Five doors open up Mini to fleet
13 August 2014
Mini is growing again, finally gaining a five-door hatch that's set to present the BMW-owned brand with new fleet opportunities, as Paul Barker discovers
The first five-door version of the Mini hatchback joins its long-standing three-door sibling in October, and the baby premium brand is looking for the more practical new model to deliver a step up in corporate sales.
As well as the additional doors, the new car is 161mm longer, 100mm of which is in the wheelbase to improve passenger space, which Mini claims is now better than key rivals identified as the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Audi A1 and VW Polo. There's a third rear seat, unlike the three-door, and boot space rises by 67 litres on the five-door to 278 litres, just two litres shy of the Polo and 10 litres behind the Fiesta, although it's 10 litres up on the A1.
"We have so many companies that want Mini on their fleet but haven't because they need a five-door," explains Mini corporate development manager James Morrison. "We run a direct sales business within corporate and have hundreds of customers with direct sales terms, so we talk regularly about fleet policies and which cars from BMW Group would fit. If there is a five-door only policy then we have been restricted to the Countryman, and that's a bigger car, so we've been restricted in the smaller hatchback segment."
He says the single biggest reason for Mini three-door customers leaving the brand is due to the need for a larger or more practical car.
"We know people love Mini but have to change because the car gets too small for their lifestyle," says Morrison. "We really want to show corporates that Mini is open for business and is right for many fleets where it wasn't before."
According to Morrison, 70% of the supermini segment is five-door models, an area Mini has never competed in before.
"There is an opportunity for natural growth for Mini," he says. "We want a bigger share of that 70%."
He says 90% of Peugeot 208s into the corporate sector are five-door, while it's 80% for the Fiesta, 68% for the Polo and 61% for the Audi A1, a figure he believes Mini will most closely replicate.
"We will definitely see some movement from three-door into five," he says. "Five-door is where the market is, but Mini will always be known as the iconic three-door hatch, so our transition into five-door will be longer.
"We need to be explicit that we now have a Mini with five doors. I think for corporate it's perfect, but there will be a big retail demand for the car as well, and it's an awareness job that Mini now has five doors."
As well as the brand prestige and looks, Morrison also claims the interior is a selling point for the new model.
"When you look at the competitor set, Mini is in a different class," he declares.
The five-door costs £600 more than the three-door, and there is a slight pay-off in terms of emissions, thanks to the larger car weighing 70kg more than its more established sibling.
The 116hp Cooper D model, likely to be the most popular corporate seller, is up 3g/km to 95g/km, while the 170hp Cooper SD goes up 2g/km to 109g/km, although the latter at least still stays in the same company car tax band. The rest of the range is made up of the petrol Cooper and Cooper S models, while all engines offer an automatic option.
Morrison says Mini is in a buoyant mood thanks to the market's response to the new three-door, which went on sale earlier this year.
"It's not just head and shoulders above the old car but head, shoulders and waist," he claims.
Mini's corporate development boss also says that the brand had 4000 orders at the launch of the three-door, the largest order bank in its history.
"This car forms the basis of the next generation of Minis, so we're delighted it's been so well received," he concludes.
The view from inside the vehicle
Mini held an exclusive fleet preview event at its Bracknell, Berkshire, headquarters earlier this month, giving BusinessCar a chance to have a look around the car it sees as having a big opportunity in fleet.
The first noticeable thing is that the rear door opening itself is very narrow compared with rivals, but the claims of interior space that beats those key competitors seem genuine once you're inside. A six-footer could sit comfortably enough behind a similarly sized driver, which is certainly as much as you could expect from a car this size.
The larger boot will be as welcome as the extra doors for many customers, with an extra
67 litres making a huge difference to what used to be a Mini weakness. Models with Chilli and Pepper packs will get the useful and easily operated three-position boot floor, which adds to Mini's new-found practicality.