Test Drive: Mini 5-door 136 hp: fun and mature

The third generation of Mini produced under the BMW umbrella is available as a 5-door version intended to be more versatile alongside the 3-door, convertible, Clubman and Countryman,. We tested it for you, equipped with a 136bhp petrol engine and 6-speed dual clutch Steptronic gearbox. The Mini is a bit like the naughty kid of the family, allowed to have fun within reasonable limits, parents fully aware that eventually good manners will do the rest…

The latest restyling of the third generation Mini by BMW is marked by the adoption of a new grille with a central band. Its shape is reminiscent of the original 1959 Mini, just like the headlights.

Premium in a small format

In a very crowded market segment, the Mini is doing well being a bit apart and like a miniature BMW… compared to its rival Audi A1, for example. However, the Mini grows and is becoming more and more like an entry-level BMW, size wise. The third generation, named F56, uses the UKL1 platform and was released in 2014. The model was given a facelift in 2018 and evolved considerably again since the beginning of this year. One the one hand, this celebrates 20 years of Mini by BMW and… on the other it’s a way to keep it fresh while waiting for the next generation.

The 5-door version offers greater versatility, with better access to the rear seats, compared to the 3-door Mini. It is here in Island Blue, with a multi-coloured roof combining blue and black. It costs 510 € and brings a touch of originality to the car. However, we would prefer a glass opening roof. Wheels are 18″ with run-flat tyres.

Outside, the Mini gets a new and even more imposing front grille, with a body-coloured strip that crosses it horizontally, a new black frame and air intakes now replace the fog lights. The whole thing is supposed to be reminiscent of the original Mini’s grille and its particular shape. We still prefer the prefacelift Mini, but we understand it had to evolve to face its competitors… as they don’t rest on their laurels. The Mini now looks a bit too cartoonish for our taste and the feeling is even stronger looking at its huge mirrors! Time has come to use black instead of chrome, from the headlight rings to a whole series of finishes.

The dashboard retains a prominent central section with a multimedia screen. It too is reminiscent of the 1959 Mini with its large central speed gauge. It is easy to use thanks to a round selector located between the two front seats. The steering wheel has a nice thick rim, without being studded with buttons, we like it. The instrument cluster moves when you adjust it and is partly configurable.

Inside, a new 8.8″ central touch screen sits in the centre of the dashboard. Equipped with the now familiar 1,500 cc three-cylinder engine, the Mini produces 136 bhp between 4,400 and 6,000 rpm  and 220 Nm torque between 1,250 and 4,300 rpm, which makes this engine very alert and smooth. The whole package is homogeneous and is a good compromise for a car that weighs just over 1,200 kg. As far as prices are concerned, the 5-door Mini starts at €20,500 but can quickly become very expensive… if you let yourself loose with the extras’list. Our Copper is priced at €24,350 for the basic version. The Steptronic dual-clutch gearbox is priced at €1,890 and does not penalise acceleration (0 to 100 in 8.3 seconds), top speed (207 km/h) or CO2 emissions.

On the road, the Mini’s playful and reassuring side are shining. Steering, handling and comfort are among the car’s main qualities.

However, it is not as smooth and refined as the BMW 8-speed ZF automatic box, as we will see later.  The “Mini Yours” finish is a bit like the BMW “Individual” finish for Mini. It adds €5,600 to the base price, which is almost the same as the JCW finish (€5,800), but it is more luxurious than the latter. It includes metallic paint (Island Blue on our test model), two-tone 18″ alloy wheels and run flat tyres. The multi-ton roof is priced at €510. The interior is upholstered in black leather, as is the steering wheel. Options on the test car include the ‘Comfort Plus Pack’ with heated steering wheel, keyless access, front armrest, electric folding mirrors, heated seats and steering wheel and automatic climate control.

Our test Mini is a Cooper (136 bhp DIN three-cylinder 1,500 cm3 petrol engine). Its “Mini Yours” guise emphasizes luxury. It costs about €200 more than the JCW version (€5,600) but is more comfortable.

The ‘Driving Assistant Pack’ adds a reversing camera, radar and cruise control. In addition, our test car gets ‘Connected Navigation’, with real-time traffic information, a multi-function display and smartphone integration. Add to this the tinted rear windows and you have a Mini that costs a whopping €36,975 including VAT.

