IT’S hard to imagine life on the road without Minis. BMW’s bold revival of the model which it got in a job lot when it bought Rover in 1994 has been really successful. BMW bravely replaced the traditional Mini in 2001 with one model, a three-door hatch, its name written as MINI. The range expanded to include an estate car, a coupé, a roadster, a hatch convertible (the UK’s best-selling drop top) and the model tested here, the five-door hatchback.
The cheapest MINI is the three-door hatch One at £13,935. It has an 1,198cc three-cylinder petrol engine delivering just over 100bhp and is rated at 61.4mpg, 108g of CO2 and a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds.
The five-door version is £14,535. Its body is 6.3 inches longer, slightly higher and is on a longer chassis which extends the wheelbase by nearly three inches. The weight gain is a mere 60kg.
This five-door Mini is almost family-sized. The rear seating is more than a token nod, and leg and head space is adequate for two smaller adults, with comfort harder to find on the slimmer middle seat. The luggage space is also adequate and considerably better than the three-door, slightly less than a Ford Fiesta, which is a similar size, end to end, as the Mini. It, and its mass-market peers like the Peugeot 208 and Honda Jazz, are cheaper alternatives to a Mini, but if you want to buy British, that’s a noble reason to get a Mini. Most models are made near Oxford and many engines come from the Midlands. It’s a hurrah for English manufacturing.
We bought 63,584 last year, of which 44,560 were hatchbacks. They included 1,487 sales of the fastest Mini so far, the John Cooper Works, which can charge to 60mph in less than six seconds. Here in March is the latest Convertible – from Mini’s Dutch factory. On the world market, Mini sales increased by 12 per cent to reach 338,466, of which almost 222,000 were hatchbacks. It was the best performing brand in the group and helped BMW to record sales of 2,247,485 – up 6.1 per cent on 2014. Of these, nearly 30,000 were its i electric models. The new 2 series sold 157,144.
Mini five-door hatches accounted for 94,788 sales. More practical it certainly is. As well as having rear doors, the load area is larger. I just managed to carry a bicycle with the back seats down and a wheel removed and the other perched on the shoulders of the front seats. That’s not possible in the shorter three-door Mini.
When the back seats are flat there is a rise in level from the boot floor proper. This panel lifts out to make the boot deeper, or you can store valuables or breakables underneath it, alongside the puncture repair kit. Outside, the rump has side panels which project slightly beyond the tailgate and from these angles it is not as attractive or cute as the three-door’s derriere.
On test was the pukka Cooper SD Auto, which combines the Cooper S sports package with a 2-litre turbo diesel engine rated at 167.6 bhp and 265 lb ft torque, front-wheel drive and a super-slick six speed automatic gearshift. Average mpg is stated as 70.6 and CO2 is 104g – but real-driving figures are not as flattering. The 0-62mph time is 7.2 seconds, with a maximum of 140mph. It’s a tempting combination if you can pay £21,800. What you get is the most exciting five-door Mini hatch, rivalling the John Cooper S Works.
You do suffer substantial tyre roar on coarsely textured roads (the demo car was on 205/45/17 Pirelli P Zero tyres) and rather too much rock and roll in the ride for my regular co-tester.
There’s an abundance of trademark Mini stuff, the centre dial carrying main functions, satnav if you have it. The speedo and tachometer are on the steering column so you see them through the steering wheel. Add “kits” to suit your taste and budget.
Indeed, the test car was loaded, and would cost £30,475, which is a painful price for a smallish hatchback. Items included navigation, the cool dude Chili pack (£1,900), a glass roof, rear camera, parking sensors and parking mode, hi-fi, leather seats and the automatic gears.
Fuel economy is OK rather than brilliant, and I never saw anything like the 70mpg official average. A regular commuting run showed 45mpg on the trip computer – which was a similar average to other journeys – with very little “performance” testing.
Buyers opt for adding one or two of the upgrade packs. New this season is the Tech which adds head up display and reversing camera. The Yours pack is a leather upholstery retrim for the new convertible and Clubman – the new flagship of the Mini models. It is on a wider, longer chassis from BMW’s 2 Active Tourer with the option of 4x4 drive, called ALL4. It is a more credible five-seater with ample room for six-footers in the back. Like the previous Clubman it has side hinged rear doors. Unlike that car, it now has rear doors at each side. Progress.