Review: MINI Cooper S 5-door (F55) – Fun, But Its Newer Siblings Are Better

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Review: MINI Cooper S 5-door (F55) – Fun, But Its Newer Siblings Are Better

Building on a strong following as well as global acceptance of MINI models since BMW reintroduced the brand in 2001, the MINI hatch has always been a three-door. Those who wanted a larger MINI model could opt for the Countryman or the wider Clubman. This third generation MINI hatch, codename F56, introduced a long-wheelbase version and with that, two additional rear doors.

Specifications for MINI Cooper S 5-door (F55):

  • Engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinder transverse, turbocharged petrol
  • Power: 192 hp at 4,700 - 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 280 Nm at 1,250 - 4,750  rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed torque converter automatic, front wheel drive
  • Safety: Six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, reverse camera, ISOFIX, ABS with BA and EBD
  • Price: RM 239,888 (on-the-road without insurance)
  • Assembly: Fully imported from Plant Oxford, UK

Overview

The MINI 5 Door (codename F55) was launched in Malaysia back in November 2014, with a sole variant of the Cooper S (our review vehicle here) with a price of RM239,888, which is exactly RM10,000 more than the three-door Cooper S. MINI Malaysia then introduced the Cooper 1.5-litre three cylinder six-months later, with the current price starting from RM193,888.

There is no mystery employed to create the extra space, so unsurprisingly, the MINI 5 Door grows in size against the conventional three-door hatch. The wheelbase is now 72mm longer (2,567mm), the overall length has been stretched out by 161mm (4,005 mm), and the roof a gentler increase of 10mm to 1,425mm against the three-door’s 1,415mm.

Exterior

The designers and engineers have certainly done a great job in transforming the three-door to a five-door, as a high majority of the passengers we drove around were surprise to find the existence of the rear doors.

Both the three-door and five-door share many of the same Cooper S design elements, such as dual-tone body colour, Cooper S front bumper with brake cooling ducts, rear bumper with centrally aligned dual exhaust tips, rear spoiler, 17-inch wheels with Dunlop run-flat tyres, and bonnet stripes.

Speaking of the bonnet, the little scoop is fake. There is a honeycomb textured trim in the slot, with no opening for airflow to the engine bay. Why is it there? Well, the 2005 Cooper S had a scoop for the intercooler and MINI designers have kept the scoop as an identifier for the Cooper S look and identity since the second generation.   

Red ‘S’ markings are found on the radiator grille, tail gate and side fender trim or ‘side scuttles’ in MINI-speak.

One major difference between the two body-designs is the doors. The three-door has frameless doors, while the MINI 5 Door has framed doors. Does it matter? Well, one might perceive the design incorporating a door/glass frame might improve in wind noise insulation.   

Interior

The F56/F55 generation MINI was a major step forward in interior design and feel. Soft-touch plastics are more abundant, weighted controls, and a high resolution central display really make the cabin feel premium and bespoke rather than playful.

One favourite we have on the many metallic toggle switches is the dedicated switch for changing the colour of the ambient light. One can just keep changing the colours without the need to dive deep into the display menu.

The idea of dedicated rear-door access to a MINI hatch might seem like a great idea to “increase opportunity for entry into MINI experience”, but in practice, it certainly didn’t feel that way.

The rear doors are miniature in size (but hefty in weight), with an opening size barely large enough for adults to comfortably ingress.  The seatback is actually behind the C-pillar, meaning egress requires one to move the body ahead of the vehicle’s frame and literally climb out of the rear seats.

Once seated at the back, occupants do get a good amount of headroom and legroom. Space is actually generous, just the access port into that space is quite an effort, given they are dedicated doors.  

Meanwhile, the extra rear overhang has opened up a further 67 litres of boot space for a total of 278 litres (30% over the three-door hatch). Fold the 60:40 split seats, and there’s a fair 943 litres.

Driving Experience

The additional bodywork and doors translate to just an additional 65 kg in weight. This has not in any way blunted the performance of the MINI 5 Door. Century sprint is just one tenth slower, completed in 6.8 seconds.

If the Cooper S had a choice in being in a normal, default mode, Sports mode should be the normal-mode. The exhaust is definitely louder, even at idle. Some fancy trickery within the exhaust system makes the Cooper S much louder, complemented by nice burping of the exhaust at gear upshifts as well as pops and crackles on deceleration.

A lot of electronic controls in the braking system (Electronic Differential Lock Control, Performance Control, and Cornering Brake Control) certainly increase the cornering and grip limits of the MINI 5 Door, subtlely without the driver feeling the systems intervention. There are no cars at this price range that offers cornering experience like a MINI.  

Comfort (or the lack of it)

 So far, so good on the MINI 5 door. Plenty of features, looks so good even passengers didn’t know it has rear doors. One thing that the engineers place more attention on during the development of the third generation MINI is the ride and comfort.

The talented chassis with its sports suspension just turn-ins to every command of the driver. However, on broken road surfaces around the Klang Valley, the sports suspension paired with 45-series run-flat tyres still transmit too much into the entire cabin.

Perhaps it is a relative performance gain - the comfort levels are still better than the previous generation MINI hatch. Nonetheless, occupants during the drive did mention of the jarring ride even on speed breakers.

The door frames that we mentioned earlier, did not improve the quietness, as wind noise is quite apparent at speeds from 90 km/h. 

Running Cost

Covering a total distance of over 500 kilometres with a mix of everything (traffic jams, highways, cruise to the airport, and spirited drive on the twisties) the MINI 5 Door averaged a respectable 9.7 km/litre. Buyers of new MINI models from MINI Malaysia are also entitled to a 4-year, unlimited mileage warranty with free schedule maintenance.

The free scheduled service of up to 4 years or 60,000 km covers maintenance items consisting of engine oil, oil filters, air filters, micro filters, spark plugs and brake fluid.  

MINI Malaysia now offers a more flexible MINI ownership through the Full Circle Programme. It offers customers to customize their settlement options which in return offers a lower monthly instalment and shorter loan tenures.

Conclusion

Since its initial launch in late 2014, MINI has introduced new 5-door models of its line-up, with the latest being the locally-assembled MINI Countryman Plug-in hybrid and Cooper S Sports from RM245,888. If crossover/SUV design is not to your liking, MINI still offers the unique, one-of-a-kind Clubman with dual opening tail gate (barn doors in MINI-speak) from RM257,888. These two are built on a wider chassis (+73mm) with even higher rooflines (+16mm). Choosing a large MINI has never been so difficult.

The MINI 5 Door might have lost its appeal after the introduction of the new Clubman and the new Countryman. They both are fun-to-drive like a typical MINI, with the characteristic ‘go-kart’ handling and responsiveness but with a higher degree of comfort dialed into the suspension. While the MINI 5 Door shares many of the same good looks and proportions of the three-door, the practicality of having rear doors come into question.  

Whatever body design and model the customer chooses, MINI still gets the net gain as competitors do not have products that are as iconic as the MINI brand and driving experience.

Gallery: Review: MINI Cooper S 5-door (F55) – Fun, But Its Newer Siblings Are Better



Siew Weng

Siew Weng

Weng loves the technical bits of the automobile, and even more fascinated on the reasons the designer created the crease or fold, as well as innovative use of existing systems to execute new features. Prior to being in the content creation field, Weng was part of the product life cycle management team for a few automotive brands.


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