The most sensible Mini to date goes on sale in November delivering the traditional values of great handling and a rorty engine, backed by five-door practicality. It's a physically bigger Mini that still loses very little to its smaller three-door sibling through the twisty bits.
For those who have always hankered for a Mini but been put off by the lack of rear doors - and room in the back - the BMW-owned outfit has finally delivered.
The five-door line-up costs $1100 more than its three-door equivalent, starting with the Cooper at $27,750, rising to $32,900 for the diesel-powered Cooper D and topping out at $38,050 for the sporty Cooper S.
Specification will mirror the three-door models, meaning a six-speed auto will add $3055. That's too dear, but par for the course in terms of Mini options. Cooper S owners can extend that to $3445 by ticking the box for a self-shifter with paddle shifters and launch control.
Obvious competition includes the Audi A1 Sportback range, though it's also worth comparing it with the VW Polo/Golf line-up.
A repeater-style head-up display, with the data showing on a plastic flap between the windscreen and wheel, is a must-have in modern cars. The speedo is back behind the steering wheel where it belongs and the big central dash display is now used for infotainment and satnav where optioned.
The engines are the same as in the three-door, meaning the base Cooper has a sprightly three-cylinder unit that is all most will need and should make the base car the popular model.
Engineers stretched the existing platform to fit the extra pair of doors and add 72mm of rear legroom. In combination with the deeply scalloped front seat backs, it will let two 180cm adults sit front and rear without a problem.
The increased height stops even our giraffe-like (194cm) colleague from brushing his head against the roof and it is only the centre seat that is reserved for (very) occasional use - the hump on the seat squab doesn't have much deference for the vas deferens.
The stumbling block in the back is the narrow space for feet when entering and exiting - the small door opening makes it all-but impossible not to brush boots against the seat base and/or door panel.
Expect a five-star rating when EuroNCAP gets around to testing one. Minis are renowned for their safety and solidity and the five-door hatch should continue the trend.
This is Mini to the max. The extra rear space and the practicality of five doors make it a viable family car without detracting from the drive. In many situations, the extra length eliminates the twitchy feel and imparts a sensation of stability through the turns.
Carsguide tested the sports-oriented Cooper S at the international launch in England but that's still enough to see more merit in the five-door body style. The diesel-powered Cooper SD was also on hand but won't arrive in Australia until next year.
In either case buyers need to remember Mini's rationale is on unique looks and dynamics, not occupant comfort. The suspension is set to subjugate the road, not soften the impact, so some jostling is par for the course, even with the optional adaptive dampers set to their spongiest mode.
The upside is when the road is smooth enough to engage Sport, replete with a display advising the driver has chosen 'maximum go-kart feeling". Translated, the suspension doesn't stiffen so much as seize up, so there's little flex to deflect the chosen line through a turn.
In this mode, the already tight steering adds heft, the auto holds on to gears for longer and the five-door becomes a sharper tool than its size would indicate. The only time the extra size intrudes is when turning the car - environs the three-door can spin around in will require a three-point turn in its bigger brother, which needs 11m to turn tail.