pot note under heavy acceleration. It is not unpleasant but I sense the market will take a little while to adjust. The turbo lag is almost non-existent. Can I get a big “Hallelujah” up in here.
The Mini 5 Door gets top marks. Take it by the scruff of the neck and you’re rewarded with boundless energy and fun, even in the base model. However, since I make your nan look fast, I’m happy with dawdling around country lanes breathing in the scenery, whatever form that takes. Mini Cooper is a sports car, and that’s that.
Would I buy one? What a stupid question, for I am a Mini Tragic.
Mini Cooper (Not the drag queen): $27,750, 6sp man, 3cyl, 100kw/220Nm, 4.9 L/100k, 8.2-100kph
Cooper D: $32,900, 6sp man, 3cyl diesel, 85kw/270Nm, 3.8 L/100K, 9.4 -100kph
Cooper S: $38,050, 6sp man, 4cyl, 141kw/280Nm, 6.0 L/100K, 6.9 – 100kph
*All engines twin turbo