A Mini Cooper with maximum fun.
The Mini Cooper is an outlier amongst mainstream models for its size, style, and price. There is not anything quite like it on the market and for this reason, it continues to attract a loyal following and win not a few positive glances from almost everyone else. We drove a 2022 Mini Cooper S for a week and were immediately won over by its appearance, tech offerings, and performance.
Mini offers its nascent model in Hardtop 2 Door, Hardtop 4 Door, Convertible, and Electric versions. There are several variations on the popular theme with Countryman and Clubman choices also available. For the sole purpose of this review, our focus is on the Hardtop 2 Door, which was our test model.
Mini prices the 2022 Cooper Hardtop 2 Door from $23,750, including an $850 destination charge. Choose the Cooper S and that one costs $27,750, while the range-topping John Cooper Works retails from $33,750.
One further note: there are special Oxford Edition trims available across the model line. You may have to dig deep to find them, as we did. The cost is $20.600 on the standard Two Door and that’s quite a bargain. Also, we are not mentioning the John Cooper Works GP model as it is very limited and hard to find.
New for 2022
For 2022, the Mini Cooper is refreshed. Slight tweaks to the exterior are difficult to notice, but they are apparent, including a revised front fascia. Specifically, Mini made the grille slightly taller and added new air curtains to the lower bumper. A new, centered twin-tailpipe design brings up the rear.
Inside, a digital instrument panel takes over. Also, an 8.8-inch circular touchscreen display is new and comes with Apple CarPlay compatibility. However, Android Auto connectivity remains elusive. Other changes include additional safety features and package shuffling.
The current Mini is longer, wider, and taller than the original, thus for some people the latest iteration is not truly a “mini.” But that original model was downright tiny and simply would not play with today’s consumers. That said, Mini’s designers set to develop a model that combined the spirit of the original with today’s needs.
For the most part, we think it works. From the oversized round headlights to the high beltline and on back to the rear, the tidy proportions are welcome in this age of oversized products. Special touches including available striping, the Union Jack taillamps, and gorgeous wheel choices. The retro elements remain, even with various trim pieces added on some models.
The list of features available, standard or extra, includes LED lighting and a dual-panoramic sunroof. An assortment of alloy wheel choices, cornering lights, and paint schemes are available.
Inside, the Mini Cooper S is snug. On paper, it seats four, but that back seat is as tight as they come. Yes, yours truly managed to squeeze back there to take pictures of the dashboard. That only happened because the front seats easily slide and tilt forward. Still, the rear seat is ideal for youngsters although if we had a convertible, the lack of headroom for adults would not be a concern with the room dropped down.
As for the front bucket seats, this writer found them comfortable, even for his 6-foot frame. The pull-out thigh extender makes a significant difference, especially when taking long drives. And this comes from a guy who battles sciatica.
The interior is “cute” and upscale, with soft-touch materials in more abundance than hard plastics. On the S trims and with various design upgrades taken, the look is decidedly upscale. Quilted leather seats replace the standard imitation leather. Metallic pieces, a padded dashboard, and chrome-like bezels impart a more substantive look. But that comes at a price as our test model topped $36,000. That is more in keeping with BMW than Toyota, Ford, or Hyundai, but it is not entirely unexpected either.
The list of cabin features includes full power accessories, air conditioning, and imitation leather seats. Work your way up through the style and package upgrades and more features roll out. These include ambient lighting, leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats.
Safety and Tech
The Mini’s diminutive size means it must do battle with far larger models. As such, its safety scores will never achieve top ratings based mostly on size alone. That said, automatic emergency braking comes standard and that is important for any model. Other standard features for the “S” include automatic headlights, active driving assist with forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Among the available features are front parking sensors, parallel park assist, and adaptive cruise control.
On the tech front, the changes are noteworthy and for a few reasons. First, the instrument panel is now represented by a digital screen. It offers the usual displays, including a tachometer, speedometer, and fuel gauge. They are easy to read and configurable. Second, the color display reflects an updated layout and interface. Together, the duo only enhances the interior.
Among the standard features are Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay (except on the Oxford Edition), a 6-speaker audio system, HD Radio, and satellite radio. A Harman Kardon audio system and wireless charging pad are available.
Having engine choices on small cars is increasingly unusual as manufacturers align availability with shrinking demand. Happily, Mini is an important exception with three choices available.
The standard engine is a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder with 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. All S models come with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 189 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. Choose the “Works” model and this one has an enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 228 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque.
All three trims are front-wheel-drive-only and come with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox. The base and S models offer a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the Cooper Works options an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Our test S trim had the manual transmission and for that, we were thrilled and immensely rewarded. This engine comes from the parent BMW’s powertrain arsenal and, as such, is strong, nicely tuned, and entirely suitable for the Mini. Regardless of the engine choice, the Mini Cooper is fun to drive as it is perky, fast, and entirely tossable.
Its diminutive size easily offsets whatever concerns anyone might have about front-wheel drive as this car stays planted and poised on curvy roads. It almost begs for aggressive driving, although we think the turbo fours are the better choice from a power standpoint. Direct steering, weighted handling, strong brakes, and the narrowest turning radius are among its chief points. We would be remiss if we did not talk up the gearbox as it offers short, simple throws. The clutch uptake is flawless too. If you are not especially good with all matters of shifting, the Mini will make you feel like a champ. The ride is not bad either, especially for a car of its size.
Our S model makes an EPA-estimated 23 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway for a combined 27 mpg. We achieved about 30 mpg based on mostly highway driving.
Starting your search with the Oxford Edition is certainly tempting, especially with the low-cost standard model. But we think people will prefer the extra kick of the S. Thus, our recommendation matches the tested model. Choose your upgrades carefully and your cost should remain below $30,000. And that is with the highly recommended six-speed manual transmission to play with.
Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.