2023 Mini Cooper

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There aren’t many new cars that really stand out anymore – in part because there aren’t many new cars for sale anymore. A tsunami of crossovers have replaced most of them. 

So what to do if you don’t want one of those? If you want something that stands out from the herd? 

A Mini might suit.

What It Is

The Mini is just that – the smallest new car you can buy. Even the four door version is just 158.5 inches long – which, to give you a sense of scale, is two feet shorter than a compact-sized new car like the Toyota Corolla, which is 182.5 inches long.

And the two-door Mini is six inches shorter than that. 

It is also powered by one of the smallest engines you’ll find in any new car – just 1.5 liters and three cylinders. 

And you can still get it with a manual transmission, something very hard to find in any new car and impossible to find in any four-door new car.

More about that shortly.

Base price for the two-door hatchback with the 1.5 liter, 134 horsepower engine and manual transmission is $23,400. The same basic thing with rear doors (and more backseat legroom/cargo room) stickers for $24,400. 

If you want a little more engine – and horsepower – the $26,900 S (two-door) swaps out the 1.5 liter three for a 189 horsepower 2.0 liter four.

A top-of-the-line Cooper with the “Works” (JCW performance package) which includes a stronger (228 hp) version of the 2.0 liter engine, along with more aggressive suspension tuning and other such upgrades stickers for $35,900.

There is also an electric version of the Cooper – the SE – which has 114 miles of range on a full charge and stickers for $24,900 to start.

This one is only available with two doors. 

What’s New for 2023

A Resolute Edition featuring Pepper White roof and mirror caps, Nappa leather-trimmed steering wheel, an 18-inch Pulse Spoke wheel/tire package, Piano Black interior trim and a host of additional trim upgrades has been added to the mix for what will probably be the last year for the current Mini before a major redesign in 2024.

What’s Good

Small – but more practical than you might think.

Two doors or four.

Manual transmission available.

What’s Not So Good

Price can get big, fast.

Two-door’s back seats are unusable for passengers.

Manual is not available with the four-door Mini.

Under The Hood

Being a little car, the Mini doesn’t need a big engine to get around – and quickly. The standard 1.5 liter turbocharged three cylinder engine makes 134 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like a big number. But the Mini two-door only weighs 2,846 lbs. – which is light for a modern car – and for that reason can get to 60 in about 7.6 seconds.

It also gets 27 MPG in city driving and 37 MPG on the highway, as good as most current-year economy cars and better than some of them.

You can also shift-for-yourself in the two door – which is one of the very few new cars still available with a manual (six speed, in this case) transmission. A seven speed dual clutch automatic is also available, for those who wish to let the car shift for them.

If you’d like a bit more spunk, the Cooper S should suit. It  is powered by the larger – and considerably stronger – 2.0 liter turbocharged four mentioned earlier that makes 189 horsepower. This one can get to 60 in about 6.5 seconds while still being capable of getting 23 MPG in city driving and 33 on the highway.

For the most spunk, there’s the “Works” version of the Cooper, which ups the horsepower ante to 228 and cuts the car’s 0-60 time to less than six seconds. Interestingly, this one only uses a bit more gas (22 city, 31 highway) than the S – if you drive with a not-too-heavy right foot.

Unfortunately, you cannot get the “Works” upgrades with the four-door Mini. Or a manual transmission, either. All the four doors are automatic only and the strongest available engine for 2023 is the 189 horsepower version of the 2.0 turbo four.

If you’re interested in an electric Mini, it’s available – but only in two-door form. And it only goes about 114 miles on a full charge. However, it is pretty quick, being capable of getting to 60 in about 6.8 seconds and it’s one of just two new EVs – the other being Chevy’s Bolt –   that stickers for less than $30,000 to start (though just barely).

All Minis are front-wheel-drive.

On The Road

Size does matter.

Especially when almost everything else is plus-sized.

The Mini’s small size gives it the same advantage the Rebel Alliances’ fighters had over the Imperial Walkers – to use a Star Wars analogy. You can thread the needle through traffic, take advantage of openings too small for almost everything else. And parking a Mini is almost as easy as parking a motorcycle.

And they’re almost as much fun to drive.

More so, when it’s wet – or cold – because you’re not outside, in the wet and cold.

The manual version – get one while you still can – is the most fun of all. The kind of fun that is being systematically excised from cars, even sporty ones. Being able to work the clutch and shifter adds an element that cannot be compensated for by adding power. A new Corvette is a ferociously quick and also inevitably boring – because there isn’t much for the driver to do anymore. Push the gas, feel it go.

The Mini is nowhere near as quick but it is much more involving because you are involved, as the driver. This is especially so in the base model with the little 1.5 liter three cylinder engine. If this engine were paired with an automatic, it’d feel like everything else with an automatic, except for how much quicker or slower it was than other cars. That being a one-dimensional difference, like the one between a 100 and a 150 watt lightbulb.

The manual transmission adds a dimension. Two or three, actually.

It gives you much more say-so  and fine-tune control over what the engine does – and when. You control the revs as well as the shifts.

