Mini Cooper

Unique appearance no longer enough

Roseville, Calif.- Two decades ago, the Mini Cooper was undraped and car buyers were enthralled by its funky, fashionable look.

It was the rare front-wheel drive subcompact that was more focused on being sporty and cute than making fuel efficiency its calling card.

The British-based car, made by the BMW Group, was trendy and innovative, right down to its sharp-edged wings becoming the symbol for the brand.

Today’s Mini Cooper no longer receives a lot of second glances when it’s out and about. The uniqueness has subsided, along with its sales figures.

Dwindling sales

From 2011 to 2016, Mini Cooper had sales between 52,000 and 66,500. Gradually those numbers have dwindled, the last two years dipping below 30,000 for the first time since its unveiling in 2002.

It had been a while since we drove the stylish vehicle. We cruised around in the 2022 Mini Cooper two-door hard top for a week, and overall it was an enjoyable experience. Note that it’s also offered as a four-door hardtop and convertible.

This year the Mini Cooper arrived with a revamped exterior. The rear and front bumpers were revised, there’s a new wheel design, and the grille is slightly different as well.

Although slightly larger than the original, the Mini is still rather small. And that’s a good thing in multiple instances. It cruises around town with ease, corners sharply, and there’s no parking space that’s ever a true challenge.

Modicum of fun

Much like our first experience, we still feel the Mini Cooper delivers a good modicum of fun.

Even though it’s tiny, it feels safe as well. Standard safety features include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, forward automatic emergency braking, rearview camera, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Before we get too carried away with its fun factor, let’s not forget the Mini Cooper can come up short in the performance realm. It’s not going to win many straight-ahead challenges.

AT A GLANCE – 2022 MINI COOPER

  • Performance: 1.5-liter, three-cylinder, 134 horsepower; turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 189 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 27-37 mpg; 22-31 mpg
  • Price estimate: $23,00 to $33,000
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; Drivetrain: 4 years/50,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 4 years/unlimited; Corrosion: 12 years/unlimited

The Mini Cooper base model has a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It goes a pokey 0-60 mph in 9.3 seconds and fuel economy (27-37 mpg) is nothing to brag about for a subcompact.

interior Mini Cooper

We had the more powerful engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder with 189-horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, It’s nearly 3 seconds faster than the base model at 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds. Gas mileage is poor for the class (22-31 mpg).

Other than a general lack of space, which is typically the case in most subcompacts, the Mini Cooper interior is just fine. It has a stylish and sensible layout that includes a standard 8.8-inch touchscreen that makes sense and doesn’t require a deep dive in the manual to master.

Inside

It has standard satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB port, and a six-speaker sound system. But annoyingly, Apple CarPlay integration is optional and there’s no support for Android Auto.

Cargo space is minimal at 8.7 cubic feet and the back seat is a pain to enter and exit. A normal sized adult will not enjoy squeezing in or sitting in the rear seats.

Because it’s been around for two decades, the Mini Cooper can no longer live off its unique appearance. Car buyers got used to it and now they are probably looking for more value since the cute tag has worn off.