Admittedly I wasn’t too taken with the idea of a 5-door Mini Cooper. It’s like baby-proofing a handgun. But a little more time with the Mini Cooper D 5-door, and its more domesticated avatar starts to make sense. Think of it as a reverse baptism of sorts, because Mini Cooper was one of the few hatches that were hot right off the assembly line, which helped make it the quintessential hot hatch.
Cars like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the Volkswagen Golf, by contrast, sold in larger numbers by starting off as sensible hatchbacks, with superpowered variants added as an afterthought. For 2015 Mini decided to give us a 5-door Cooper in its most recognizable form. Not as the Countryman or the Clubman, but the one with those iconic ovular headlamps, chrome bordered grille and a very familiar set of racing stripes. Oh and might I add, a new fantastic shade of blue that’ll make you forgive any of its trespasses were it to err in any significant way. The new Mini’s design is a bit more bulbous than the previous one. And although changes are fairly subtle, you can see it gravitating to something decidedly un-Mini. That doesn’t stop it from looking like a striking car, however. Mini has never strayed from away from very fundamental geometrical patterns and that makes it one of the most recognizable cars on the planet.
The new Cooper D is powered by a 1.5 litre, 3-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine, so a hooligan it isn’t. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox and the car reaches 0-100 in over 9 seconds. It’s strange but somehow all those hopelessly unimpressive figures add up to a car that isn’t actually slow. We’re not talking about drag strip conquests here, its just that it’s fairly quick in the lower half of the rev range and comfortably darts towards 160 kph. That said, it isn’t faster than the 2.1 litre Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the BMW 1 Series whose platform it shares.
What does really work in the car’s favour is the way it handles. It’s fairly planted around bends as the front tyres dig in hard, but it complies every time you want it to be a bit more playful. ABS and ESP come as standard and are complemented by an excellent set of brakes making it an incredibly balanced front-wheel drive hatch. With just 112 bhp, it isn’t intimidating but it never feels insufficient, especially if you switch to sport mode where the shifts start to feel a lot smoother, keeping the car closer to the meat of the powerband. The downside is that the suspension setup might feel a tad stiff so as far as seating four is concerned, this car is no marshmallow.
For Rs 31 lakh, there plenty of fully specced sedans out there which would be a darned sight quicker than the new Cooper D. But sitting inside you realise that nothing in that range matches the novelty value of a Mini Cooper. Perhaps it’s because the Cooper’s glamourous past has made it a much bigger brand by itself. And although most of the features inside are optional, it is a spectacular place to be. I always thought that having a gauge cluster in the middle of dashboard was a particularly daft idea so I’m glad that Mini has remedied that and replaced it with a circular console housing a wide screen and an interactive multimedia system. There’s also a heads-up display unit which really helps keep things interesting. All of this could just as easily be viewed as gimmicky, but the Mini is without a doubt the best looking premium hatch in the country, inside and out.