MODERN reincarnations have a habit of being somewhat disappointing, but Mini has managed to remove much of the bad on its contemporary offerings.
Under the BMW umbrella, Mini still has the traditional three-door hatch, but the marque now also has a coupe, convertible, Clubman van, Paceman and Countryman SUV.
And now for good measure, there is a five-door hatch derivative.
Grant: Well, it still looks quintessentially Mini due to the fact everything in front of the A-pillar is identical with the three-door, but the back end has been stretched and lengthened for more interior space.
The two additional doors are stubby but it certainly makes life easier getting the kids in and out.
Vani: There is something about a Mini that says fun for me and this one, albeit with the extra doors, is no different. True, it was nice to be able to get the kids buckled in without too much of a crick in the neck but even though it feels more spacious than you would think, there is not much leg-room even for a child behind the driver. The retro-inspired interior is a dream though, so much nicer than the standard fare put out by small cars these days.
G: Having the kids needle you in the back is like a budget massage function.
But you're spot-on with the interior. It's vastly improved over the previous iteration and thankfully the speedo is now in front of the driver rather than central in the dash.
The toggle in the centre to start and stop the car is quirky but cool, and there are good cup holders up front with one in the rear.
V: I like how it has that cockpit feel to it - not that I have flown a plane - but the shape of the switchgear is cool and the quality not bad either.
Obvious care has been taken with design with the dash sweeping seamlessly around to the front doors. I loved the 16.5cm info-tainment screen which looks super-sized but not garish and the graphics are great too. The head-up display on our Cooper S was a nice bonus and better in terms of information and display quality than I have seen in a number of expensive luxury cars.
G: You may not have piloted an aircraft, but this Cooper S version of the five-door feels like it has the ability to take off. And that's when the head-up display comes in handy to avoid attention from the red and blue double-bubble. One squirt of the right pedal and the little hatch fires like a rocket.
It feels faster because your rear end is so close to the ground, and that typically heavy steering is testament the "go-kart" feel is more than just marketing speak.
V: I agree. It needs little urging at all to gather its head, the clutch takes at a comfortable height and the gearbox is as smooth as can be.
And powerful. It's true what they say about dynamite and small packages. We had no trouble at all even under load up steep hills and certainly not while overtaking or merging when an extra burst is called for. And doesn't it stick to the corners! It was a thrill really, enough even to drown out the incessant kids chatter from the back seat. It is so easy to get caught up in the driving pleasure - I even relished a trip to the supermarket. Sad, I know.
G: If that's sadness sign me up for some Prozac, I'm addicted. The longer body has made no difference to the fun and enjoyment on which the Mini ethos is based.
The trade-off is the harsh ride. You bang and crash over undulations and my butt started to feel numb after a highway journey. The cabin can also be a little noisy, although you do forgive it pretty quickly once you punt it into a bend.
V: Maybe your bottom needs a bit more padding, but I agree the cabin is a tad noisy. The Cooper S also gives you an option of three drive modes - Mid, Sport and Green. I often find these a bit gimmicky and needless to say ours was in Sport for most of the week so fuel use was not that close to the official 7.1 litres/100km. I know that Mid and Green modes improve fuel efficiency and are better for the earth and all that, but is it so bad to leave one's environmental conscience to recycling and enjoy a car like this by driving it for fun?
G: Nope, plant some trees at home to offset things, get into Sport and let the good times roll. That Green functionality is just there to keep the tree-huggers happy and gain a better figure on the windscreen sticker.
It's a useful little chariot, probably not the first pick for those with a growing family due to the compact dimensions and small boot, but still it's a heap of fun and resonates personality.
V: You're right. Kudos to Mini for putting up a highly credible alternative but even though we managed to fit the school and soccer bags and of course a smattering of the Barbie collection and a handful of those bloody dominoes from Woollies (now that's a pain in the butt), it's still just too small, unfortunately, for a family. More's the pity.
It lacks for nothing in terms of on-trend comforts and top notch safety features and is appealingly sassy too. Maybe the other half can transport the kids around and I can enjoy this sporty hatchback to my heart's content.
What matters most
What we liked: Retro interior that works, Sport mode, ability in the twisties.
What we'd like to see: More rear legroom, sharper pricing.
Warranty and servicing: Three year 100,000km. It has condition based servicing, but bank on about 15,000km or annually. Mini offers a TLC servicing pack $850 which covers the basics for five years or 70,000km.
Verdict: Four stars.
Model: Mini 5 Door Cooper S.
Details: Five-door five-seat front-wheel drive hatchback.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 141kW @ 4700-6000rpm and peak torque of 280Nm @ 1250rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.0 litres/100km (combined average, manual), 5.5L/100km (a).
Performance: 0-100kmh 6.9 (m), 6.8 (a).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $38,050 (m), Sports auto $2650.
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