Real-World Review

2015 Mini Cooper S: Real World Review

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2015

The 2015 Mini Cooper S is all new for the latest model year, but in addition to a new look and some new features, the Mini now includes a new 4-door model. Offered for the first time in Mini's history, the all-new body style boasts four full-size doors and a stretched overall length to accommodate them. So how is it? We spent a week driving a sporty S version of the 4-door Mini to see what we thought, and we've rounded up our impressions in our latest real-world review.

Fun, Fun, Fun

Good news, Mini lovers: The addition of two extra doors doesn't mean you have to surrender the Mini's excellent handling. On the contrary, the 4-door Mini offers the same level of handling prowess as the 2-door model, with one of our editors, Ben, calling it "go-kartlike" and noting that it "corners terrifically." Another editor, Dwight, echoed those remarks, noting that it's "still a fun car to drive" due to its always-impressive cornering and handling capabilities.

How's the Back?

Now that the most important aspect of the Mini experience is out of the way, let's move on to the next big question: How's the back seat?

Unfortunately, this is where things turn a bit sour. Yes, the four full-size doors improve entry and exit to the back seats, but there's just not enough room in back for a normal, full-size adult. Our tester Tommy specifically said that backseat room is "pretty cramped," noting that even with the front seat pushed all the way forward, he found rear legroom to be "a little sparse." Likewise, editor Ben says he "did not fit comfortably" in the Mini's rear seats, noting that drivers who want a full 4-door hatchback should probably look elsewhere.

These complaints aren't surprising. Only 1.5 inches of the 4-door MINI's extended length go toward improving the hatchback's rear legroom. Otherwise, it's all in back, where the MINI can now swallow considerably more luggage. But what's the point if you can't comfortably carry around the people attached to those extra suitcases?

Everything Else?

This is our first chance to spend some time with the 2015 Mini Cooper, so we figured that we should check out a little more than just the back seat and the driving experience. We also got acquainted with other aspects of the car during our week behind the wheel, and we came away with both positive and negative opinions.

On the positive side, everyone likes how the car looks. Although the Mini hasn't changed much since its introduction in the early 2000s, the design still garners positive opinions, and we're starting to wonder if it's just about as timeless as the original model on which it's based.

A drawback: options. This has been a complaint about the Mini since day one, but virtually all of our testers continue to criticize the Mini for its lack of standard equipment and pricey optional extras. In example, a backup camera, which is standard on most modern cars and is an impending governmental regulation, is still on the Mini's options list. So are simple options such as satellite radio, a center armrest and heated seats -- all of which brought our Mini's base price well above $30,000.

The latest Mini's interior was opinion-splitting. Editor Ben, who's used to practical, functional cars, denounced certain aspects of the Mini's cabin as being "quirky just to be quirky." In particular, he mentioned the ever-changing center-display colors, the oddly shaped manual shifter and some of the buttons, which certainly prioritize style over substance. But this isn't always a bad thing: Some of us like the latest Mini's quirky cabin, as it keeps with the car's unusual character.

Other comments: The ride quality is firm but not too harsh; seating is comfortable, though it might get tiresome on long drives; controlling the infotainment system is a little awkward thanks to the (optional) center armrest; and the shifter feels a little clunkier than it did in previous Mini generations.

Our Take

As usual, our opinion about the Mini is roughly the same: We love driving it, but it's too expensive. If you strip away some of the options, this car becomes a great value -- but it's hard to justify spending well above $30,000 for a compact hatchback like this one.

But now there's another element to consider: the 4-door body style. We like the idea, and some of our other favorite hot hatches -- the Ford Focus ST and the Volkswagen GTI -- also come in 4-door guise. But with the 2015 Mini Cooper S, the back seat is a little too cramped, and the 2-door version is a little too sweet for us to recommend it. If you want a Mini, go with the 2-door. If you want four doors, consider one of the Mini's many excellent rivals.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mini Cooper S: Real World Review - Autotrader