Mini is walking an extremely narrow tightrope with this car, the new four-door version of its timeless Cooper.
It’s got to add enough space and practicality to make it more appealing than its two-door sibling, but it also can’t lose the Cooper’s go-kart handling and playful spirit in the process.
Fortunately for Mini lovers, this car is in the world’s most capable hands to make that happen. I doubt any company other than BMW, which runs the British Mini brand, has the engineering chops to get that balance right.
And, make no mistake, this new four-door Mini is basically a BMW wrapped up in a Union Jack flag. Its styling is quintessentially British, but its bones are very German as it rides on the same platform as the new 1-Series cars.
My test car clearly felt Bavarian from the driver’s seat, with that carved-from-stone build quality and a total lack of rattles, but it looked far quirkier than anything that usually comes from the European continent. The most obvious example: a giant, color-changing circle in the center of the dash that makes no logical sense but sure looks cool.
As for the driving feel, it’s nearly as magical as the smaller, lighter, two-door Mini, which is quite an accomplishment. It’s the kind of car that has so much traction and such flat cornering that it feels like it’s being sucked to the pavement with a giant vacuum cleaner. Short throws from the manual transmission — it would be a sin to get it with an automatic — make it easy to bond with this car on twisty roads.
Power on my test car came from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that makes 189 horsepower and, more impressively, 207 pound-feet of torque. That means the Cooper S 4-Door not only feels fast thanks to the aforementioned go-kart handling, but it actually is fast thanks to the ample power for such a small car.
The regular, non-S Cooper has to live with a more mundane 134 horses.
While its classic lines make it look trim and compact, the four-door version feels considerably larger than the two-door Mini on the inside. It’s about six inches longer, and it makes great use of that space with ample volume scooped out of the seat backs to make way for tall passengers in the rear.
Pricing is where I start to get less excited about this car. It starts at $21,700 for the Cooper and $25,100 for the more powerful Cooper S, which is fantastic for all the style and fun you get for the money. Start checking off the option boxes, though, and you could end up with a $35,000 Mini before you know it.
At its core, though, the four-door Mini is a fantastically engineered vehicle that does the near-impossible. It adds some practicality without sacrificing the spunky feel that makes a Mini a Mini.
BREAKOUT BOX 1:
What was tested?
2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 4-Door ($25,100). Options: Metallic paint ($500), leather seats ($1,750), cold weather package ($600), loaded package ($2,250), sport package ($1,250), rearview camera ($500), piano black interior ($200), grey color line ($100), park distance control ($500), navigation ($750). Price as tested (including $850 destination charge): $34,350
Wheelbase: 101.1 in.
Length: 158 in.
Width: 68 in.
Height: 56.1 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (189 hp, 207 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Estimated Mileage: 26 city, 33 highway
2015 Mini Cooper S 4-Door
BREAKOUT BOX 2:
Why buy it?
It’s a miniature BMW that looks extremely British. Not only does it have fun styling that evokes the most famous car from England, but it corners with a precision that few four-door cars can match.