Show a photo of a Mini to a person who could not care less about cars, and they will tell you instantly, it’s a Mini. Well, most people.
The cute little car has inspired the miniskirt, a funny fella called Mr Bean drove one, and it has seen 28 people fit into one to break a Guinness World Record. So, it was no surprise that in 1999 it was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century.
When the Mini was first produced in 1959, you could buy one for £497. Doesn’t seem much, but with inflation that price today would be just over AUD$20,700.
To purchase a five-door 2019 Mini Cooper manual, however, you would need to fork out $31,150. Bit of a difference there, but just remember the safety technology the Mini of 1959 had – yep, zilch.
This Cooper we have has a few options added, with diamond cloth/leather sports seats at $1300, metallic paint for $800, and Mini Active package that includes the driver assistant package, wireless phone charging, Mini Excitement package, clear indicator lenses, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights with Union Jack-style LED tail-lights and LED fog lights, at $2500, which brings it to $35,750.
A few features that come standard include a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, DAB+ radio, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Cooper scoots along with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine matched with a six-speed manual transmission.
This is the most back-to-basics five-door Mini you can buy, and there’s something exciting about that, as it’s the closest you will get to an original Mini (well, almost – there’s the three-door).
Retro cars must have chrome trim, and there’s plenty of it on the Cooper, with surroundings around the headlights and tail-lights, grille, door handles, window trim, and a single chrome exhaust tailpipe.
And with the Starlight Blue paint, not only does the chrome stand out, but so does the incredible Union Jack-style tail-lights. Coming standard are halogen fog and headlights, so ticking those LED lights will make the Cooper look a little sharper.
Just like the outside, the cabin is uniquely Mini. True to the original, the large centre dial has remained that incorporates a 6.5-inch touchscreen with the Mini Connected infotainment system. Its design is bright and pops, and is relatively easy to use.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and DAB+ radio are available, with USB and 12-volt connections. While the cloth seats aren’t exactly sporty, they keep you supported pretty well when a tight corner presents itself, and that’s important when you’re in a Mini.
The front seat armrest is optional, but it is only capable of fitting a phone, and that’s about it. And with a manual gearstick in the way, is it really worth worrying about? Probably not.
Being a five-door, it is handy for the occasional back seat passenger. There’s a surprising amount of leg room, but it lacks in head and toe room. A large side window helps to make it feel more open and airy. Optioning the electric panoramic sunroof might be a nice way of opening the cabin more. It is part of the Climate Package that also includes darkened rear glass and heated front seats.
The 60:40 rear seats fold flat to create enough space for 941L of stuff, but they don’t sit flush with the floor. Seats up, that figure reads 278L, which is enough for a large suitcase and a few handbags.
No matter what spec Mini you drive, it’s always going to have that go-kart feel that has helped make it so famous. And sure, the five-door Cooper is bigger than the three-door, but it is still capable of providing buckets of fun.
The 16-inch alloy wheels are a little polarising, but they do soak up bumps quite well with minimal tyre noise, and are noticeably better than the 18-inch wheels that are on any JCW.
The 1.5-litre engine isn’t exactly blisteringly quick with 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s enough to get the car moving from the lights or onto a freeway with a 0–100km/h time of 8.2 seconds. It has a nice note to it too, but don’t go looking for a driving mode to make it louder, because the Cooper doesn’t have one.
It does come standard in the Cooper S, or if you option the Chili Package that blank button will be filled with a switch that looks like it’s out of some aircraft, much like the bright-red start button. Mini claims a combined economy of 5.5L/100km, and we reached 7.1L/100km on mostly highways and some traffic lights.
The six-speed manual takes some time to get acquainted with, and you might grab the wrong gear for the first few drives. However, it is a neat shifter that can be punished when a mountain range presents itself. Finding reverse gear could be difficult for a driver with not much arm strength, though, as it requires a decent push to the left to select it.
Mini joins the very few remaining manufacturers who refuse to budge from a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while others are pushing up to seven years.
Servicing isn’t determined by kilometres or time, but what the company calls Condition Based Servicing, where the vehicle senses when it’s time to replace parts. There are two five-year/80,000km packages to choose from. Covering that time for $1425 ($285 a year) is the Basic cover that includes basics such as a vehicle check, top-ups of brake fluid and oil, and replacement of spark plugs and filters.
The more comprehensive cover is the Plus package for $3685 ($737 a year), which not only covers the Basic package but adds brake pads and discs, wiper blades, and clutch disc and plate replacement.
For around $26,000 less than the fanciest Mini you can buy, the five-door Cooper in manual guise is a no-brainer for those who like a pure driving experience without the bells and whistles. It still looks like a Mini, handles like a Mini, and produces a smile as wide as a Mini.