The expansion of the MINI brand continues apace with the five-door Hatch. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Forget all the niche models that the MINI brand has launched: this five-door Hatch is serious business. With a longer wheelbase, class competitive luggage space, room for grown-ups in the back and a range of punchy but economical engines, this one looks to have the sort of strong all-round game to guarantee huge sales.
You have to wonder where it will stop. While there have been more puzzling extensions of the MINI brand - step forward the Paceman - it seems that paymasters BMW have plans for the marque that are bigger than any of us envisaged. A bigger, five-door version of the third-generation MINI Hatch is but a part of the bigger picture but it's one that might well do extremely well. In fact, MINI has already stated that they think this one will outsell the three-door Hatch variant that many of us view as the 'default' MINI model - and by as much as three to one, with a target of around 150,000 cars a year mentioned. In other words, this is the car that will make or break the third-gen MINI. With BMW increasingly committing to front-wheel drive for their small car platforms, this one needs to be extremely good. Judging from MINI's past excellence at chassis development, you wouldn't bet against it.
The engine range isn't going to come as any great surprise to seasoned MINI watchers. It begins with a 1.2-litre three cylinder unit with 102bhp in the MINI One, thwen progresses to a 1.5-litre diesel offered with either 95 or 116bhp in the MINI One D and MINI Cooper D models. The mainstay of the range will be the 136bhp 1.5-litre petrol-powered Cooper variant. Alternatively, there are four cylinder petrol and diesel engines in the 192bhp Cooper S and 170bhp Cooper SD respectively. Most customers will stick with a six-speed manual gearbox but a six-speed Steptronic automatic is available as an option. The Cooper S will cover the sprint to 62mph in just 6.8 seconds, while the Cooper SD isn't a whole lot slower, getting to 62 in 7.4 seconds. Variable Damper Control with adjustable dampers is available as an option, as are MINI driving modes which offers drivers the choice between Sport, Mid and Green modes. Using a rotary switch at the base of the gearstick or selector lever, drivers can swap from the default Mid mode to either Sport or Green. The three choices offer a set-up which is either performance-oriented, balanced or geared towards fuel efficiency. MINI driving modes also influences the ambient lighting, shift characteristics of the automatic transmission and the Variable Damper Control if the option is selected.
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 what 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
You'll pay from under £14,500 for the MINI One 5-Door Hatch, which is only about £600 more than the three-door Hatch. The Cooper looks good value at just under £16,000. 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 includes 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
The third-generation MINI's biggest step forward has undoubtedly come in the area of engine efficiency and the five-door car continues that theme. Go for the Cooper D and it'll manage 78.5mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions rated at 95g/km. Even the 360Nm torque of the Cooper SD will still see you get 68.9 miles from a gallon of diesel. The automatic gearbox features an engine start/stop function, preventing unnecessary fuel consumption. When used in conjunction with the MINI Navigation System, it's able to take account of the selected route profile and control gear shifts. Based on navigation data, the appropriate drive position is selected to match the road ahead, preventing unnecessary upshifts. 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.
There will have been whole legions of potential buyers who would have liked a MINI Hatch but who found the car just too small to meet their requirements. Some of these customers will have migrated to the bigger Countryman, but it's a reasonable bet that many felt that the Countryman didn't offer the look that attracted them to the Hatch and have gone shopping elsewhere. The five-door Hatch is the car that will not only mop up those lost sales but will also attract new buyers to the marque who might have been considering a typical Focus/Astra class family hatch and can now justify choosing a MINI. After all, this is a car that seems to have a whole lot of bases covered. It's well built, it looks good and, if the three-door Hatch is anything to go by, it'll drive well too. Factor in excellent fuel economy, likely strong residuals and a very good standard equipment list, couple that with upfront asking prices that are anything but unreasonable and you have a really strong all-round package with broad appeal. There might well be a queue for this one.