No-one shopping the Mini range is under any illusions as to its size – it literally says it on the label. Still, in an era where SUVs seem to get bigger and bigger, and hatches are increasingly classed as ‘compact crossovers’, is the Mini too mini to hold its own?
On exterior measurements alone, the Mini Cooper S measures 3.85m long, 1.73m wide and 1.41m tall. For comparison’s sake, that’s 9.5cm shorter, 3.2cm wider and 9.6cm lower than a Toyota Yaris. Teeny tiny to say the least.
Still, the Cooper S manages to squeeze four seats into its compact footprint. Front seat occupants will find the cabin feels spacious due to the lower ride height allowing for a solid amount of head room, plus the moderately sized windows and sunroof (which can be fitted as part of the optional Climate package) create a feeling of space and light.
Cabin storage is also pretty practical for a compact car, with the front seat featuring two cupholders, a little dish for your wallet, a central armrest that doubles as a wireless phone charger, a main glovebox, and bins in the doors for any excess knick-knacks you might be carrying.
True story, the door storage bins in the original Mini Cooper were designed to fit a bottle of Gordon’s Gin. While that no longer holds true – with the door bins too narrow for bottles – there’s still room for your sunglasses.
Visibility isn’t bad for a small car thanks to a wide, low-set rear windshield, although the placement of the rear-vision mirror can obstruct forward visibility somewhat. Meanwhile, the flip-up head-up display does a good job of blending in to what little space there is.
As such, the Mini Cooper S is actually quite tolerable for longer road trips. Plus, it’s so much fun to drive, you’ll quickly get distracted from the fact it’s being dwarfed by all the SUVs around you on the freeway.
But for rear passengers, it’s a different story. Travelling in the back seat of a Mini Cooper S may incite a very real sense of claustrophobia.
Back seat leg room, head room and toe room aren’t just minimal, they're virtually non-existent. Some loftier passengers I drove literally had to cross their legs, yoga style, in order to fold themselves into the back seat. But, hey, at least you get three cupholders.
Head room in the front seat is marginally increased by the addition of a sunroof, which raises the roof line slightly, but those six-foot and above will feel their heads butting up against the roof regardless.
Where the Mini can start to feel especially small is when it comes to its three-door set-up. Three-door compact cars are becoming less common, and so it’s easy to forget how challenging they can be to get in and out of.
While the Mini’s front seats can be slid forward and folded down to a 45-degree angle to allow ease of access, this doesn’t really help matters and you’ll have to perform some complicated gymnastics to get inside.
This also impedes upon the ability to fit child seats in the Mini. I was able to fit a rear-facing child seat on the larger side in the back seat, securing it via ISOFIX points on both rear seats and top tether points on the rear of the backrest.
However, getting the seat in and out of the car is where the real struggle lies – you’d only want to do it once. Getting your actual child in and out of the car would also prove incredibly tiresome.
You’d think the inclusion of a boot on a car this small is more tokenistic than serious. Certainly you’d want to be someone who travels light and doesn’t own a dog, because the 211L won’t buy you much room for suitcases or pooches.
If you do find yourself in a position where you’re transporting large objects, the boot offers a two-tiered configuration, with a floor panel that can be removed to improve depth for taller items.
If you really need it, the rear seats can be folded flat to extend boot space further. In fact, with the seats folded, I even managed to fit a full set of golf clubs in the Cooper S.