In-depth reviews

Mini Cooper review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

Combustion engines are now petrol-only; gearboxes are six-speed manual, seven-speed DCT or eight-speed torque-converter automatics

Evo rating
Price
from £17,630

Both the three- and five-door models share the same engine and gearbox choices, but all are front-wheel drive, driven through either a six-speed manual or one of two automatic transmissions. The manual is preferable, its shift quick and pleasingly accurate, while Mini’s pedal spacing is such that heel-and-toe accelerator-blipped downshifts are easy to master. Cooper models utilise a seven-speed dual-clutch, and it’s swift enough, even if it’s prone to the odd bout of confusion, though you can always take over via wheel-mounted paddles if you want to get more involved. If the manual isn’t your thing, the Cooper S is available with the dual-clutch. Meanwhile, the full-house JCW gets the manual ’box, or an Aisin-sourced torque-converter on account of its higher torque figure.

> Read our Mini John Cooper Works review here

The new Mini One utilises the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine as the rest of the range, replacing the previous 1.2-litre PSA-derived unit used in pre-2019 models. Despite the rise in capacity, the new engine’s lack of a turbocharger does soften mid-range performance slightly, not that the previous Mini One was a particularly high-performance model anyway. The Cooper’s three-cylinder is a more effective unit, but works best in the mid range, as so many modern petrols do.

This is not a power plant that relishes revs, a fact compounded by the Cooper’s impressive refinement, but still allows decent enough progress when hustled. Vibrations are impressively suppressed, and the standard six-speed manual transmission is quick and accurate, even if the throw is a little long.

The four-cylinder in the Cooper S is substantially more powerful, producing 176bhp with 206lb ft of torque. In this application, the Mini’s thick spread of torque makes light work of the 1235kg weight figure, although again, the engine’s lack of top-end pizazz means the Cooper S is no longer the standout supermini hot hatch it used to be. The JCW builds on this with its subtle power increase, but at this tune starts making those front tyres need to work for their supper.

The Mini Electric’s 181bhp looks great on paper, and its instant torque does actually make it feel the most frisky model in the range, but it does lose out to both the Cooper S and JCW when up and running on account of its extra weight.

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