MINI Launches New 5 Door Version With Track Day At Clark International Speedway

Normally, new cars are launched in the rather sedate setting of an exhibition hall or a dealer’s showroom, where a static display model is slowly unveiled while the boss of the company enthusiastically reads text of a teleprompter outlining why their newest release is the best thing since sliced bread. MINI isn’t your normal car brand, though, and instead of launching the new MINI 5 Door at their dealership in BGC, British United Automobiles decided to invite the media to a track day at Clark. Read on to find out if the new, bigger MINI is still as much fun to drive as the brand’s reputation (and marketing department) suggests.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (8)The new MINI Cooper 5 Door at Clark International Speedway

It’s early on a hot Sunday in Pampanga and a row of shiny new MINIs is neatly parked in the pit lane of Clark International Speedway, waiting to be test driven by selected members of the media and other invited guests who continue to arrive at the venue as the morning progresses. During the briefing that follows, we learn that three different activities are awaiting us today: a slalom, a few laps of the track, and an exercise called ‘The Italian Job’, which of course refers to the famous movie and entails shooting paintballs from a moving car. Your average test drive this is not.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (1)The cabin of the new MINI 5 Door: a nice place to be

First on the agenda is the slalom, and with it a first chance to inspect the new, bigger MINI in all its glory. The modern reincarnation of this British classic has never been particularly ‘mini’ in size, and the new MINI 5 Door measures in at 3,982 millimeters long (MINI Cooper S 5 Door is 4,005 millimeters), 1,727 millimeters wide and 1,425 millimeters tall. This makes the 5 Door model 161 millimeters longer and 11 millimeters higher than the 3-door version, while the width remains the same. The design is still unmistakably MINI, though, and the added size is benefitting rear passengers the most while also adding 67 liters of boot space to the car, bringing the total to 278 liters. Just in case the weekly trip to the supermarket ends up on the bigger side, the car also features 60:40 split folding rear backrests, meaning the luggage compartment volume can be increased to 941 liters – or roughly the size of one original 1959 MINI by the feel of it.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (5)Putting the Cooper S version through its paces during the slalom

Car measuring and seat folding done, it’s time to start putting this Cooper S version through its paces by negotiating the slalom course set up on the main straight of the track. A rotary switch at the base of the gear or selector lever is used to activate the three available driving modes: standard MID mode, GREEN mode, or SPORT. Each mode either changes or influences  the accelerator response, steering and engine acoustics, as well as the ambient lighting, the displays in the LED centre instrument, the shift characteristics of the automatic transmission, and the Dynamic Damper Control configuration (on the S version). Seeing what the task at hand is, SPORT mode seems to be the appropriate choice, and as soon as the instruments changed color to visualize the increased sportiness that is now at the driver’s disposal, it’s time to bury the right foot in the carpet and tackle the course ahead.

The car lunges off the line and towards the first cones, with the engine giving an angry soundtrack and the automatic gearbox allowing it to rev high before switching into second gear in anticipation of the first turn. The car sweeps through the slalom without any drama, feeling much smaller than it looks while doing so. Quick left right left right movements cause little body roll and the firm setup of the SPORTS mode means steering input is direct and the handling precise. Barely 28 seconds and zero fallen cones later and the car comes to a stop at the end of the course. The best time of the day was 24 seconds. I can live with that.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (3)Test drive, MINI style: firing paintballs at targets from a moving car

Next on the agenda is The Italian Job, an activity that requires the driver to slowly drive along a part of the track while the passenger is shooting at roadside targets with a paintball gun. That’s easier said than done, but at least it gives us a chance to appreciate the interior of the car a little more, with build quality looking good and the usual MINI style elements making the cabin a fun place to be. Three bull’s-eyes and one missed target later and it’s clear that the new MINI 5 Door is a good choice for drive by shootings, although that probably wasn’t the message their marketing department was trying to convey. So let’s say it’s a good car to have fun with instead.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (2)The SPORT driving mode. Just what you need on a race track

Last but by no means least, it is time to take the car around the track and give it a proper workout. To keep things under control and prevent any overly enthusiastic test pilots from triggering any of the front, side and curtain airbags, a pace car is leading the way while everyone follows like ducks going for a walk – a quick walk, that is. This is by far the most fun part of the day and gives us a chance to let the nearly 200 horses of our Cooper S run free for a bit. The standard version delivers 136 hp and 220Nm from a 1,499cc engine, while the Cooper S has a 1,998cc engine that pumps out 192 hp and 280 Nm. 0-100 km/h figures are 7.8 for the standard car and 6.7 for the S, while top speeds stand at 210 and 233 km/h respectively.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (4)The new MINI 5 Door being put through its paces at Clark

Moving the MINI 5 Door around Clark at speed is fun. The car is responsive and, just like during the slalom, doesn’t feel as big as it looks. Corners are light work even if you steer in late and when we hit the straight, it marches towards the horizon with so much enthusiasm that my fiancée on the passenger seat lets out some choice words in Tagalog. The car has a whole army of electronic helpers to keep things in check, including anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), a brake assistant, as well as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which includes a drive-off assistant, a brake dry function, Fading Brake Support and DTC mode (Dynamic Traction Control). Most of those systems are working hard as we whiz around Clark speedway, trying to hit apexes and flooring it along the straighter sections of the track. It’s smiles all around when we finally stop in the pit lane again and the new MINI has properly proven that it still has fun built in.

Mini-5-door-track-day-clark (7)Fun with five doors and available to buy now

If you now fancy buying the new model, then you’ll have to ask your bank manager to wire at least PHP 2,300.000 to MINI Global City, MINI Roadshow Greenhills or MINI Cebu for the MINI Cooper 5 Door, or PHP 2,800,000 for the S version. In exchange, you’ll get a car the promises a lot of fun and plenty of space, all covered by a 2 years, unlimited mileage warranty. Don’t take our word for it, though. Contact MINI Philippines today and test drive it for yourself:

MINI Philippines