2015 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4-Door Review

MINI Grows Up by Getting Longer

The modern MINI was a fresh new take on a classic when it appeared in 2000. Youthful, stylish and full of energy, the MINI Cooper was an eager child ready for fun.

Then, like a rebellious teenager, it experimented with new looks, churning out variants that defied convention and classification including the Paceman, Clubvan and Coupé that are unusual if not polarizing.

Now though, it’s time for MINI to move out of its parent’s proverbial basement and grow up. No longer is the brand happy lingering as a fringe player in the automotive atmosphere. After all, it’s a business.

Mainstream MINI

An argument can easily be made that the Countryman was the first modern mainstream modern MINI. Offering five doors, all-wheel drive and a raised ride, the Countryman lucked out with being at the forefront of the recent subcompact crossover craze. But not everyone wants a pseudo crossover. What if you prefer the regular, Cooper hardtop’s styling and dimensions, but still want a proper five-door MINI?

See Also: 2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop Review

2015-MINI-Cooper-S-4-Door-94Well, you’re in luck! For 2015, MINI has an elongated version of the MINI Cooper dubbed the 4-Door. At least that’s what it’s called in America. Everywhere else in the world, including Canada, it’s called the 5-Door because, well, there are five doors.

Resembling the Cooper 2-Door, the new 4-Door is instantly recognizable as a MINI. With a wheelbase nearly three inches longer, the car gains just over six inches in total length. Even with this growth spurt, the new MINI is shorter than a Ford Fiesta hatchback.

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A Bit More Space Inside

The added space mostly goes to the rear half of the car. Legroom for backseat passengers is up 1.5 inches over the MINI 2-Door, but at 32.3 inches, it’s still pretty tight. Trunk space sees a more generous increase as it increases by over 50 percent to 13.1 cubic feet.

Overall, the design, materials and finish of the 4-Door’s interior has a premium feel that easily separates it from the usual subcompact herd. With the new generations of MINIs, many of the old car’s interior issues have been corrected. The door lock button is finally on the door panel, right within the handle. The speedometer is finally in front of the driver and the center stack layout is much more user friendly. Front seat comfort is adequate with enough room for larger adults behind the wheel.

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Baked in MINI DNA

With a larger MINI comes extra weight. A MINI Cooper S 4-Door with the manual transmission adds about 110 lbs. compared to the 2 Door. But with the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Cooper S, it’s hard to notice any of the extra mass. Making a claimed 189 HP and 207 lb-ft. of torque, MINI states 0-60 MPH happens in 6.5 seconds. But these numbers don’t do the car justice. Boost builds quickly and once at full boil, there’s so much torque available.

The six-speed manual is geared fairly short to exploit the engine’s peak power band that ranges from 4,700 to 6,000 rpm. With gear ratios place so tightly, sixth gear cruising at freeway speeds causes the engine to constantly spin around 3,000 rpm. This sort of high rpm driving usually hampers fuel economy but in the Cooper S it doesn’t. Officially rated at 24 MPG city and 34 MPG highway, I averaged 28.7 MPG during mixed driving. The car could probably do even better, but I kept giving in to my enthusiastic driving tendencies as the Cooper S begs me at all times to slap it into sport mode, stomp on the gas and head for the hills.

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Motoring HARD

Engaging sport mode displays a message on the center screen that reads “Let’s Motor Hard!” accompanied by a picture of a go kart on top of the MINI’s suspension, which is accurate as the adjustable dampers go into granite mode. Offering MINImal flex over bumps, the Cooper S 4-Door smashes down the road like and oversized shifter cart. Internal organs be damned, the abuse is worth it for how responsive the car becomes.

SEE ALSO: 2015 MINI Cooper Hardtop Review

Sport mode or not, dynamically the 4-Door is everything its smaller siblings have become famous for. Even riding on the smallest available 16-inch wheels wearing snow tires, steering feel is fantastic and the chassis instantly responds to all my inputs. The manual shifter still has an odd knob on top and suffers from relatively long throws, but engagement of each gear is smooth enough and the clutch pick up point is easy to find. For those who prefer two pedals, there is also an optional six-speed automatic transmission as well.

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MINI Doors are MINI

So the Cooper 4-Door offers more space while driving like a proper MINI. But I’m still left questioning if it’s really necessary. The biggest issue with the 4-Door MINI are those extra doors. By stretching the Hardtop, MINI wanted to put two conventional doors on the back and succeeded; sort of. The doors to the second row are tiny and the actual opening is smaller still. A struggle even for agile adults, this really is a space suited to small children.

But having properly opening doors instead of the Clubman’s one suicide door does allow passengers to contort in and out of the car without needing someone to open the front door. And give MINI credit for making the rear doors open wide enough that parents with newborns and toddlers have good access to buckle up their bundles of joy, assuming a child safety seat has been successfully wedged in there.

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The Verdict:

At $33,200 as tested, a decently equipped MINI Cooper S 4-Door like my test vehicle isn’t exactly cheap. But the car’s presence and feel lets you know that this is indeed something a little more special than the average subcompact. Think of it as a grown interpretation of the Ford Fiesta ST or a hatchback alternative to the Mercedes-Benz CLA. If you want all the fun and luxury of a MINI with a little extra space, the 4-Door Hardtop delivers on just that.