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MINI Cooper 5-Door Hatch 2018 review

The MINI 5-door makes perfect sense for fun-loving families. We drive it in three-cylinder Cooper form...

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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The MINI still makes sense out of its comfort zone as a five door, injecting a bit of extra practicality and usability into what is a fun family hatchback. The sweet, direct steering is a highlight and while the 134bhp doesn’t fizz with a level of enthusiasm to match, it’s a good performer and relatively quiet on motorways.

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MINI’s Oxford plant is a British motor industry success story. Over 1,000 cars roll off the production line every day – a new car every 67 seconds. MINI boasts that 223,817 cars were built at the site last year, exported to over 110 countries worldwide.

It means that BMW owned MINI is more proud than ever to wear its bought British heritage on its sleeve, and that leads us nicely to the most eye-catching change with the newly facelifted third-generation model - those oft mentioned Union Jack taillights.

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However, love them or hate them, we found that the refreshed MINI is still a hugely appealing package during our first drive opportunity on sun-baked Spanish tarmac. Now the new MINI is back on home turf, driven here in five-door, three-cylinder Cooper form.

While many regarded adding an extra pair of doors to the new MINI Hatch’s distinctive shape as a left-field move back in 2014, it has proven popular in dealerships. Around 40 per cent of new MINI Hatch models leaving showrooms are five-door models now, indicative of a wider industry trend for more practicality and accessibility in family hatchbacks. The 134bhp Cooper is the most popular model choice too, so driven here is a car many MINI customers will ultimately buy. 

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Changes for 2018 are largely cosmetic, though the fresh MINI does boast additional spec in the way of new tech such as standard fit LED headlights and taillights, optional LED matrix lights, updated infotainment with new connectivity and interaction features, fresh styling and trim options, new personalisation options thanks to the MINI Yours Customised programme and a new seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox option.

MINI says it has worked on aspects of the car’s engine too. For the Cooper, the block is now marginally lighter thanks to the use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic engine covers, while MINI has altered the engine management, cooling and exhaust system in a bid to extract a bit of extra fun and responsiveness. 

To drive it’s very much unchanged, and that means it’s still one of the best handling superminis out there, with an emphasis on agility. The steering itelf feels pleasingly quick on twistier tarmac, and those stepping into the MINI from other small hatchbacks may be surprised at how eager it is to turn with such little lock on the wheel. It’s not an ideal motorway setup, but if go-kart like handling is high on your list of priorities it’s probably worth the trade-off.

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The turbocharged 1.5-litre unit under the bonnet doesn’t quite zing with the same level of involvement in its more day-to-day setup, and you’ll have to flick the car into Sport mode to coax out the more thrilling side of its character.

It’s difficult to argue with its level of performance though, and it is responsive. On a motorway cruise, it’ll settle down nicely too, so this is a small car comfortable with big journeys on big roads. Our test car came equipped with adaptive suspension, firming things up nicely in Sport mode. The ride is still slightly stiffer than the competition at low speeds too though, even in flicked into its most forgiving setting.

In the cabin nothing much changes bar the addition of a new steering wheel, so the high-quality, retro-futuristic dashboard design remains in place. All cars come equipped with at least a 6.5-inch infotainment display, which can be upgraded to feature sat nav or to a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen unit. It’s spun off from BMW’s iDrive system, so it’s straightforward to operate, while screen quality on the 8.8-inch system is superb. The five-door sits on a wheelbase 72mm longer than the three-door too, so space in the rear sizes up as competitive – but not special – for the class.

It’d be easy to believe that the five-door Cooper package would command quite a premium over similar rivals, though that’s not completely true. Though the options required to inject it with a bit of aggressive appeal send the list price up and up, the base cost of the Cooper sneaks in slightly cheaper than a five-door Ford Fiesta ST-Line EcoBoost 140. It’s only marginally more on a monthly PCP deal too, depending on your deposit. 

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