Mini family gets more a-door-able the bigger it gets
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BMW Group targets buyers looking for a vehicle with attitude
As BMW Group upsizes the three-door Mini to a five-door hatch, the company is hoping that the public will think that the vehicle is (wait for it), a-door-able.
No, that pun isn't my work, instead a BMW executive used it at the recent Australasian launch in Adelaide.
And yes, upon the delivery of the "with the five-door version, the Mini will be more a-door-able" there was a groan from the media.
But what the company hopes is the public won't be groaning at the ever increasing line-up from the Mini family.
The line is an important brand for the BMW Group, targeting younger buyers or customers who are after a vehicle that has a fun attitude.
As BMW Group's chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk told me at the recent Paris motor show, "Minis are for people who live an urban lifestyle, and are probably quite successful in their own right, but don't take themselves seriously and want to show that and enjoying life is what they like to do".
But with the five-door Mini the target customers are people who "always wanted a Mini hatch but there was not enough room for them in the three-door hatch", said a BMW Australia spokesperson.
The size difference between the two models starts just after the A-pillar with the five-door extended 161mm, 72mm of that is in the wheelbase. The five-door's C- and D-pillars are thinner than the three-door's single rear pillar, giving it a large rear window.
The headroom and elbowroom have also been increased and a larger boot - which I "had" to test with a detour to Adelaide's Ikea store for a shopping spree.
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At the Adelaide launch, there were three models to test - with the Aussies having two petrols and one diesel, but in New Zealand there are only petrols available - a six-speed manual Cooper $37,200 and $45,200 Cooper S.
That's just $1000 more than the three-door versions of those two models.
For the six-speed automatic versions of both models add $3000 to the price.
The Cooper is powered by the company's new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine that produces 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, and sits on 16in alloys.
The Cooper S has a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine (141kW/280Nm) and has 17in alloys as standard.
Sure Mini has the five-door Countryman but the company class that as a compact SUV and at 1544mm high and 4097mm long (over the Cooper's 3982mm) it also has 28 litres more boot space at 300l.
The five-door hatch's boot space of 278 litres can be expanded to 941 litres with the 60/40-split rear seatback folded flat or you can fold the rear seatback to a 90-degree position to increase luggage space. The storage package provides a two-part load compartment floor that can be locked in various positions.
Inside, the five-door hatch has the same retro feel as the all-new third generation Mini three-door. There's the toggle switches (including the on-off button), the large round info screen in the centre of the dash and the speedo relocated behind the steering wheel for a better driver aid.
The large dash gives a feeling of space, and the finishings maintain the premium feel of the brand.
While technically it's a five-seater, the centre-rear spot is a very narrow, raised cushion with the passenger's legs straddling the large cupholder that occupies the footwell.
The space is too small for a standard car seat but you could squeeze in a booster cushion, while three adults would have to squash in the back row. But having the convenience of the two rear doors will win over Mini fans.
Sitting in the premium small car segment, the Mini five-door comes with air con, cruise control and electric windows and mirrors as standard. For extras, there's such features as heads-up display ($1000), reversing camera ($750), panorama electric glass roof ($2000), LED packages ($1800-$2200) and a satnav professional system ($2700).
BMW Group NZ managing director Nina Englert said the new Mini five-door hatch was "the perfect premium small car for the family or those whose lifestyle requires extra interior space and flexibility".
To enhance the onroad performance the Cooper and Cooper S are fitted with three driving modes.
Mid is for everyday use and handy in city situations, green (as the name suggests) gives more enhanced efficiency through such functions as intelligent control of energy for auxiliaries and using the coasting mode available in automatic cars.
While in sport mode there is greater throttle, steering and automatic transmission responsiveness - though I found the ride in urban conditions too assertive and instead felt it worked better in motorway situations.
Once back in New Zealand, Driven was given the five-door Cooper manual for a week-long test drive.
On the road, the five-door doesn't feel awkward with its added length over the three-door, instead it's a fun, responsive drive with that low centre of gravity and wheel position giving a sporty ride.
The manual transmission takes a while to get used to with a slight hesitation from second to third, but kudos to having a digital readout for the six-speeder telling you what gear you're in (as fourth to six are tight ratios) and also advising you when to change up or down gear.
The negative is the price for a "five-door hatch".
For $34,990 you could get Ford's Fiesta performance ST EcoBoost manual, Peugeot's 208 five-door is $21,990, and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback starts from $46,900.
But the Mini really isn't a "hatch" in the conventional sense, it's more of a segment in itself due to its shape.
And it's that branding and history of the Mini - plus the five-door convenience - that will draw Kiwis to the car.