Small cars are enjoying quite the run these days, even in we-love-our-big-sedans-and-SUVs-North-American markets.
Small cars are efficient, their styling often breaks free of the jellybean mold and, above all else, they’re inexpensive. I mean, when you can provide a brand new car for less than 10 grand, as Nissan does with the Micra (that’s Micr-A, not Micr-O), well, you’re going to get some looks.
So that’s all well and good. Trouble is, while manufacturers can control the build of a small car, it’s harder for mankind to control the build of a person. So what about the taller folk? They want efficient and affordable motoring just as much as anyone else, but can it be had? Can taller people really live with the new small urban utility vehicles, the roadsters and the hatchbacks that continue to proliferate manufacturer’s lineups?
With that question in mind, we’re launching the Big Guy, Small Car series, whereby our resident big man, Dan Heyman (all 6-foot-3 inches of him) sees what spending a significant amount of time behind the wheel of these vehicles is all about.
Well, there are few cars as appropriately named for an entry in the Big Guy, Small Car series as this one. I mean, it’s called Mini, for goodness sakes.
Thing is, that Mini moniker has come a long way since the brand got reborn in 2001, and the car you see here – the Cooper S 5-door – is, for the time being, the newest model in Mini’s lineup. Of course, the biggest spot in the lineup is inhabited by the Countryman, which made little sense when it was released but makes more sense now that pretty much every major manufacturer from Jeep to Mercedes is rushing to enter the Urban Utility Segment.
But I digress.
The 5-door is 155 millimetres longer and has a 72 mm longer wheelbase than its 3-door cousin, which translates to 15 extra mm of rear headroom, and 37 mm more rear legroom. The cargo capacity is where you see the biggest jump between the two, from 731 to 941 L, a jump of 210 L. The Countryman, meanwhile, adds a little more rear legroom and cargo space, but headroom remains the same, even though it does sit taller overall.
The extra interior space in the 5-door had to come from somewhere, and while Mini’s stretched out the lower half of the car, they don’t seem to have stretched the roof to match. The profile is a little strange as a result, with the rear window awkwardly raked so as to meet the edge of the roof. The longer distance between the front and back wheels doesn’t help much in this regard, either. Meanwhile, the huge taillight lenses, which already looked strange on the 3-door, look even stranger here. Our car was specified with 16-inch wheels; they provide a softer ride, but you have to think the optional 17- or 18-inch items would add more polish to the styling package.
The Countryman and its 3-door Paceman mutation remain the most un-Mini when it comes to styling, but that’s kind of to be expected from those two. Features like all-wheel drive and a taller ride height mean they’re already way, way off the beaten path when it comes to being “Mini” in the classic sense; the 5-door, for all intents and purposes, should be more classic Mini – front-wheel drive, ground-hugging stance – which makes the strange styling a little tougher to swallow.