The people’s car in the land of the Queen, MINI started life over 55 years from now as a small, economical, front wheel driven hatchback under the British Motor Company. But, these were just the humble beginnings of something that would turn out to be very big in the future. Er; small! We mean something that would turn into an icon revered globally. So, the MINI lived on as the humble car manufactured later on by British Leyland Group, then the Rover Group and more recently acquired by the not so British BMW Group. Having made a German comeback in 2000, the third generation MINI made its global debut last year and India finally got the model earlier this year. With some novelty underneath and two extra doors, the go-kart with doors has changed in more ways than one. But is it still as fun as you and I hope? Well, we asked the good Samaritans at BMW to let us find that out and they handed us the keys to the stunningly beautiful MINI Cooper D 5-door. An example of changing times! Here’s what we think about this British beauty.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
“Stunning” – is the answer for every time someone asks us this question. In its third generation, the MINI Cooper D 5-door has grown more retro but by adding several modern elements to the design. It still is the bodacious, curvy themed British car from the era gone by, but the minimalistic lines add a lot of appeal to the design. Look at the car from the front fascia and there is nothing to distinguish from its 3-door sibling with the circular headlamps equipped with LED lights and fog lights that offer excellent illumination.
The same applies for the rear as well, with the curved LED tail lights standing out completely on a raven night. Irrespective of where we took the car, heads turned in large numbers and the MINI manages to make you feel like a celebrity without much effort. You have people posing with the hatchback while some did greet us with up occasional thumbs up. Our test car was done up in the beautiful Electric Blue with a contrasting white roof and ORVMs, that only made it perfectly unique amidst the crowds. While the Mercedes A-Class may be a lot more premium than the MINI, but the latter definitely steals the show when parked together.
Being the first 5-door MINI, it is until you turn to the sides that you realize there are 2 extra doors this time. But, it isn’t just the only change here. Compared to the 3-door Cooper D, the hatchback is longer at 3982 mm and also gets an additional width and height of 11 mm respectively. The increase in height has also opened up more headroom inside the cabin. MINI offers up to 12 colour options on the Cooper D 5-door and you are certain to find something that suits your taste. Then, there are a plethora of accessories including the panoramic sunroof, alloy wheels, racing stripes and a whole lot more. The silver finished multi-spoke alloy wheels on our MINI complimented the car very well.
HOW IS THE CABIN?
The first thing that you end up noticing when you get inside a MINI, is that it has a cabin like no other. Unlike the regular car cabins which feature symmetrical lines, the MINI is all circular inside and the third generation model continues the legacy with panache. The cabin is finished in black and beige with brown inserts; while material quality is simply phenomenal throughout. MINI has retained several of the identifiable fixtures including toggle switches and the large centre console. The multitude of ambient lighting options will put some of the best hotels to shame.
Unlike its predecessor, the speedometer has now been shifted to be in front of the driver, while a new 8.8-inch TFT display houses (not touchscreen) in the centre showcasing all the info you need including navigation, infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, Driving Excitement, Social media display (MINI Connected) and is a handy unit. The infotainment unit is controlled by the iDrive dial like on other BMWs and is very easy to get used to. Special mention goes to the Driving mode control located as a ring around the gearshift lever and is very innovatively incorporated. Subtle touches like the LED ring around the centre console looks excellent as it lights up when the car is revved or when the blower speeds is increased.
While the front doors are large and wide, the same can’t be said about the rear ones. The 72 mm longer wheelbase has opened more legroom, but the puny rear doors don’t help much to ease entry and exit. The smaller glasshouse area also makes the small cabin feel even smaller even though there is decent amount of headroom at the back. If that feels troublesome, look at this way, the 3-door MINI makes you almost crawl into the cramped rear seat. The rear seats here though best accommodates pre-teens and the occasional adult without much hassle. It’s still a cramped cabin though, something tall occupants will identify with. The 278-litre boot space is rather spacious (for its size) with no spare wheel on offer and easily gobbles up 2 medium sized bags. The rear seats can also be folded in a 60:40 split to further open up space.
You also get the optional head up display (HUD) unit that is extremely beneficial and something we would recommend you opt for. The seats provide excellent lateral support and the adjustable thigh support for the front seats definitely gets brownie points from us. Back support is adequate and the seats have snug fit for passengers of all sizes. However, electrical adjustment on the front seats is sorely missed. The dual-tone fabric upholstery though top notch may not appeal to everyone, and you can opt for leather-upholstered seats instead that come with a host of options. The best part on a MINI is the host of customization options (of course at an extra cost) that allows you to configure the cabin to match exactly your tastes.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
While the purists may consider the 3-door Cooper S to be their Achilles heel, the MINI 5-door diesel should certainly not be under estimated by any means for being just a premium practical hatch. Keeping all its values intact, the car boasts of superior performance levels on tarmac from an otherwise humble motor. The hatch uses a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo diesel engine (a first for the MINI universe) that is tuned to belt out 114 HP of power available at 4000 RPM and a healthy 270 Nm of torque at 1750 RPM. A bit noisy than expected, the growl is something does grow on you. As for the power figures, they certainly translate a lot better on road.
The refined motor cuts out turbo lag effectively and there is ample of power across the rev range to play with. With function in place, the fun aspect is very much intact as the 5-door does quick gearshifts, thanks to the smooth shifting 6-speed automatic Steptronic transmission. Our test car was riding on 16-inch alloy wheels with wide 195/55 runflat rubber that offers adequate amount of traction but do take a toll on ride comfort.
