Mini now ready for the rigours of family life

The improved MINI Hatch 5-Door makes a lot of sense. Particularly in 1.5-litre petrol-powered Cooper guise.

For well over a decade, the MINI hatchback was only available in the same three-door format as the 1959 car that first carried the Mini badge. Today, though, the range has expanded to offer a MINI Countryman SUV and MINI Clubman estate, while the MINI hatchback itself is now available with five doors.

So, as well as appealing to fashion-conscious couples and individuals, the MINI is now far more suited to the rigours of family life. The five-door version accounts for around 40% of MINI hatchbacks sold, despite costing slightly more than the three-door. With three rather more spacious rear seats as a consequence of being a little longer than the three-door, it makes a stylish if pricey alternative to the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Peugeot 208 and SEAT Ibiza, as well as rivalling the Audi A1 Sportback directly.

We're now starting to get used to the idea of a MINI Hatch with five doors. With this bodystyle, you get a longer wheelbase, quite a lot more luggage space and potentially room for three people in the back. On top of this, there's the third generation MINI model's sophisticated design with underpinnings better suited to longer journeys. Oh and a range of punchy but economical engines. You wanted more MINI? Well you've certainly got it now. Here, we're looking at the improved model in perky 136hp petrol Cooper form.

Can a bigger MINI really feel like a proper MINI should? Fun, frisky - up for anything? The brand's Countryman crossover model has tried hard in that regard but arguably remains a little too heavy - and perhaps even a little too sophisticated - to quite hit the mark. With his MINI -Door Hatch model though, buyers get the extra doors and at least some of the extra practicality they were seeking without any dynamic downsides. Or none that I can feel anyway. If the stretched wheelbase of this car has done anything to dent the eagerness of the taut MINI chassis, then I couldn't feel it.

You'll pay from around £18,500 for a 1.5-litre petrol-powered MINI Hatch 5-Door Cooper model. That prices it mid-way between a decent Fiesta-sized supermini and a Focus-sized family hatch. Tempting. The spec's decent too. There's a choice of 'Classic', 'Sport' and 'Exclusive' trim levels. And you can have manual or auto transmission. All models get LED headlamps, a USB interface and Bluetooth, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, front fog lamps and an onboard computer. Air-conditioning is available free of charge on all models. Safety equipment includes front and side airbags, as well as curtain airbags for the front and rear seats. All seats are fitted with 3-point seat belts, belt tensioners and belt force limiters at the front. ISOFIX child seat mountings are provided at the rear and the front passenger seat.

These can be supplemented with a range of options that includes two-zone automatic air-conditioning, heated front seats, a panoramic glass roof, windscreen heating, rain sensors and automatic light control, a Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system and a sports leather steering wheel. Other options include Park Distance Control, electrically heated and folding exterior mirrors, plus both interior and exterior mirrors with automatic anti-dazzle function.

Cost of Ownership

The third-generation MINI's biggest step forward has undoubtedly come in the area of engine efficiency and the five-door car continues that theme. Go for the Cooper 1.5-litre petrol model and it'll manage up to 52.34mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions rated at up to 123g/km.

MINIMALISM environmental technologies include a shift-point display function and optimised preheating process on the diesels. Brake energy recuperation and need-oriented control of the fuel pump, coolant pump and other ancillary units feature on all models. The electromechanical power steering and map-controlled oil pumps in all engines are optimised for the most efficient use. There's even an optimised preheating process which delivers a 50% reduction in the energy required to start the diesel engines.

What else? Well, residual values are bound to be strong: the three year retention figures you get with MINI models are always well above the class average. That'll also be helped by the way that MINI reliability improves with each generation, something evidenced by falling warranty claims.

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