BEFORE MINI officially launched its new five-door variant here in Cebu, MINI Cebu flew me to Angeles City to experience the MINI track day at the Clark International Speedway. I got to drive the five-door variants of the MINI Cooper and the MINI Cooper S. Being the petrol head that I am, the MINI Cooper S was the one that impressed me the most and the one that I loved to drive, for the simple reason that it has more horsepower than the MINI Cooper.
My first impression of these new MINI variants is that it is the same MINI with two additional doors. That is how it looked, but the new cars are actually slightly bigger than thethree-door variants. The five-door version is actually 161 millimeters longer and 11 millimeters higher than the three-door variant. The MINI Cooper just became a more practical and comfortable car with two more doors added to it.
More often than not, two additional doors and slightly bigger dimensions would equate to less performance and therefore less fun. MINI organized this track day to show us that none of the original MINI go-kart like handling was sacrificed with this new five-door variant.
We had three trackday activities.
The Italian Job, where we would shoot at a target with paintball guns while riding a moving MINI. This activity was just for fun and nothing about the cars performance.
Two laps around Clark International Speedway. This is to show the speed and handling of the MINIs.
Two runs at a skidpad. This is to show the agility of the MINI.
I did not do well in the Italian Job activity – I missed my targets, but then again it has nothing to do with how the cars work.
Moving on the laps around the track, we had a go at both the MINI Cooper and the MINI Cooper S. I drove the MINI Cooper first and then the MINI Cooper S. Both cars had such excellent handling, I could attack the curbs without the car getting unsettled. If you enter the corner a bit too fast you get a hint of understeer and then the car goes in the corner. The key word here is “hint.” Usually, front-wheel-drive cars understeer like crazy when one overcooks a corner, but with the MINI and its Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and the brake assistant, together with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), which includes a drive-off assistant, a brake dry function, Fading Brake Support and DTC mode (Dynamic Traction Control), the car becomes forgiving. Small driving mistakes are corrected. What you get is a car that will not go off track and has tons of grip. You feel like Sebastian Vettel attacking the track with this car.
A skidpad was also set-up as MINI wanted to show us that the go-kart like handling that this car is renowned for has been retained, despite having two additional doors. The guy riding shotgun with us during the skidpad slalom was Philippine Touring Car legend, George Ramirez. We were encouraged to push the car to its limits at the skidpad, to which I obliged, and yes the car can change direction in the blink of an eye. It was fantastic!
In the end, MINI has produced a car that is more practical with the two additional doors and yet still remains what it really is – a perfect toy for petrol heads like me.