Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 13, 2021
Over the years, MINIs have not only grown in size but have also shifted into a more premium and upscale product. Utilizing their corporate overlords to their advantage, the new 2022 MINIs are pretty much miniature BMWs with premium switchgear, luxury amenities, and all the modern tech available. You can now think of the MINI Cooper as a smaller, more compact, and more charming 2 Series, and even though most of the 2022 upgrades are in the aesthetics department, it elevates them into significantly better hatchbacks.
Many of the shared BMW parts have come downstream, from the new steering wheel that is wrapped in the same tastefully thick leather as the one in the 4 Series. The leather is not as grainy, and the wheel is not as chunky, or as concave-shaped as the MINI’s outgoing wheel, and feels expensive under grip. The shape is cleaner than before with new buttons that control the infotainment, though the plastic paddle shifters remain the same - while they look great, they unfortunately feel lower class. And for the first time ever, the MINI Cooper is now available with a heated steering wheel, handy for those frigid winter mornings.
The 8.8-inch infotainment unit is also carried down from BMW, and is now standard fare across the MINI lineup. It utilizes both touchscreen input and rotary dial input, but the system is mapped a little differently to give it some youthful charm and some distinguishable flair. The circumference of the center unit continues to light up depending on input - turning up the temperature makes it glow red, while turning it down turns it blue. The plastic buttons that lie underneath the screen however feel incredibly low-rent, giving off that squeaky feedback when pushed. The outgoing layout with the dedicated grooved buttons felt better and was much easier to use. On a side note, Apple CarPlay is available but it still does not support Android Auto.
Aside from the new fan vents, the rest of the interior is carried over including the two sunroofs that hover over each row of seats, though only the front one opens. Front cabin space is ample, even for my six-foot figure, but the rear seats are a struggle. I am unable to sit behind my own driving position without crushing my knees, though headroom is sufficient. Still, it’s a charming cabin that keeps improving year over year. If you took away the MINI badges and replaced them with BMW ones, I don’t think many would question it.
The exterior follows the same MINI formula, with standard LED headlights and taillights in a Union Jack design, giving it a distinctive light signature in the dark. Vertical air intakes replace the fog lights up front, with slightly revised front and rear bumpers, along with new wheel designs, paint colours, and endless accessories and bonnet stripes available in the configurator that uplifts the MINI’s cheeky styling to your own personal taste.
The standard MINI Cooper uses a 134-hp 1.5-litre three-cylinder for propulsion, while the Cooper S we are testing harbours a more potent 2.0-litre turbo-four that pushes out 189 hp and 207 lb-ft instead. A six-speed manual does not cost extra, though our vehicle was loaded up with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic.
The Cooper S offers good power, and while 189 horses may not seem like much, you have to remember that this is a small hatchback, not a Ford F-150. There is not enough thrust for the MINI to feel overwhelming, but it will feel right at home for those who have a heavy right foot and enjoy quick jaunts and overtakes on the highway. To make the most out of the Cooper S, simply flick it into Sport Mode, slap the shifter into S, and floor the throttle. Maximum torque comes on early and does not let up until 4,600 rpm, around the same time you want to start shifting. With such an eager powertrain and capable chassis, the Cooper S eggs you to drive fast, and it even manages to turn low-speed drives into a joy. Turbo lag is somewhat persistent at low speeds, but it’s easy to work around it with such a responsive gearbox and agile front end.
Overall, the 2022 MINI Cooper is a well-packaged hatchback that effectively combines both comfort and practicality. It’s not as spacious as a Golf GTI, as fun as a Subaru WRX, nor as value-oriented as a Honda Civic Si, but it’s a bundle of joy brimming with charm, individuality, and a constantly improving interior that keeps the MINI appeal strong.
Model: 2022 MINI Cooper S 5-Door
Paint Type: Island Blue Metallic
Base Price: $30,090
Price as Tested: $43,630
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,013 / 1,727 / 1,425
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-four
Horsepower: 189 hp @ 5,000 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1,350 - 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.5