The MINI 5-door diesel comes with multiple driving modes including Sport, Mid and Green that change the driving package on the hatchback. Everyone’s favourite, the Sport mode is what you expect of it. Move the switch to left and the car adjusts itself to the stiffest suspensions setup, a sharper steering wheel and upgraded damper settings. Power delivery comes in a lot of faster in the Sport mode and the upshifts too are quicker with each gear redlining. Launches are quick as well and we hit the 0-100 kmph sprint in 9.4 seconds (MINI claims in 9.5 seconds), while the potent mid range will see the numbers climb easily over 130 kmph without any hassle. Floor the gas further and the MINI says that the 5-door will hit a top speed of 202 kmph. Pretty sick eh! We were also quite happy with the braking performance of this Brit beauty with all four disc brakes working effectively to stop the car. The brake does take some time to get used to once you get past a slight spongy feel.
However, if you choose to exploit the Sports mode only on the occasional track days, but still want the MINI 5-door as your daily driver, the Green mode is your thing and helps go easy on the fuel bills. The mode adjusts the cars’ settings to achieve a more eased out ride but without hampering much on the performance front. You really don’t feel any noticeable difference in performance, but there is some lag below 1500 RPM, which takes time to get past. Nevertheless, the Green mode is more about minimalism and adds a new bar on the display that will tell you how much fuel you can actually extract from the car, while also showing the difference in fuel consumption between the Green mode and the Sport mode. There is also the auto start-stop function to further improve efficiency numbers. In the most sedate driving style possible, an ARAI certified fuel efficiency figure of 21.1 kmpl is achievable. The real time figure during our test was between 10.8 kmpl to 13.4 kmpl. However, drive the hatch with ease and the car will easily return between 14-15 kmpl.
Ride and handling have been the strongest points of a MINI, putting it up there with the legends. The 5-door MINI also lives up to the name and manages to retain a lot of that precision based handling from its 3-door sibling. As MINI puts it, the ‘go-kart’ like handling is retained at optimum levels and giving you the maximum feel is a very responsive steering wheel at work. This unit is certain to put a huge grin on your face as it responds perfectly to driver inputs. The small unit made maneuvering within city limits easy for us, but did feel a tad bit weighed up even at low speeds. At high speeds though, we have absolutely no complaints from this unit and the car was extremely stable at speeds over a hundred. The best part is that the steering wheel is equally responsive in the Green mode, which makes the city commute fun too.
The MINI 5-door is stiff in setup and that does affect the ride quality. Do not expect to glide over potholes, as the car will make their presence felt inside the cabin with loud thuds. Body roll is non-existent on the MINI and even the sharpest corners are dealt with ease. The run flat tyres too make sure that ride quality is compromised in the interest of performance. However, it is not something that we are complaining about, the stiff suspension setup attributes to better cornering abilities while added electronic goodies like DSC, DTC and ELDC kick in to keep the car in place in the sharpest of turns. You can also switch off the traction control if you want to have some unadulterated fun with the car. In fact, MINI has improved the ride quality to be more comfortable on the new generation version compared to the older model that felt like a complete saddle sore. If you opt for the MINI Driving modes package, the 5-door will also come with Dynamic Damper Control (DDC) that further optimizes your car’s damper settings for the quintessential go-karting feel.
IS IT SAFE?
The third generation MINI Cooper D scored 4 stars at the Euro NCAP crash test and while it may not have achieved a complete 5 star score like that on the predecessor, it still says something about the safety aspect of this super mini. The Germans have kitted up the Cooper 5-door well with a weight and crash optimized body structure designed to absorb maximum impact upon collision. Safety is enhanced with 6 airbags including front driver, passenger and side curtain airbags, crash sensors, ABS, Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) as well as Electronic Limited Slip Differential (ELDC). All seats get 3-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, while there is also the inclusion of the ISOFIX seat for the children’s seat attachment. The run flat indicator keeps you informed of the condition of the tyres.
Price of the 2015 MINI Cooper D 5-Door – Rs. 35,20,000/- (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Should I buy one?
The entire point of buying a MINI in India has always been about making a statement; a statement that says you are rich, have a taste for the unconventional and something that sets you apart from your father’s four-door luxury sedan/SUV. However, the MINI Cooper 5-door here offers a little more than that; retaining the same attention seeking styling and dynamic handling, but with more practicality. The longer wheelbase has freed up more space inside and the extra doors ensure ingress is easier. So, if you appreciate the Brit roots, German engineering and iconic design language with a spoonful of practicality, spending close to Rs. 47 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai) on the MINI Cooper D 5-door seems wise. However, if it is real driving fun that you crave for, we will suggest you look up to the original and absolutely bonkers 3-door MINI Cooper S.
What We Like –
1. Manual handbrake lever that keeps the go-kart feel intact, inspiring you to take J-turns more often.
2. The unlimited ambient lighting options that sets the mood right for any occasion.
3. The styling makes the MINI 5-door stand out and despite being small, the rear doors add dollops of practicality to the cabin in an Indian setup.
4. You don’t need to purchase the Countryman to get a practical MINI in your garage.
What We Don’t Like –
1. The cooler goodies are available as optional extras and do escalate the cost of the MINI by a substantial margin over the base price.
2. Not for the family, but for the soul.
3. Manually adjustable front seats on a Rs. 47 lakh car feels disappointing.
Here’s a special picturesque gallery of the MINI Cooper D 5 Door, in its urban habitat: