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Mini Cooper 2019 review: 5-door

It might not be the first thing you think of when you talk about a family car but as a second car the mini is hard to beat.
Nedahl Stelio
Family reviewer

12 Mar 2019 • 9 min read

I’ve never been in a Mini and didn’t know what to expect - besides the fact that I knew it was going to be small. I certainly wasn’t expecting to love the exterior so much, and I sure didn’t know how utterly cool the interior was. The whole week was full of nice surprises.

I was in the Mini Cooper five door hatch, in the automatic. It’s the base level Mini and is in a similar category to the Audi A1 and Fiat 500. And sure, it’s not the first thing you think of when you talk family car, but my friend is considering buying one because her family consists of her and her teenage son.

So the family thing is relative. And as a second, runaround car, the Mini is hard to beat. But it is pricey for a small car, this one starts at $31,150 with the auto version at $33,650 - and that’s before on-road costs.

I put it to the test for a whole week with my family of four.

What does it look like?

So, the thing about a Mini, and it’s probably the biggest thing about a Mini, is that it just looks so good. This colour in particular, the British Racing Green, is the colour du jour.

The paint job is an extra $800 and the racing stripes an extra $200, but I think it’s worth it. It’s still in the classic mini shape, even if it has grown a good few inches along the years, and you really do feel like you’re in a classic car, and that you’re getting the best of both worlds - classic shape with a new engine from the same company that makes BMW. How can you go wrong?

Inside is just as good. You wouldn’t pick that this was a base level car, apart from the fabric seats. But the fabric is so smooth and comfortable there’s really nothing wrong with them.

  • This colour in particular, the British Racing Green, is the colour du jour. This colour in particular, the British Racing Green, is the colour du jour.
  • Still the classic mini shape, even if it has grown a few inches along the years. Still the classic mini shape, even if it has grown a few inches along the years.
  • With an old-school leather-trimmed steering wheel. With an old-school leather-trimmed steering wheel.

And everything from the old-school stop/start button to the circular frame around the multimedia screen that lights up when you do various things (or just because it wants to), to the old-school speedo, leather-trimmed steering wheel and the design of the centre console, to the circular door handles and the way they open and the circular speakers that jut out just so... well.

I’ll stop now but you get the picture. Every single piece has been so thoroughly thought out and beautifully designed, they’ve paid attention to every detail and even the cupholders look like a design feature. It’s a lovely thing to sit in.

This particular car has a double sunroof, one for the front and one for the back so that the roof is practically glass - it’s part of the 'Climate Package' which includes the panoramic roof, heated front seats, and sun protection glazing for $2300.

How does it drive?

Just beautifully. There’s something about the way the Mini hugs the road that feels so secure, it’s probably just to do with the actual physics of being in a car so low to the ground, but it handles beautifully and I found myself going a bit quicker around bends than I normally would.

There’s a 1.5-litre engine that is plenty for a car this size to get up hills quickly and to coast along highways, but it is a small car and I found myself being careful not to get in any truck’s blind spots.

  • With a 1.5-litre engine it's easy to get up hills quickly and to coast along highways. With a 1.5-litre engine it's easy to get up hills quickly and to coast along highways.
  • With the kids' seats in the back, visibility is not great. With the kids' seats in the back, visibility is not great.

Things are also downsized in the Mini, so the back window is small with not great visibility once my kids’ car seats were in the back, the rear vision mirror is small too, and the reversing camera is also small, even compared with other small cars.

But they’re minor things and you do quickly get used to them - I did after driving it for a week.

It is most handy to park, I was doing u-turns all over the suburbs and nipping into parks I would never normally attempt to fit in. I had so much fun driving the Mini this week, it’s one of those cars that makes you feel good about driving, and also gives you almost a smug confidence.

How spacious is it?

There’s no denying it’s small, but it did fit all four of us for the whole seven days (some of us more comfortably than others). I’m 161cm so I will be fine in most cars, but my taller husband had a fair bit less room. The head space was good, but leg space was a bit cramped because he had to move his seat forward so our daughter could sit behind him.

  • Head space is good, but leg space was a bit cramped. Head space is good, but leg space was a bit cramped.
  • It wasn’t the roomiest of cars for a family of four, but we did fit and it didn’t stop us from taking it everywhere! It wasn’t the roomiest of cars for a family of four, but we did fit and it didn’t stop us from taking it everywhere!

The kids, aged five and seven, fit fine, but the seven-year old’s legs were bent up if she sat behind my husband’s seat. So it wasn’t the roomiest of cars for a family of four, but we did fit and it didn’t stop us from taking it everywhere, purely because I knew we’d get a park!

The boot looks small, but there is a false floor which you can lift up to reveal a deeper space (points) and it also fits the CarsGuide pram which is bulky and unforgiving (double points) and that pram doesn’t even fit in a Mazda CX-3 - a small SUV. So thumbs up for all 278L of space in the five door (the three door version gets 211L of space).

How easy is it to use every day?

The Mini has nailed a number of details to make it one of the easiest cars I have driven. Yes, there’s the size, but it’s not just that because I drive small cars all the time. I think it’s the size, plus the design, plus the driving, plus the happiness factor that makes you want to be in this car more often than not.

I wouldn’t however, say that it is a practical car to go away in. It’s not at all. You will have to borrow someone else’s car if this is your only vehicle and you want to go camping.

The Mini has nailed a number of details to make it one of the easiest cars to drive. The Mini has nailed a number of details to make it one of the easiest cars to drive.

Features I found useful were the two cupholders in the front, one cup holder in the back, a long strip shelf down the centre of the front seats, and a spot to throw keys and a phone in the front.

You also get storage in each door and a few strategically placed nets to hold things around the car. The doors are light and easy to open, as is the boot, and the kids were able to climb in and do their seat belts up. If you’ve got a baby in a capsule, all the bending down may get to you.

How safe is it?

The Mini Cooper scored four ANCAP stars out of a possible five which isn’t really ideal when you’re driving family around. There is no advanced safety equipment as standard, but you can option all that in - auto emergency braking (AEB), rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

It comes with six airbags, plus two ISOFIX points and two top tether points to safely install kids’ car seats.

The Mini Cooper scored four ANCAP stars out of a possible five. The Mini Cooper scored four ANCAP stars out of a possible five.

What’s the technology like?

The Mini Cooper has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that you connect with via Bluetooth. The circular frame around the touchscreen makes things feel extra futuristic and it’s fun to use.

This technology syncs your phone with the screen so you can use maps to navigate and play music via whatever streaming app you use. You can also make calls and send texts using voice control.

Plus the speakers are great, turn the volume up on your favourite songs.

What does it cost to own?

The Mini Cooper five door hatch in the automatic comes in at $33,650, before on-road costs. Extras on the car I drove took the price up to $37,900.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.3L/100km on the combined cycle. 

It's covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty which is starting to look fairly basic now next to the five year and seven year offers around from other car companies.

This automatic Mini Cooper hatch comes in at $33,650, before on-road costs. This automatic Mini Cooper hatch comes in at $33,650, before on-road costs.


The Wrap

It’s really hard not to like the Mini Cooper. It’s so well designed, looks fabulous from outside and inside, drives incredibly well and certainly fit me perfectly fine. If only I didn’t have three extra people to consider. But the fact is I do, and for a family it’s not the most practical car. As a second car though - love.

I gave it a family rating of seven out of 10. Note, that is a family score, not a general use score which would have been higher. My children gave it an eight out of 10. They know good style when they see it!

Likes

Design
Excellent driving
Clever details

Dislikes

Space in second row

Scores

Nedahl:

3.5

The Kids:

4