The “overhead” controls come from the aviation industry and were quite fashionable in the 1980s. In the Mini, the interior lighting controls are located there, protected by semi-circles separations. This is just one of the many details lending the Mini a unique and original personality.

I like it

This 5-door version is a real Mini and a rather fun car at that ! The engine is well adapted to the car and is more than sufficient for everyday use. On winding backroads, in “sport” mode, it takes the bends with a light turn of the wheel. Empty roundabouts are as much fun : it is as playful as it is safe. Its size also makes it easy to get about in town. The steering is direct and precise and the suspension is firm but comfortable. This chassis is a real peach and really well sorted. The interior atmosphere has a touch of class that inevitably reminds you of a downsized BMW, for good reason!

The BMW 1500 cm3 three-cylinder engine sits under the bonnet. Here, it claims 136 hp and 220 Nm over a rather large span, a guarantee of flexibility and smoothness.

Quite clever…

The sports steering wheel is thick-rimmed, easy to grip and inevitably reminiscent of a BMW. It’s not studded with buttons, the cruise control is on the left, the multimedia system buttons on the right. In addition, the instrument cluster moves with the steering wheel, which always gives a perfect vision of it. A simple feature that many manufacturers could adopt easily! The Mini also features a multitude of nods to its British origins, such as the rear lights recalling the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom…

Another original and fun detail: Great Britain’s flag, the Union Jack, is stylised on the rear lights. The Mini is British and clearly proud of its origins !

I don’t like it

On our test version, the interior was black, black, black… admittedly, it’s easier to maintain but when I got in there for the first time it felt claustrophobic. The feeling was certainly reinforced by the anthracite headliner and the dark tinted rear windows. No doubt a sunroof would have greatly improved things. Although the Mini is a premium car, some cheap details let it down : exposed door pillar trim bolts, painted metal parts visible from the inside ; flimsy (and very badly placed) front seats backrest pulling  handles or the lack of front seat belts height adjustment… something that shouldn’t cost the Earth and that could be easily shared on a whole range, couldn’t it ?

The “Mini Yours” finish offers a leather interior. The front seats have an adjustable central part to better support the passengers’ knees. When cornering, it could hold your back better, though. The Mini still has a mechanical parking brake instead of an electric one, we like that! The central control screen is easy to use and navigating around the various menus is intuitive and very well thought out.

Why I buy it

For the very “Mini” driving experience and its slightly offbeat “British” side. Even the 5-door version is still a go-kart! In a rather clogged segment, the Mini is different, sporty and fun while being reassuring…no mean fact! Apart from some details (see above), fit and finish is generally good and there is no doubt about reliability as well as reasonable maintenance costs, thanks to the BMW DNA. A 7.4 litres/ 100 km average fuel consumption for the whole of our test drive means the  be Mini is not particularly frugal… Mind you, its fun character urged us to have fun so we can live with that !  It really takes a featherlight right foot to get the “official” 6.2 l/ 100 km value . CO2 emissions are rated between 125 and 140 gr/km, which means a € 100 tax rate in Wallonia.

The rear seats are more suitable for children than for adults… especially for a long journey! The back seat offers a modularity that will often prove useful.

Why I don’t buy it

The Spettronic dual clutch gearbox! Sometimes it can be unpredictable and hesitant, is often slow and too often leaves a taste of too little. It doesn’t seem to match the qualities of the engine and the chassis. The brake pedal is rather light. Slowing the car is OK but stopping it requires much more pressure. This could prove a real problem in some circumstances.  Soundproofing could also be better, which would further enhance its premium feel.

Trunk capacity is obviously not the strong point of the Mini. However, its shape is well thought out. Using bags rather than suitcases for holiday breaks will make things easier… and keep the ladies happy!

In conclusion, the Mini allows you to be a little bit crazy while remaining reasonable and reassuring yourself. This evolution allows it to reach a certain maturity in all areas, while being one of the most pleasant cars to drive in the segment. Once driven, forever smitten! (Text : Dimitri URBAIN, photos : Pierre FONTIGNIES)

This latest restyling uses black trim, for example around the new LED headlights. Like the grille, they recall the circular shape of the original Mini ones.

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