The Mini brand revolves around fun and driving excitement, with practicality an option rather than necessity. Ever since German automaker BMW purchased the Rover Group 21 years ago, things have been steadily changing to make it a sustainable business while keeping things fun.
One of these was significant changes was in terms of size and later the introduction of new (rather un-mini-sized) models like the Coupe, Roadster, to the more supersized Countryman and Paceman; all having R-series designations developed under the BMW-Rover era since 2001.
From 2014, Mini models were designated with F-series model numbers consistent with their BMW counterparts, like this one: the F55... a Mini hatchback with 5 doors.
The new 5-door Hatch is one such model you wouldn't have expected from the Mini marque. Rear doors now open for the Mini hatchback? This would have seemed like a preposterous idea years back as the brand would have seen images of hardcore fans carrying signs and pitchforks screaming sacrilege. Nevertheless, we'll evaluate it and see what this new model can do for a brand that's trying to diversify.
Design-wise, it keeps several intrinsic design elements that make it a Mini Hatch which includes the signature front fascia up to the a-pillar, floating roof, rear hatch and tail lamps. It does look a bit 'different' from the B-pillar rearwards, but it sort of 'grows' on you.
Size-wise, the F55 is 161mm longer, 11mm taller with a 72mm stretch for its wheelbase compared to the already larger F56 Mini 3-door Hatch that measures 3699mm long, 1683 wide and 1407mm tall with a 2467mm wheelbase. The last pre-BMW Mini Cooper measured 3054mm long with a 2035mm wheelbase.
Being an 'S', this particular variant gets a 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo inline-four rated at 192 PS from 4700 - 6000 rpm and a wide peak torque range of 280 Nm from 1250 - 4750 rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. There are three drive modes to choose from: Eco, Mid and Sport.
For fuel efficiency conscious folk, the eco mode also comes with a measurement of range you get out of your tank of fuel. It automatically optimizes fuel maps, transmission shift points, climate control as well as work in conjunction with the auto-stop-and-go system. Surprisingly it was still rather fun to drive despite being a bit restricted.
In sport mode, the engine mapping takes on a more aggressive stance, with the computer optimizing it for 'maximum driving fun'. Auto-stop-and-go is turned off, shift points become more aggressive at higher engine speeds. The exhaust notes get a little bit of popping backfire sound as a bonus at higher revs.
Mid mode is when the driver can't decide whether he want to be efficient or fun. This is what we call the you-don't-know-what-you're-missing drive mode.
The modernized interior retains the fun feel and familiarity of the R-series, but the center-mounted speedometer (as with other Minis) has been relocated to the more conventional location ahead of the driver. The center display more logically houses the infotainment system, with controls that seem to be easier to figure out compared to its predecessor. With the rear doors, rear passengers don't need special physical abilities to squeeze in from a folded front seat. While it was designed to fit 3 at the back, the middle seat might be a challenge for an adult.
Despite being larger and heavier, engineers have worked hard on making the F55 handle like a go-kart to prove that two extra doors won't bore even the most purist of Mini owners. A driver can attack corners all he wants and the car easily follows where the steering wheel is pointing. However don't expect it to perform exactly like the 3-door; that might be asking too much. In terms of comfort, the extra length and weight do make it ride better.
With 5-door hatchbacks increasingly being popular, it makes perfect sense why the F55 was developed and offered. It's practical, convenient and still fun. However, the PhP 2,800,000 pricetag might be a reach considering similar competitor offerings like the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport, and Volkswagen Golf GTI being priced a lot less.