Remember all the jokes about having to rebrand itself to “Mega” when BMW undertook the Mini revival? Yeah, you probably won’t because we were the only ones that cracked it and back then our sense of humour was very much an acquired taste.
However, looking back on the development of the saga, kind of feels like it would’ve made for quite a punchline… right? See what we mean about “an acquired taste?” Your loss.
Moving on then. The first of the BMW Minis shared the iconic design cues from the Alec Issigonis original but were enlarged on a Xerox machine for a larger platform. It was given a onceover with a modern brush on Photoshop to bring it up to date yet retain that unmistakable Mini appearance. Many purists argued that diluted the ethos of Issigonis version but cosmetics was just one factor in the Minis ability to bring joy to anyone. There’s the go-kart handling as well but we’ll get to that.
Now, that modern vehicles have grown considerably over their predecessors is common knowledge. What might surprise you however is that the Mini has actually grown over its original as compared to other illustrious automotive nameplates.
Naturally, the Mini revival spawned many variants because BMW has to get their money back. That brought us the Mini Cooper 5-Door, Clubman, Countryman and Convertible alongside the original now dubbed the Cooper 3-Door.
All’s well and good. Money needs to be made and five-door hatches offer practicality that the majority of motorists require on a daily basis. Hatches are a proven method of indulgence for those that desire a dose of fun in their daily drive but with a little utility thrown into the mix.
We had a sample of the updated Cooper S 5-Door and on our shores, it goes up against the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line and the Volvo V40 T4 R Design. The competition are all larger and offer much more usability on a daily basis yet are distinctively fun in their own ways. This makes the Cooper S 5-Door more of an indulgence in this segment and will need to work a little harder to make a case for itself.
This is the facelift Cooper S 5-Door with the new seven-speed dual clutch transmission as the highlight of the refresh. Being a five-door, you’ll get an increased wheelbase of 72mm that opens up an extra 61mm more interior width and an additional 15mm of headroom. Boot space is unsurprisingly lightyears behind the competition.
Designers had to stretch most of its dimensions to accommodate the rear doors and the iconic Mini silhouette takes on some unsightly bumps as a result. There’s no avoiding that. However, those rear doors are miniscule by comparison to anything else in the five-door hatch segment and ultimately make you wonder if all that effort was worth it.
Ingress and egress to the rear seats for those above average height give you an insight into the world of clown cars. The good news is that once you’ve contorted yourself past the rear doors, interior room is more than adequate even for a six-footer. Round peg into a square hole but at least the compartment is roomy on the inside if you remain in the seated position at all times.
Although it’s difficult to ignore the snug interior, the rest of it retains that quintessential quirkiness that we’ve come to expect from Oxford. Plastic quality might make you cringe but if tactile feel is going to be on the lower end of the spectrum, at least make sure it looks good. Mini aces that.
Almost certainly deemed eccentric on any other marque, Mini still manages to pull it off with the jet-fighter style toggle switches and the dinnerplate infotainment screen. The instrument cluster that moves with the steering column is a personal favourite that more cars should adopt as it stays within the driver’s line of sight at all times.
The Cooper S 5-Door sold here gets the John Cooper Works (JCW) treatment sans the power. So, further eccentricating the interior are the JCW steering wheel, snug JCW sports seats with leather cross punch upholstery and Alcantra in the centre pads as well black checkered interior surface and Anthracite headliner.
That 6.5-inch touchscreen dinnerplate for an infotainment HQ is easy to navigate with the iDrive-like controller and features the basic USB + Bluetooth connectivity but lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; especially accentuated by the fact that the Golf GTI packs them.
Exterior wise, the car gets the catchy Union Jack taillights and the aforementioned JCW touch in the form of an aerodynamic kit. Filling in the four corners are 17-inch JCW Track rims in gloss black.
Now we get into the fun bits. As the automotive world continues its paradigm shift towards smaller turbocharged engines, it’s a relieving sight to see a fairly large capacity 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four powered the Cooper S. Cue the “no replacement for displacement” quote.
The TwinPower mill makes 192hp and 280 Nm of torque. Let’s not forget that new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, indicated with a new lever that isn’t exactly the most ergonomic but sacrifices must be made for hipness… right?
Any Mini, as pointless as it seems, must always handle like a Mini. There’s no disappointed faces here, only smiles perpetuated by that term the marque loves to use; “Maximum Go-Kart feel.”
Frankly they can beat that marketing horse until its dead because Minis truly are the closest you can get to a go-kart on the roads without going down the Lotus route.
You might have frowned loading your cargo in the boot and your passengers wouldn’t have been smiling either getting in the rear but once you hit those B-roads, those frowns begin to turn upside down.
Communication with the front wheels via the steering eclipses that of Taylor Swift and any of her exes. The ride’s a little on the harsh side, that goes without saying. Mini has yet to master the black art of keeping the damping balanced between handling and comfort. Still, let’s not forget that the first gen BMW Minis didn’t understand what damping meant.
Having a larger displacement turbo mill keeps things punchy when floored and easy during the less hectic parts of the commute. That new gearbox is refined, quick and doesn’t exhibit notable amounts of the typical dual-clutch judder. The switch from the traditional auto to this is seamless and almost goes unnoticed, which is really what you want as it means job well done.
So, the Cooper S 5-Door sacrifices some practicality to preserve the Mini spirit of being funky and a hoot to drive. Fair enough. Will it better its peers at anything? Probably looking more adorable.
Remember when we called the Mini an indulgence in its segment; there for it’s got its work cut out for it? Well, the Cooper S 5-Door comes in at RM259,888. Here’s the caveat, the Countryman Cooper S Sport goes for RM248,888; a whole RM11,000 less for something a lot more practical. The latter is larger in every aspect with negligible sacrifice on that Mini feel.
So, in conclusion the Mini Countryman is a logical choice; a better bang for your buck in every aspect against the Cooper 5-Door. Then again, buying a Mini was never about logic or value.
Specification: Mini Cooper S 5-Door JCW
Engine 1,998cc, DOHC, 16-valve, 4-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged, variable valve timing | Transmission Seven-speed wet dual-clutch, front-wheel drive | Power & Torque 192hp @ 5,000rpm / 280Nm @1,350rpm | Price RM259,889 | Score 6.5/10