MINI Cooper S 5-Door: Driving with a vibe

Story and Photos by Y G Siow


Fun and funky meet practicality and high performance in the iconic 5-door Mini Cooper S.

This agile and spacious hatchback, which has the same genes as its sporty 3-door sibling, is a subtle work of art. It has, in our opinion, enabled Mini in its own words, “to create a vehicle that exceeds the demands of modern, twenty-first century motoring . . . and stay true to the Original Mini.”

Therein lies the challenge. How does one go about remaking a famous and much-loved automotive icon, bringing it up to date with all the bells and whistles of a modern, contemporary vehicle, infusing it with high performance, and yet remain true to its origins?

It was with these questions in mind that we explored the 2015 Mini Cooper S 5-door.

Exterior

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This car exudes character. The same artistic flair seen in the interior is also coordinated with an equally curvaceous exterior. The result is a uniquely Mini sport visage characterised by LED headlights, matching roof and mirror caps in white or black, parallel front bonnet stripes, mesh grilles, Cooper S badge, brake cooling track-style air ducts in the front bumper, air scoop in front bonnet, rear apron with diffuser and a centre-mounted twin tailpipe exhaust. The interior door mirror is colour-coordinated with the interior.

Up close, this Mini looks muscular. It is no light weight hatchback easily swayed by the wake of passing container trucks. At just over 4 metres in length (4,005 mm to be exact), 1,425 mm in height and weighing in at 1,315 kg, this Bavarian-owned British marque projects an understated road presence.

Interior

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Inside this feels like a big Mini. The spacious cabin presents an array of visually pleasing curves. Contemporary, colour-coordinated door ellipses in front and behind accentuate the sweeping lines. The upward swoosh of the ellipses adds just the right amount of pizzazz without being over the top. Door ellipses come in eight colour options. Build quality is, of course, excellent.

The look and feel is fresh, modern and daring. A flick of the prominent retro red start switch on the centre console brings the curvaceous interior to life. A veritable rainbow of glowing colours lends a vibe to the interior’s ambient lighting. Instrumentation is well-laid out, logical and intuitive to operate.

The padded 3-spoke multi-function sports leather steering wheel and 8.8” LCD screen housing the Mini Centre Instrument are the most prominent and visually exciting contemporary features in an otherwise classy retro themed interior dominated by rings — the round key fob, round interior door handles, round side air ducts, round loudspeakers, round base of the gear selector lever and the easy to use and intuitive Mini Controller located on the centre console equipped with round touchpad.

Sports seats are standard for driver and front passenger. Firm, comfortable and providing excellent lumbar support, the lounge-like seats kept us firmly planted and in control even in sharp cornering. Two can sit comfortably in the back. In a crunch, there is space for one more. Insulation from outside noise is excellent. One can carry on a normal conversation whether on the expressway or navigating noisy downtown traffic. The 278 litres of boot space is sufficient for most supermarket runs, and is expandable to 941 litres via the 60:40 split rear seats.

There is an impressive array of apps available via the colourful Mini Connected interface. The Mini Cooper S is primed for Web radio, Facebook, Twitter, and the works. Graphics are intuitive and excellent. For the mechanically inclined, there is an interesting “Driving Excitement Analyser” that provides updates on the car’s performance metrics via a Force Meter, sport instrument cluster, and condition check. The system also encourages environmentally responsible driving by awarding points for smooth acceleration and steering, well-timed gear shifts and even braking.

Alas, ventilation from the two-zone air-conditioning proved inadequate due to the odd placement of air vents. There was only one vent on the centre console to provide cooling to the rear. The other vent, squeezed between the Mini Centre Instrument and the binnacle, was blocked by the steering wheel. Ventilation was barely enough for the driver or the rear passenger compartment.

Maps in Mini’s Navigation System Professional come in high resolution 3D, detailed and accurate. Unfortunately, unlike its Bavarian cousin, the system does not provide information on adverse traffic conditions. The latter’s navigation forewarns drivers of traffic congestion, allowing quick course corrections enroute.

The Drive

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We thought that the Mini’s handling was excellent, as always. With a relatively short 2,567 mm wheelbase, the Cooper S accelerated and cornered like a go-kart. Aided by a rigid body, stiffened suspension, dynamic damper control and wide track width of 1,727 mm, the Cooper S took all curves with aplomb and minimal body roll on standard 16″ shoes. With a turning radius of 11.02m, tight U-turns on narrow urban roads and parking in small HDB carparks was a breeze.

In Sport mode, this nimble hatchback’s 6-speed Steptronic transmission shifted smoothly into a “spontaneous” driving style immediately evident from sharper throttle responses. The digital instrument panel morphed into a visually exciting red and yellow-coloured rev counter and speedometer that displayed the performance potential of the twin-turbo, 1998 cc in-line 4 engine. Max torque kicked in per manufacturer’s specs at 280 Nm, and delivered the century sprint 6.8 seconds as advertised.

Alas, overtaking acceleration from 80-120km/h took slightly longer than the proclaimed 6.7 seconds. Hence, if driving on expressways across the Causeway, we advise applying an abundance of caution when overtaking – the maximum output for this cute hatch is 192 horses. 

For the more ambitious, options for this series includes sports suspension recognition for even sharper throttle and steering responses. In green mode, there was no significant loss in torque even as throttle responses and air-conditioning were “optimised” for fuel efficiency.

Despite its size, the Mini managed an impressive 5.5 litres per 100 km during our test, working out to be a whopping 815 km mileage on a 44 litre tank – more than enough for a drive from Singapore to KL and back without refuelling.

Conclusion

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The Mini Cooper S is for the discerning driver who appreciates a ride with a feel-good vibe even if just going from A to B. It is a spacious and versatile high performance car that handles well in stop-go urban driving as well as on expressways where acceleration and high cruising speeds all come into play.

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We like:

Excellent build quality, interior illumination, responsive go-kart handling, outstanding fuel consumption and easy-to-use instrumentation.

We don’t like: 

Small boot space and poor air circulation.

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