It would be a cold-hearted man on the back-nine of his thirties that didn't get warm and fuzzy when the word 'MINI' is mentioned. Not only am I sentimental towards the brand that’s emblematic of iconic 60's culture, but I also have a penchant for a very obvious MINI-related movie that would be far too hackneyed and clichéd for me to mention.
BMW changed the narrative of small hatch backs when it relaunched the MINI back in 2001. At the time hatch backs were considered the Ibis Budget of cars. (Not that I have anything against Ibis Budget you understand). However, BMW managed to fuse luxurious interiors with novelty cosmetics (and the headlamps are even more bulbous this time round) and sell it at a premium. And sell it well they did, largely thanks to the introduction of the The Countryman that added 100,000 sales at the year of its inception, elevating it into the top 20 most sold cars of 2013.
It's been said that there is a MINI for every lifestyle, whether you're more at home in an SUV or a 3-door, perhaps serendipitously I was given the MINI Cooper D (5-Door Hatchback) to take from the city to the Cotswolds. It catered perfectly to my needs and proved to be equally adept in the city as it did in the country.
As much as I like to rhapsodise I like to travel light, I normally come with camera gear, a camera man or woman, their gear, and when the occasion permits, my beloved French Bulldog Charlie. The 5-door has an even more spacious rear than its predecessor, making life a lot easier for my passengers. I remember it being a feat of acrobats in the old MINIs having to wrestle yourself free through the tiny gap from behind the front seat and the passenger door.
Upfront the space was remarkable largely on account of how low the seats are set, depending on the spec the paddles behind the wheel will allow you to adjust the position of the steering wheel to fit your needs. The Cooper D has a 1.5-litre engine, is sprightly paced (0-100 KM/H in 9.4 s) and kicks on nicely from the low revs - remarkably smooth for a compact diesel. Needless to say being a diesel, this will save you a couple of quid long term.
So it's cheap to run, it's a fun drive and having heard rumours and reports the Cooper SD has other features to justify its slightly higher cost, the drivability between the two is negligible. Once out of the city everything seemed to coast nicely and it was noticeably quiet for a three-cylinder diesel engine.
Now let’s get to the exteriors. Looks wise it’s had sniffy reviews about the exaggerated styling of the headlights. My personal take on it is this. Lighten up! (Pardon the pun). The world is in dire need of cheering up at this very moment in time and not everything in life should be as dark as a Nolan Batman trilogy. I for one appreciate a little levity.
The optional extras are worth considering, especially if you choose to resell the car at a later date. The Pepper Pack comes with the 16in alloys, climate control, ambient interior lighting which distinguishes the space inside nicely. The MINI 5-Door Hatch Cooper starts at an accessible £17,960 and I'm going to say this third generation MINI has ameliorated itself once more in the family hatchback market. It’s fun without being goofy, its funky without being caricature and it’s practical for a family of 4 (5 if the 5th is a Bulldog).