This was clearly seen in the second model to be introduced in the new MINI range — a five-door model.
This is a completely new model addition to the MINI family and is not to be mistaken for the wagon-like Clubman or the Countryman.
The MINI 5-Door is actually developed as a bigger version of the three-door model without looking that much larger dimensionally to capture the interest of those who would want such convenience, in particular the family types.
Yes, the 5-Door has a longer wheelbase of 2,657mm (+72mm) and adds another 161mm in body length at 3,982mm but the designers have kept the roof similar in length to the three-door by adopting a sloped C-pillar.
This has allowed the provision of rear seats to accommodate three people with an improved legroom of 72mm, 15mm better headroom and 61mm increase in interior width or better elbow room.
Externally, the increase in body width and height is the same at 11mm, keeping to the minimal expansion objective of keeping the five-door as compact looking as possible.
The rear seatrest is split 60:40 as the compact nature of the MINI does not accommodate the 40:20:40 design currently featured in the BMW range.
Moreover, as the 5-Door had impressed on us, the image and character have to be consistent with the MINI profile as these are the traits that endear them to the people who subscribe to the brand.
Similarly, the same is said of the dynamic way the MINI should perform even though its powertrain and the platform may be shared with some BMW models.
The engineers had to ensure that the MINI delivers the driving personae that loyal buyers are accustomed to and not a car that reminds them of something else, even if it is a BMW.
This is the reason why the 5-Door and the new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer are completely different vehicles even though they share a similar platform and engineering.
That was our conclusion after having driven the 5-Door in Britain, exploring the winding back roads in the Oxford area, crisscrossing mostly farmlands: the MINI range is built at a plant in Oxford and the three-millionth car rolled off the assembly plant recently.
Likewise, MINI chose Henley as the focal point of the drive experience for a symbolic reason: it was about 70km away that Sir Alex Issigonis first introduced the Mini in 1959.
Two variants of the 5-Door (there are six in all) were provided for the international media drive experience and both were Cooper S versions; one had the petrol 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and the other was the Cooper SD with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel.
These power units, with MINI TwinPower turbo technology, Double Vanos and Valvetronic variable valve control, may look similar to their BMW counterparts but they come with different tuning to suit the MINI motoring performance.
This is obvious in the power output with the MINI petrol 2.0-litre four-cylinder delivering 192bhp and 280Nm of torque (we chose this variant instead of the diesel as the latter would not be made available here).
Though the output may be less compared to the same displacement unit powering the 2 Series Active Tourer, the power-to-weight ratio is in the favour of the Cooper S to measure up nicely to its sportier outlook.
As the Cooper S variant provided was an automatic (to make it easier to drive for those from left hand drive countries), it came with the six-speed Steptronic with Sport mode and steering wheel paddle shifters.
In acceleration, the Cooper S didn’t disappoint as it picked up the pace quickly and when Sport mode was chosen, we had the pleasure of hearing the exhaust pressure kick-back on accelerator pedal lift-offs.
The burbling exhaust sound is not loud as the tail-end exhaust unit is not too big, but the mild pop-pop audible note should still go down well for those who like this sporty element in their driving experience.
MINI prides its cars on its go-kart feeling and the Cooper S gave us an excellent example of that experience: we could relate it to the same thrilling drive we enjoyed not too long ago in the BMW M3 and M4 cars.
The Cooper S simply hugged the roads without betraying any intention to break away or cut loose as we tore through corners with fair abandonment, given the unfamiliar narrow country roads and the inconsistent tarmac surfaces.
For a car of its low ride height, there was even less tendency for the body to lean any more than necessary, keeping its poise and stride well in check to shore up our confidence.
The tyres fitted were 205/40 R18 Dunlop Sport Maxx and they too complemented the front MacPherson struts and rear five-link suspension in this dynamic role.
Needless to say, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is part and parcel, and we could feel it controlling the front wheels via the brakes to counter any torque steer or wheel spins on loose or damp surfaces during initial hard acceleration.
Ride was on the firm side, being a little jolting over dips and bumps, but was generally comfortable for all on board.
MINI has changed the way the instruments are located on the dashboard, with the large central round module now serving as a multi-info display.
The speedometer (calibrated in mph for the British market) takes dominance in the section in front of the driver, with the tachometer in the half-moon overlap design.
Of course, we preferred to use the Head-up Display that is adjustable for height as we liked to keep our eyes on the unfamiliar roads.
The start/stop feature comes in the form of a toggle switch at the bottom of the central dashboard area, a nice change from the push button facility commonly used.
The seats, front and rear, are generally a little short on thigh support, which is not unexpected for a compact car, but support was good as none of us felt the strain after more than two hours on the road for the two drive sessions.
Wind noise intrusion was nicely filtered during the highway drives but road roar was clearly heard, albeit at a controlled level.
This, apparently, appeared to be the audible experience that comes as part of the MINI character for want of a more involved drive.
The luggage area is adequate with almost 280 litres of space (it accommodated our media team’s three bags with room to spare) and extended storage goes beyond threefold with the rear seatrests folded away.
Adding two more doors has certainly not taken the driving fun out of this new model but has instead added to its charm and social convenience.
Naturally, it is already generating a lot of interest and MINI expects the 5-Door to be warmly accepted in markets the world over.
Engine: 1,998cc, TwinPower turbocharger technology, direct injection, water-cooled inline-4
Maximum Power: 192bhp from 4,700rpm to 6,000rpm
Maximum Torque: 280Nm at 1,250 to 4,550rpm (300Nm with Overboost)
Transmission: Six-speed Step-tronic with Mid, Sport or Green modes
Acceleration (0-100kph): 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 230kph
Weight: 1,240kg (DIN)
Fuel consumption (Combined): 5.4l/100km
Features: New Display and Operating Concept with LED ring for centre module; wide range of driver assistance systems including Head-Up Display, Parking Assistant, camera-based active cruise control; MINI Connected in-car infotainment program; full LED lighting; Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system; Auto Stop/ Start system; keyless entry & drive