First Drive

2014 Mini five-door hatch review

For the first time, the Mini hatch is now available with five doors, and you get more rear space and a bigger boot. We drive the Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD in the UK.

Words ByWill Nightingale

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Practicality has always been the Mini’s biggest bugbear. It’s obviously not supposed to be a big car, but while similar-sized rivals such as the Audi A1 have long been available with a choice of three or five doors, Mini has stuck stubbornly with the less-convenient layout.

Until now, that is. This new Mini five-door hatch costs Β£600 more than the three-door and is available with largely the same engine line-up. That means a 1.5-litre petrol Cooper kicks the range off at Β£15,900, while other options include a hot Cooper S and two diesels (badged Cooper D and Cooper SD). Cheaper One and One D models will join the range soon after the rest of the line-up launches in mid-October.

What’s the Mini 5dr like inside?

So, apart from a couple more doors, what do you get for your extra Β£600? Well, surprisingly, you also get a bit more rear space. The latest three-door Mini isn’t as cramped in the back as you might imagine, and the five-door is more accommodating still, with an extra 3cm of legroom and 1cm of headroom. That might not sound like much, but it’s enough to make two six-footers feel far less hemmed in.

Getting into the back isn’t easy as it is in most five-door rivals, because the door openings are small and you have to step over a hefty sill. Although the new five-door can feasibly carry three on the back bench, it's still not a particularly wide cabin and the central passenger will have to straddle a chunky raised tunnel that runs down the spine of the car.

Boot space has grown by 67 litres to a Fiesta-rivalling 278 litres. The boot is still fairly short in length, and there’s a big lip at the entrance. However, the optional storage pack (Β£120) gets around this issue by adding a height-adjustable floor that can be set to lie flush with the entrance of the boot. This handy feature also means there’s no step in the extended load area when you fold down the rear seats.

Elsewhere, it’s a standard Mini affair. That means plenty of retro charm throughout but, thankfully, without too much compromise in usability. The air-con controls are logical, for example, and the infotainment system (while basic unless you fork out extra for one of the optional upgrades) is easy to get the hang of.

You won’t have any complaints about quality, either, because compared with the vast majority of small cars (the exceptions being the Audi A1 and VW Polo) the Mini feels suitably premium inside. There are soft-touch materials in all the important places, and the buttons, switches and dials feel nicely damped.

What’s the Mini 5dr like to drive?

Much the same as the three-door, which is largely a good thing.

Chuck the Mini into a corner at moderate speeds and it turns in keenly, responding to the quick and accurate – if unnecessarily heavy – steering. Try to corner hard, though, and you’ll notice the front end running wide of your chosen line more readily than you might expect, so the Mini ultimately falls short of the dynamic benchmarks set by the Ford Fiesta and Audi A1.

The Cooper D will be one of the most popular options in the range. With CO2 output of just 95g/km, it's the most efficient five-door from launch, and also one of the most recommendable; the 114bhp three-cylinder diesel engine is remarkably smooth and hushed compared with the engines in most diesel rivals, and is strong and flexible – provided you don’t let the revs drop much below 1700rpm.

The other popular choice for buyers will be the Cooper, which gets a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine producing 134bhp and emitting 109g/km of CO2. As in the three-door car, the engine is smooth and refined, and with 170lb ft of torque available at just 1250rpm, it's easy to maintain swift, relaxed progress.

We also tried the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines in the Cooper S and Cooper SD, both of which we tested with the optional Β£1625 six-speed automatic gearbox. Both should be considered proper hot hatch material, but the Cooper S is particularly impressive, building power smoothly and with serious vigour. It even delivers a cheeky pop and crackle on the overrun, while also being relaxed and refined in normal driving. The hot diesel Cooper SD is also reasonably hushed by diesel standards, but it still emits a coarse din when you let it rev hard, and there's a more vibration through the controls, too.

Still, both are good fun and deliver a real hit of acceleration if you want it, and the six-speed automatic does a worthy job, too. It shifts smoothly in unhurried driving, and fires up the ratios with barely a pause in momentum if you want full-on acceleration, though if you put it in sport it hangs onto revs a second or two too long, which is particularly noticeable in the Cooper SD, being noisier and less eager to rev.

The standard six-speed manual is a little disappointing, as it’s notchy and doesn’t like the shifts being rushed, but for many it will still be the preferable option - not least because it's so much cheaper.

As with the three-door, there’s also lots of road noise at 70mph, while that upright windscreen creates plenty of wind noise too - which is a shame given how much engine refinement has improved.

All our cars had 17-inch alloys (15s come as standard on the Cooper D, and 16s on the S models) and on this evidence we’d suggest leaving that particular option box unticked. On the Cooper and Cooper D the ride is never horrendously firm, but it never really settles either, so if you must have big wheels, then we’d recommend adding the Β£375 electronic damper control (EDC).

The EDC was fitted to both the Cooper S and Cooper SD that we drove, which helps make them adept at softening big bumps and creases, if quite choppy over undulations regardless of speed.

In the harder Sport setting, the S - and even more so, the SD - can be jarring over potholes, and unyielding enough to be thrown off-line slightly if you hit a big intrusion mid-corner. They aren't so hard-riding as to be uncomfortable, or really tiring to live with, as the previous hot Mini hatches could be, but you'll experience at least one wince-inducing shudder on every journey.

Should I buy one?

Let’s be clear – the new five-door model doesn’t transform an impractical fashion accessory into the ultimate family car. However, what it does do is make the Mini a more realistic option for the type of buyer who needs to carry four people on a regular basis.

While we haven't yet the forthcoming One models, if you're sold on the five-door Mini hatch we'd suggest you avoid the pricey Cooper S and SD if you can, not because they're bad – they're not even remotely – but the smaller engines are so good, and just as much fun the vast majority of the time, that it's hard to justify the extra cost of that the S badge.

Factor in the usual Mini virtues – superb resale values, a smart interior and fine driving manners – and it’s obvious this new five-door version has heaps of appeal. We’re just surprised it’s taken Mini so long to realise it.

What Car? says...

Rivals:

Audi A1 Sportback

Volkswagen Polo

Mini Cooper

Engine size 1.5 turbocharged

Price from Β£15,900

Power 134bhp

Torque 170lb ft

0-62mph 8.2 seconds

Top speed 129mph

Fuel economy 60.1mpg

CO2 109g/km

Mini Cooper S
Engine size 2.0 turbocharged

Price from Β£19,225

Power 189bhp

Torque 207lb ft

0-62mph 6.9 seconds

Top speed 144mph

Fuel economy 47.9mpg

CO2 136g/km

Mini Cooper S automatic

Engine size 2.0 turbocharged

Price from Β£20,750

Power 189bhp

Torque 207lb ft

0-62mph 6.8 seconds

Top speed 143mph

Fuel economy 52.3mpg

CO2 125g/km

Mini Cooper D 5-door hatch
Engine size 1.5 diesel

Price from Β£17,050

Power 114bhp

Torque 199lb ft

0-62mph 9.4 seconds

Top speed 126mph

Fuel economy 78.5mpg

CO2 95g/km

Mini Cooper SD Engine size 2.0 diesel

Price from Β£20,050

Power 168bhp

Torque 266lb ft

0-62mph 7.4 seconds

Top speed 140mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 output 109g/km

Mini Cooper SD automatic

Engine size 2.0 diesel

Price from Β£21,675

Power 168bhp

Torque 266lb ft

0-62mph 7.3 seconds

Top speed 139mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 output 107g/km