It is a long way from home and by a long way, we mean it. The car is built in the famous MINI Oxford Plant back in the UK which is roughly 13,000 km away from Kuala Lumpur. So why is the MINI so important? Well, it is one of the most iconic hot hatches in the world after being successful in the motorsport scene, winning some of the most challenging events such as the Monte Carlo Rally and it was also used in multiple famous movies as the main car such as Mr Bean and The Italian Job. The MINI brand has been around for 60 years and with the current generation the F series, the MINI is still very much British and MINI ( well, not really ) but the original essences of the car still exist.
We were given the keys to the new F55 MINI Cooper S five-door for the weekend and yes, this is not the regular three-door mini that we’re used to see from the previous R series models but I would have to say that MINI is daring enough to actually make a five-door hatch but it makes sense because in this era, people tend to go for the bigger car or the one which has rear doors and the MINI Cooper S F55 fits the space when people think the Countryman and Clubman are too big for them. The F55 is the first of its kind and was introduced back in 2014. The particular car we got is the facelifted version which launched last year. There are no extensive changes done to the car but there are more than meets the eyes.
Starting from the exterior, the new MINI now has a full circle LED headlight as compared to the half-circle headlamp found on the older model. The all-important MINI emblem is also replaced with a more prominent looking one and at the rear now are the new LED rear lights which features a bold Union Jack pattern behind the lenses and my god they look good. The Malaysia spec F55 MINI Cooper S now features a full JCW body kit and a set of JCW rims to add some extra spice to the already gorgeous looking car. Also not to forget is the MINI key fob, the key fob is probably one of the cutest key fob ever produced by any manufacturer but with that said, it is solid and small enough to put in your pocket without having it constantly getting in your way.
Now we’re moving onto the more exciting part of the MINI which is how the car feels and drive. If someone tells you that a car is just a car, ask them to test drive a MINI and I’m sure they will come back with a different perception because I absolutely love the MINI. The way how the MINI drives and handles never fails to put a smile on my face be it a short journey to the convenient store or long road trips. At any given chance possible, I would definitely want to drive the MINI and not being able to do so will put me in a sad mood. Under the bonnet is the B48 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which puts out 192hp and 280Nm.
It sure doesn’t sound much but I am very certain that MINI understated the numbers as it felt much more powerful than what’s written on the paper. The engine is strong and it is capable of propelling the Cooper S at a decent rate even from low revs and responds promptly to throttle inputs. Besides that, the turbo noise that the car makes is addictive with its whooshing sound and the tailpipes will prap on fast upshifts but that’s not all, if you put it up to Sport mode, the exhaust will pop and bang like something you get out of a rally car which brings out the speedy boy racer inside you. The engine is paired with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which is a perfect partner. Upshifts and downshifts are lightning quick and since its a MINI, it is hard not to use those paddles shift that comes with it. The 0-100 km/h sprint is done in 6.8 seconds and fuel consumption on the car is good as I manage to score 15km/L even with some hard acceleration.
The MINI is all about the go-kart feeling and in this new generation 5 door Cooper S, the MINI still continue to offer drivers an engaging experience. The MINI is up there with the best in the segment, as it has marvellous body control, lovely balance front-to-rear and really communicative steering. But when you get really aggressive with the Cooper S and chuck it into corners and you’ll find it’s extremely capable without ever being terribly thrilling. The ride is firm as per tradition but it is far away from being uncomfortable especially when it’s being driven on Malaysian road as you tend to go through some really harsh road.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the two extra doors. The big question that will hit you is definitely how much more space do you get compared to the original 3-door? In order to build the 5-door MINI, it is not as easy as slapping on an extra pair of rear doors but they have to increase the height by 11mm and stretch the wheelbase by 72mm which translate to a gain of almost 70-litres of boot space compared to the 3-door and your rear passenger will thank you for the extra foot space and legroom available as well as the easier access to the back seat.
Inside the cabin, you will be greeted by the gorgeous-looking semi bucket sport seats from an actual MINI JCW which is upholstered in a combination of leather and Dinamica fabric and they are superbly comfortable and supportive. The JCW seats also compliment the JCW steering wheel which is standard across the board. The MINI’s dash layout features a tachometer, speedometer and a fuel gauge which is arranged in a circular instrument giving it the old school vibes from the original MINI.
The trademark toggle switches are found on both the header panel and the lower centre stack. All the toggle and button on the car feels premium and built-in high-quality material. MINI as always will be special and guess what, they put a large red toggle that starts and stops the engine and not to mention it has a very special red glow surrounding the toggle for the extra touch but that’s not all, MINI also didn’t go the electric handbrake path so there is a mechanical handbrake which you can use for some shenanigan.
As part of the facelift, the car now comes with a 6.5-inch infotainment system with multi-function steering wheel and can be controlled by touch or using an iDrive rotary dial. The graphics on the screen are cutting edge and navigating through the system is easy. The MINI also comes with MINI Excitement Package which allows the driver creative control of the vehicle’s ambient lighting to up to 12 colour choices.
MINI now includes MINI connected into every model which features Intelligent Emergency Call, Teleservices, MINI Online and Remote Services. Fun fact, when you dial to MINI assistance, you are actually speaking to a real person on the other end and this really enhances the essences of connected. We’ve done some test dials to the call centre and response to pick up the call as well as information given by the person is spot on. The MINI assistance can even set a service appointment for you, answer anything you would like to know more about the MINI and you can even ask them what is good to eat around you.
Besides that, if you download the MINI Connected App on your Android/iOS smartphone and pair them with your MINI, you would be able to remotely unlock your car, turn on the air conditioning or flash your headlights just by clicking them on your phone. On the header panel, you can now spot an SOS button which you can click in case of an emergency and the MINI call centre will send help heading your way.
MINI is still very much a choice of the heart, though there are so much to love about this car as it is a cut above the rest with its high-quality interior, the superb drivetrain and a very well sorted chassis that includes a grin-inducing dynamics. With the LCI model bringing enhanced connectivity which is perfect for the car’s target market and the inclusion of the almost limitless MINI Yours Customise options, the MINI Cooper S F55 still proudly flies the flag for a premium hatchback.