Review of: 2015 MINI Cooper Hardtop 5 Door 5dr HB S
Mini Cooper S five-door: A little car with a little more space
By Chris Chase
Mar. 6, 2015
The driver of an oncoming Mini Cooper flashes her brights at us as we pass in the opposite direction, headed to a weekend in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal. It’s a phenomenon called the “Mini wave:” to another Mini driver, it’s a way of saying, “Hey, cool car, right?”
Of course, she had no way of knowing I was only borrowing this one. I wonder, too, whether she’d have flashed us knowing we were in the five-door model new to the Cooper line for 2015.
Pros & Cons
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Sharp handling
- + Steering feel
- - Head-up display disappears in polarized glasses
- - Rear seat space
- - Value for money
Some car people get testy when automakers mess with an iconic design that’s rooted in automotive history, as is the Mini Cooper’s. But it’s not like this is the first time BMW (who has been building the “modern” Cooper since 2001) has played around with the Mini formula, or even the most extreme manipulation: in 2011 they stretched a Cooper-esque body around a crossover platform to create the Countryman. Surely the simple addition of rear passenger doors to the Cooper hatchback wouldn’t cause as much consternation among Mini purists.
I’d hardly count myself among them: I’ve always considered the lack of a four-door option this car’s main shortcoming, so I, for one, happily welcome the two extra portals.
Regardless of how you feel about what two more doors do to the look of the Cooper’s exterior, it’s the car’s interior that benefits most. The five-door adds 73 mm in wheelbase, translating into a bit more rear seat legroom, and cargo space increases by 67 litres to 278. There’s no real interior packaging magic at work here, however: only small people will really be comfortable in the back, but leggy riders might be most annoyed by the narrow rear door openings.
It had been a while since I’d tested a Cooper in winter, and I was reminded of how narrow the cabin is for two wearing winter gear. The centre armrest, included in the ‘Loaded’ package fitted to our tester, is not wide enough to be shared, and the driver who surrenders access to a front passenger will find said pal’s arm gets in the way of working the manual shifter.
Standard tech kit echoes that of the three-door model: USB and auxiliary inputs for the stereo, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and satellite radio. Our tester came with the ‘Wired’ package, which bundles navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio and an eight-inch display screen with touch controller.
That last item is a cool one, letting you “write” letters and numbers on the top of the control wheel with your finger when entering addresses in the nav system, for example. Borrowed from other BMW vehicles, this feature works brilliantly.
Other tech options here included adjustable suspension firmness, intelligent keyless entry, auto-dimming mirror, rain-sensing wipers and automatic climate control, all part of that ‘Loaded’ group; the ‘Visibility’ package brought a backup camera and front-and-rear park assist. Also included is a head-up display that, as in the Mazda3, shines a digital speed readout onto a screen that slides up out of the dash ahead of the driver. I’ll never question the value of a HUD, but this one wasn’t much use to me in daytime drives, as it was unreadable through polarized sunglass lenses.
As always, this is where a Mini Cooper earns its highest marks. Last year’s redesign brought new engines for base and S models; in my S tester, the motor is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that adds eight horsepower and a more significant 30 lb-ft of torque over the old Mini’s 1.6-litre turbo.
That advantage is muted by this car’s heavier body, but you still feel the effect of the lower torque peak, improving off-the-line performance and all but eliminating turbo lag—the time it takes for the turbo to get to work after you’ve mashed the gas pedal.
The Cooper S gets shorter gearing (meaning higher engine speed at a given road speed) than the less-powerful base Cooper (which uses a three-cylinder turbo mill), and the difference is remarkable. This car is a bit noisier at highway speeds as a result, but it’s a fine trade-off, as the gearing gives this car the zippy performance that’s very much lacking with the smaller motor.
No matter the engine, go-kart handling is still part of the Mini formula, but overall, this car is more grown-up than the last generation. I’m of two minds about that: the new car’s refinement makes it a better daily driver, but the old Cooper S was more fun to throw around.
Our tester’s adjustable suspension is a cool thing in a relatively inexpensive car. It works in sport mode (activated by the ring around the base of the shifter, which also sharpens throttle response), and firms up the ride very noticeably. It’s a bit too firm for Ottawa’s frost-heaved roads, though; the nice thing is you can customize sport mode’s setting to work on either throttle or suspension, or both.
With the manual transmission, Cooper S fuel consumption ratings are 10.0/7.0 L/100 km (city/highway); in a week of cold weather, my tester averaged 10.6 in city driving and 7.9 on the highway.
More doors equals more money: the five-door body adds about $1,300 to the price of both Cooper and Cooper S, the former starting at $22,240 and the latter at $26,740. My S five-door tester worked out to $34,330 with options.
A Hyundai Veloster Turbo costs less than $27,000 and comes standard with many items that are extra on the Cooper S, but it’s not as sharp to drive. Ford’s Fiesta ST, at about $25,500, is a great handler, but comes with a hard ride and huggy sport seats that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Mini strikes a good balance between those two other cars; if you’re after a truly sporty, city-friendly car, the Cooper S is not a bad deal if you keep the bottom line below $30,000.
Watch out for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, though. Both are bigger and roomier than the Cooper S, the Focus significantly more powerful, and it’s not even $2,000 to move up to the Ford, the pricier of the two.
A little car with a little more space, the Cooper five-door makes a compelling argument for itself by adding practicality without watering down the car’s fun-loving personality. Cute styling and the S model’s sharp drive remain the big draws, and the 2014 redesign’s added refinement doesn’t hurt, but as sporty hatches go, a GTI is a better all-rounder at a palatable price.