Bigger is better with Mini

Size really matters if you’re a Mini owner who needs to comfortably carry more than an adult driver and a passenger. That’s where the Mini Hardtop 4 Door that arrives later this year can offer assistance.

The Mini lineup has undergone plenty of change and several new models since BMW acquired the brand and launched its initial version for the 2003 model year. For 2015, a shuffle within the Mini ranks has one model departing along with the addition of the Mini Hardtop 4 Door.

The retirement in question is the Mini Clubman, which is an extended-length Mini Cooper.

It has a single rear passenger/cargo pocket door behind the front passenger seat plus a pair of rear “Dutch”doors” (in place of a traditional liftgate). Although practical, the Clubman (launched for 2008) was never all that popular with buyers, which is understandable since rear-seat access remained difficult.

As the name implies, the new 4 Door comes with a couple of actual rear passenger doors, not unlike the larger Mini Countryman.

They’re not as generously sized as the front doors, but it’s now possible to situate larger (but hopefully svelte) folks in back without excessive bending and twisting.

Perhaps jokingly, the 4 Door’s designers installed a trio of rear-row seatbelts, but it’s hard to imagine anyone other than a small child or lapdog being shoehorned between two adults.

In creating the 4 Door, the basic Mini Cooper was lengthened by more than half a foot and the distance between the front and rear wheels increased by about three inches, with half of that going toward increased rear legroom. The extended roof also provides an extra half-inch of headroom.

In back there’s a bit more stowage room with the seats in place, but the payoff comes when you drop the split-folding 60:40 rear seat to discover plenty of space for bulky gear. The 4 Door’s total volume is slightly more than that of the outgoing 2.5-door Mini Clubman.

The interior design is a virtual copy of the latest two-door model that was introduced for 2014.

The speedometer is attached to the steering column and is flanked by the fuel gauge and the rev counter. A large, round mid-dash pod, which used to house the speedometer on previous Minis, now contains only the infotainment, communications and available navigation systems that are controlled by a rotary dial on the floor console.

The 4 Door’s powertrain choices are identical to those of the two-door variant. The base Cooper runs with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that puts out 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.

Moving up to the Cooper S gets you a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard for each, while a six-speed automatic is optional. The latter adds a feature that shuts off the engine when the car is briefly stopped.

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