MINI, MINI, MINI, must be funny, in a rich man’s world.
Ten years ago when my kids were 7 & 4, my wife ran a MINI three-door hatch as her car. We loved it, our kids loved it but after 2 years we changed it for a larger five-door hatchback, because the MINI having just 3 doors had become an issue. Hard to believe that back then there was just the MINI three-door, with the Countryman, Clubman, Coupe and Paceman all launched since 2004 opening up sales opportunities for the British heritage brand. Indeed, as a family we now run a MINI Countryman, which is the MINI which appears to be on steroids, because it suits our family’s needs, being substantially larger inside than the MINI hatch & with a much larger boot. Now that MINI have added the five-door MINI hatch, which means increased practicality for both families and businesses, it was time for Company Car to test it & see if the addition of two rear doors really adds anything more to the MINI model range, particularly for SME company car drivers.
With a price premium of £600 over the MINI three-door, and starting from £14,350, it is 161mm longer and 11mm taller with an extended wheelbase too. This means 72mm of extra legroom in the back, compared to the cramped passenger space familiar in the traditional hatch. Space is paramount in any five-door car. Rear legroom is sufficient if not ample, but headroom is good, even though the rear seats are quite upright and the back doors relatively small for access. A third, middle passenger is possible but they would need to be under 12 years old. Boot space is up 67 litres over the three-door, with 278 litres, just having the edge on the A1 Sportback which has 270 litre’s, but behind the Ford Fiesta’s 290 litre’s, the Peugeot 208’s 285 litre’s & the Renault Clio’s 300 litre’s. A 60:40 split folding rear seat increases luggage space in the Mini to 941 litres and an adjustable flat load floor can be specified as part of a storage package, allowing the boot to be configured for additional space.
The MINI Hatch five-door starts from £15,300 rising to £20,050. Unlike most of the cars in this segment, which have five-speed transmission, Mini has gone for six-speed across the range. There are three driving modes to choose from: ‘mid’ (the default setting), ‘sport’ and ‘green’. Sport mode promises ‘go-kart fun’ with firmer steering and sharper throttle response while the green mode activates features such as the gear shift indicator. Switching between the modes sees the LED lights around the circular instrument glow different colours.The speedometer has been moved to the instrument cluster, which is a welcome change. Mini’s infotainment system Mini Connected and Connected XL are available for smartphone users with apps such as JustPark, which allows drivers to find a parking space, book it and navigate to it. Mini Connected XL includes the journey mate function for real time traffic information.
A number of safety aids can be specified such as the Mini head-up display, a rear view camera, park assist, driving assistant – a camera-based cruise control and distance control function which automatically maintains a predetermined distance from the vehicle in front, and a collision and pedestrian warning system with initial brake function. Run-flat tyres, a space saver spare wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels (exclusive to the five-door hatch) are also options. Corporate customers benefit from a standard TLC service package, which covers servicing for the first five years/50,000 miles. An additional package, called TLC XL, extends the mileage and covers wear and tear items.
Standard equipment includes front and rear electric windows, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, air-conditioning, USB and Bluetooth connectivity DAB radio and keyless start. MINI’S James Morrison, corporate development manager at MINI, was quoted last year as saying that its fleet sales (excluding Motability) would rise from around 6,500 to 10,000 units in 2015. “That growth is only really going to come from the five-door,” said James. “It’s the most exciting (fleet) launch MINI has had for a long time.” So MINI really have high hopes for the five-door.
Certainly, this five-door model will open up sales to companies simply with the addition of 5 doors to the hatch. Also, with the Cooper D in both manual or auto forms falling under 100g/km CO2, it will appeal on the taxation front too. The most frugal option is the One D, which offers consumption of 80.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 92g/km.
MINI decided to send me the petrol Cooper 1.5 with CO2 emissions of 111g/km & I have to say it was a blast to drive. Despite the extra weight on the five-door versus the original three-door, this is a car that handles well, with great grip and little body roll. It also sits comfortably on the road, with the ride issues of the MINI Mk1 & Mk2 long gone. My test car capably absorbed speed bumps and Cheshire pot holes with impressive aplomb. MINI might overuse its ‘Go-kart feel’ phrase, but the five-door hatch loses nothing in its on-road prowess, with light but reactive steering making this a joy to chuck into corners. The adaptive dampers in Sport mode let you enjoy sharper throttle response and steering if you want to push its limits. Having said that, even in ‘green’ mode, the Cooper flies & is so much more enjoyable to drive than any of it’s competitors, leaving me with a permanent smile on my face.
There is definitely more rear head & legroom inside the five-door hatch, but if you need the space of the segment above then look no further than the MINI Countryman. In that respect, MINI have all angles covered. Build quality is just as good in this MINI as in the rest of the range & if you dig deep into your pocket you can dress the basic model up with a shed full of extras. For example, my test car’s basic price was £15855. Add on a Media Pack for £1175 & a Chili Pack for £2250 & what seems competitive is getting up around 20K & this really is the only negative to my mind for company drivers who nowadays all want SatNav on their company vehicles, so if you want the MINI version you will have to pay more for the privelige.
Coming back to my original question, does the five-door add enough to entice the company driver to it’s door ? Yes it does, just, but importantly for MINI purists it’s still one hell of a fun car to drive, especially when compared to it’s main competitors. Add in the always enticing MINI interior & the MINI badge & you have a car that is sure to appeal to more company drivers, if nothing else because the five-door hatch market is twice the size of the three-door hatch market in the UK. I love my MINI Countryman but the MINI five-door is a great addition to the MINI range & one that deserves to do well.
Five doors are better than three 4/5