The MINI 5-Door Hatch Cooper D opens its doors to those who hadn't considered the marque before. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
MINI looks to have firmly nailed things this time round with its five-door hatch - and the most popular version of all is set to be the Cooper D. With 78.5mpg economy and a reasonable clip of speed from its 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, the Cooper D is sure to appeal, especially as prices are reasonably affordable.
Although it's clear why MINI has differentiated its once simple product into a myriad of different bodystyles, not all of them have found favour. In fact, it's not unreasonable to say that many of them have left us scratching our heads. A convertible and a roadster model? The Paceman? But while many of us old timers still try to wrap our heads around the concept of a MINI that's not particularly small, it's hard not to feel some admiration for the five-door hatch. For a start, it looks like a MINI, albeit one that's had a bit of a stretching. Those rear doors suddenly mean that people who quietly fancied the MINI hatch, but wouldn't buy a three-door car and who couldn't countenance the chubby Countryman, now have something that might appeal. In Cooper D guise, it's incredibly economical too.
A 116PS three-cylinder turbodiesel engine might not sound as if it's going to generate too much in the way of fireworks, but it's actually quite a lovely little thing. There's a healthy 270Nm of torque available, which punts the Cooper D to 62mph in a crisp 9.3 seconds and there's plenty of fun to be had plugging the car into the turbocharger's boost time and again. The manual gearbox has that appealing MINI clunkiness and doesn't mind being manhandled about a bit. The standard 16-inch wheels deliver the best ride quality and if you order them in black, your Cooper D isn't going to look under-wheeled. The longer wheelbase does seem to have settled the ride a little, but if you're thinking of fitting bigger wheels, make sure you try before you buy. The basic set up is still on the firm side. Selectable driving modes can be specified. Normal and Green modes feel quite similar but in Sport mode the steering weights up and the throttle feels spikier. The advantage of this small capacity diesel is its light weight and it imposes less compromises on the tuning of the front suspension as a result. Turn in is sharp, the steering is accurate and body control very good.
Design and Build
We've had some strange looking MINI variants of late. Take your pick from the Coupe, the Paceman, and the Countryman but the five-door hatch looks a really well-resolved piece of styling. While it's inevitably not quite as pert as the three-door car, the extra 72mm grafted into the wheelbase gives the shape some unexpected elegance. In fact, more length has gone into the rear overhang, with the car 161mm longer than the standard hatch. The five-door also delivers 15mm more headroom and 61mm of shoulder width. The pitiful boot space that many might expect doesn't in fact come to pass. In fact, there's a reasonable 278-litre boot which is an increase of 67-litres on the three-door hatch. Drop the 60/40 split rear seats and there's up to 941-litres available, both measures being better than those on offer from the car that BMW sees as the MINI's key rival in its class, the Audi A1. The boot floor can be set at two different heights, which can either optimise space or offer a completely flat boot floor for easy loading. The twin height boot floor is part of an optional storage package which also includes additional lashing eyes and floor net for the luggage compartment, seats which can be angled more steeply so as to create more luggage space and map pouches for the backrests of the front seats. Accommodation in the back isn't bad, with a scooped-out headlining freeing up some extra headroom.
Market and Model
The Cooper D five-door retails at just over £17,000, which seems like pretty good value for money. Then you put your sensible head on and consider that a five-door Fiesta diesel would be almost £3,000 cheaper, so it's still something of a boutique product. Still, compare against something that a MINI buyer would be more likely to cross-shop, such as an Audi A1 Sportback 2.0 TDI, and you'll find that diesel option here opens at the wrong side of £19,000, so it's hard to complain about the MINI's pricing. All models get a USB interface and Bluetooth, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, front fog lamps and an onboard computer. Air-conditioning is available free of charge on all models. Safety equipment includes front and side airbags, as well as curtain airbags for the front and rear seats. All seats are fitted with 3-point seat belts, belt tensioners and belt force limiters at the front. ISOFIX child seat mountings are provided at the rear and the front passenger seat. These can be supplemented with a range of options that include two-zone automatic air-conditioning, heated front seats, a panoramic glass roof, windscreen heating, rain sensors and automatic light control, a Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system and a sports leather steering wheel. Other options include Park Distance Control, electrically heated and folding exterior mirrors, plus both interior and exterior mirrors with automatic anti-dazzle function.
Cost of Ownership
This third-generation MINI has made great strides in improving emissions and economy and no model is a bigger beneficiary than the Cooper D variants. In this five-door guise, you're looking at 78.5mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions rated at 95g/km. That's quite remarkable for a car of this size which delivers this much fun on the road. MINIMALISM environmental technologies include a shift-point display function and optimised preheating process on the diesels. Brake energy recuperation and need-oriented control of the fuel pump, coolant pump and other ancillary units feature on all models. The electromechanical power steering and map-controlled oil pumps in all engines are optimised for the most efficient use. There's even an optimised preheating process which delivers a 50 per cent reduction in the energy required to start the diesel engines. Market experts are predicting very healthy residual values for the five-door cars, further driving down the pence per mile cost of the Cooper D. With insurance rated at a reasonable Group 18, premiums shouldn't be too pricy.
The five-door MINI Cooper D is an interesting vehicle. It'll bring people into the MINI fold who had never previously countenanced buying one. Why? It's well priced, its hugely economical, it has an element of everyday practicality about it, it looks good and it'll retain so much of its value that it'll be very cheap indeed to own. That ought to guarantee some strong sales figures. It also has a decent level of standard equipment, drives well and is very safe. It'll be able to claim sales from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall right up to Audi and Mercedes. There's vast potential here and MINI has confidently predicted that this will be their biggest seller. It's hard to disagree. Once in a while, a car comes along that seems to nail the specs at just the right time for a given market. Count the MINI Cooper D five-door amongst models of this sort.