What is the MINI Hatch?
It’s virtually impossible to confuse the diminutive MINI Hatch range with any other car on sale so familiar are its looks.
Significantly larger than the original Minis – and now a similar size to the likes of the Audi A1 Sportback, DS 3, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo – today’s Hatch retains many of the styling cues that made those early models so recognisable.
Serving as the entry-point to MINI ownership, the Hatch is closely related to the soft-top MINI Convertible, as well as the longer MINI Clubman estate and beefier MINI Countryman SUV, all sharing variations of the same platform and engines.
BMW-owned MINI has a habit of complicating its ranges, but at the moment it’s relatively straightforward – long may that last!
First to appear of the third-generation MINI Hatch range in spring 2014 was the pert three-door (or F56 to give it its development code). It was joined in the autumn by a somewhat ungainly five-door sibling (the F55) for the first time, with rear seat space boosted by a 16cm increase in overall length.
Although the Mk3 Hatch was launched with a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, the latter have now been dropped, although an all-electric version, badged Cooper S E, will be available to order from autumn 2019.
In 2018 MINI have the Hatch a minor facelift, upgrading many of the finishes and introducing the divisive Union flag tail lights.
At this point it also rejigged the trim levels, with three basic packages of Classic, Sport and Exclusive available in different grades – for instance, the mid-range models can be had a Classic Cooper, Sport Cooper and Exclusive Cooper, with the latter pair bundling together key options.
Overall the trim levels continue with the One, Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works themes that have been in use for almost two decades.
In most instances, when people refer to the MINI Cooper S, they’re talking about one of the sportier versions of the Hatch.
Cooper S is not a model in its own right, but a trim level that’s also available on the Convertible, Clubman and Countryman, as well as the discontinued MINI Coupe, MINI Roadster and MINI Paceman. It’s similar to saying someone drives a Ford ST or a Volkswagen GTI – you’ll know it’s a sporty car, just not which model it is.
With a 192hp 2.0-litre turbo engine, today’s MINI Hatch Cooper S is brisk, but it’s not the fastest trim level: That honour goes to the MINI Hatch John Cooper Works.
With power ramped-up to 231hp from the same basic engine, the JCW can sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds.
Compared with the Mk1 and Mk2 MINI Hatches, the Mk3’s reception was lukewarm, not least because it had grown significantly in size and looked heavy-handed, particularly around the chunky rear end.
That didn’t improve six months later when the five-door, complete with oddly proportioned doors went on sale. Still, it’s not stopping the Hatch from being popular.
Underneath the bodywork lies BMW’s adaptable front-wheel drive architecture that as well as being shared with other MINIs, also underpins the BMW X1, X2, 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Gran Tourer.
It can be modified to accept four-wheel drive (not on the MINI Hatch) as well as plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fully electric powertrains.
Yes, it is, but owners of earlier MINI Hatches may well lament the light, zippiness of those earlier cars. Today’s Hatch is still enjoyable, offering a great level of communication back to the driver, but it feels bigger and heavier.
In fact, it feels more like a small BMW than a darty, nimble MINI – not a bad thing, perhaps, but it’s certainly different.
Scan a MINI price list and the figures for the Hatch look expensive if you’re considering buying one outright. Get into one using PCH or PCP finance and things are more reasonable.
It’s certainly not cheap, but the monthly bills are on par with those Audi charges for the latest-generation A1.
See how drivers of the MINI Hatch rate their cars with our comprehensive owners’ reviews.
MINI Hatchback Model History
BMW’s Mk2 MINI Hatch arrived at the tail-end of 2006 on an all-new platform boasting a careful update of its predecessor’s styling, although it was 6cm longer.
Often known by its R56 internal designation, the three-door MINI Hatch once again came in familiar One, Cooper, Cooper S and JCW trims, with a range of 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines co-developed by BMW and Peugeot-Citroen, with a 2.0-litre BMW diesel installed in the Cooper SD.
This time around both the Cooper S and JCW were boosted by a more fuel efficient turbocharger, but still retained the air scoop above the grille in the bonnet.
Once again, the Hatch provided the basis of the Mk2 MINI Convertible (R57) from 2009, but also the unusual 2007 estate-bodied MINI Clubman (R55) as well as the two-seater MINI Coupe (R58 from 2011) and MINI Roadster (R59 from 2012).
Find used MINI Hatches for sale and discover what drivers think about their cars with our comprehensive owners’ reviews.
First-generation MINI Hatch (2001-06)
Just over a year after the final classic Minis rolled-off the production line in 2000, BMW’s take on the MINI went on sale in summer 2001.
Its styling was clearly influenced by the earlier cars, but the Mk1 MINI Hatch – or R50 to give it its Rover-derived codename – owed little else to its elderly forebear.
Clearly bigger than the older models, the new MINI was more of a sporty supermini than a space-efficient town car, but a tailgate at the back made it a mite more practical.
One and Cooper versions arrived first, with the R53 Cooper S arriving over a year later, its power boosted by a supercharger.
All petrol MINIs had a Brazilian-built Chrysler-supplied engine, save for the One D diesel – its 1.4-litre unit was bought-in from Toyota.
The Hatch also formed the basis of the Mk1 MINI Convertible (R52) from 2004, with a drop-down bootlid reminiscent of earlier models.