Some are under the mistaken impression that an automatic-equipped car with paddle shifters and a “manual” mode can do the same. It does not. You are allowed some degree of control over upshifts and downshifts, but only within the parameters of the programming. The computer will override your control if what you input falls outside the parameters. And there’s no slipping the clutch at launch; no grins to be gained from performing a perfectly timed shift yourself. Without a clutch, a sporty car can be likened to airplane that just taxis but never flies.

The rest of the experience is pretty fun, too.

In the Mini – as on a motorcycle – you feel part of the drive as opposed to watching it from inside. The road is almost literally right there, as on a bike.The super-short hood, tall side glass and low-to-the-ground squat enhance these feelings. Visibility ahead and to the side is exceptionally good for a modern car, which is important when everything coming at you is so much bigger.

It is also a cheerful car that induces happy feelings when you’re driving it. Your drive is not spoiled by pelting, scolding, electronic-parenting sounds. The sounds made by the Mini’s systems are playful and friendly. Bumpa-bumpa-bumpa! Kind of like a pinball machine – and fun in the same way.

At The Curb

Even the tiny two-door is a much more practical car than you might imagine. Cuing Maxwell Smart voice, would you believe it has 34 cubic feet of cargo capacity? That is tremendous space for such a small car. Even relative to a much larger car. For example – and for reference – a current mid-sized sedan such as the popular Toyota Camry – which is almost four feet longer – only has 15.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

To be fair, of course, the Camry has four usable seats whereas the Mini two-door only has two. Technically, it has four – but the back seats are not viable for passengers because there is almost literally no room for their legs. It is possible to make some – but not much – by scooching the front seats forward, but then the driver and front seat passenger are scrunched up, too.

So, if you want to be able to realistically carry more than just you and one passenger, you will probably want to get the four-door Mini – which has tight but usable back seats with 32.3 inches of legroom. This version of the Mini also has even more total cargo capacity – 40.7 cubic feet – as well as 13.1 cubic feet with the second row seatbacks not folded down. The two-door only has 8.7 cubic feet with its rear seats up, but it’s improbable you’ll leave them up because they’re useless as seats.

Mini’s kinship to BMW manifests in the roster of standard equipment, some of which you’d not expect to find in a car that isn’t a luxury-brand car. For example, heated outside rearview mirrors – very handy in winter – and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, too. Even the base trim comes standard with simulated leather seats and LED headlights as well.

The S and JCW (two-door) mostly add performance upgrades. One of the fun things about Minis is that you can personalize yours via the array of factory-available paint/trim schemes and dealer/over-the-counter accessories. The potential combinations are almost limitless.

Mini’s kinship to BMW manifests in another way.

The cost.

It can rise to BMW levels for a “works” equipped two-door. But, you don’t have to spend BMW money on a Mini – and that’s the important take-home point.

The Rest

The current Mini dates back to 2014 which is almost ten years in the rearview. It’s a long time for any car to remain in production without major changes and it’s testimony to Mini’s staying power. People really like this car – and that’s a very good reason to not change a car, from the point-of-view of the company making (and selling) such a car.

But times change – and they sometimes drag us along for the ride, whether we like it or not. It is probable 2023 will be the last year you’ll be able to buy a Mini in its current form. It is possible you may not be able to buy one at all, if BMW pulls the plug on this model. Which it may have to do, on account of the latest slew of government “emissions” and “safety” regs, which a car such as this may not be able to “comply” with  . . . at least, not without becoming an entirely different kind of car.

The Bottom Line

Good things do come in small packages!

. . .

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Little off Topic. Based on your article on the Subaru Crostrek, my wife decided to buy a stick 2023 Crostrek. Get your manuals while you can. She grew up driving a stick. She had an Outback, 2013 that she loved but the CVT tranny went south in 2019, only 171k miles. Cost to buy a new CVT tranny was about what the car was worth. Sold it to the mechanic at the Subaru dealership. I will never get a car with a CVT tranny again. Since she liked the Subaru she decided to get the manual Crostrek. Pick it up next week. I will let you know how it goes!

  2. They seem to have become a parody of themselves. I noticed one in traffic the other day. The Union Jack tail lights were a little too precious for my taste.

    • The 1967 Mini Cooper S weighed 1400 lb…the 2023 version weighs 3100 lb…mostly ruined by the government regulations ….but also filled and trimmed with too much junk….the original was simple and light….all function…..put the new engine in the old body…..

  3. The hot hatches….

    the VW GTI started that market segment with the Mk1 GTI in 1976 it weighed 1800 lb and had 110 hp, it is an expensive collector car now because it was so good.

    the 2023 GTI weighs 3100 lb and has 247 hp.

    The 2023 Mini Cooper Works weighs about 3100 lb and has 228 hp.

    The 1967 Mini Cooper S weighed 1400 lb and had 75 hp. 0 to 60 in 9.7 seconds, quick back then.

    I have a 1995 Mk3 GTI with a 1.8 lt. 20vt engine swap, stage 2 tune, 240 hp, it weighs 2400 lb, it is smaller then the new Mini.

    Compared to a Super 7 at 1200 lb the 1995 GTI feels like a big heavy luxury car, the Super 7 is more fun then all of them or any other car, lightness matters…

    A Mk2 1992 GTI just sold on bringatrailer for $85,000

    A 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S sold on bringatrailer for $55,000

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