Skip to main content

2023 Mini Cooper S 10,000-Mile Update: No Longer Lukewarm on This Hot Hatch

We're starting to come around on the smallest car in our long-term fleet

2023 Mini Cooper S Hardtop exterior shot
  • We're 10,000 miles into our time with a 2023 Mini Cooper S.
  • 10,000 miles is typically the halfway point, so how's the Mini holding up?
  • We explore the good, the bad, and the surprising.

Back in September we welcomed a 2023 Mini Cooper S to our long-term fleet and, frankly, we were a little lukewarm on the idea. Questions arose about the Mini's hot hatch credentials — was it too big and too heavy to really still wear the Mini badge? Did deserve to wear the red "S" on its rump? It's been a little over six months with our little green hot hatch, and in that time we've been more than pleasantly surprised.

104 for sale in your area
See All for Sale
2023 Mini Cooper S Hardtop exterior shot

First off, how has the Mini been to drive?

A number of our staffers have had time behind the wheel, and the word from our team is, it's good. Even though he can't get past the looks, Director of Content Strategy Josh Sadlier had plenty of positive things to say about the way the Mini goes.

"I've never been able to make peace with the way the current F56 looks. It's bulbous and overgrown where its predecessors were clipped and tidy. There's only one way our F56 long-termer could win me over, and that's by providing the same rambunctious driving experience that set its predecessors apart. Well, guess what? It does. From behind the wheel, where of course you don't have to look at the thing, it's a riot," Sadlier said.

And he's not the only one, either. Senior editor Will Kaufman was also mightily impressed with the Mini's handling, saying, "On a twisty road with no other cars around, the Mini is an absolute joy to drive. My forebrain knows it's gotten bigger and heavier, but it still feels small and darty and quick, and my hindbrain still says, 'Go-kart, wheeee!' Of course every time I go around a right-hander, I have to duck to keep an eye on the road because the rearview mirror blocks my view ..."

2023 Mini Cooper S Hardtop exterior with hatch open

Does size still matter?

That brings us onto a little identity crisis — not ours, the Mini's. It's grown in every proportion compared to the previous car and would tower over the original Mini. By that metric it doesn't really deserve to be called a Mini anymore, but it's also far smaller than other hatchbacks on sale right now like the Golf GTI, the Hyundai Veloster and the Mazda 3, and in that sense it is still quite mini. So, where does this leave our little green hot hatch?

As cars have started to grow, the Mini simply had to follow suit. The front seats are great, and our staffers (most of whom are above 6 feet tall) have made no complaints about the Mini's driving position. That doesn't necessarily mean the Mini's somehow developed oodles of practicality, though. The rear isn't ideal for hauling gear around in — a set of golf clubs requires you to lay the back seats down flat, and just two backpacks will take every inch of rear room behind them. In the Mini, you have to choose — people or cargo. But if you have a child that takes precedence, well, Kaufman had some thoughts about that, too.

"In order to fit your kid's car seat through the space between the door frame and the front seatback, you'll need to turn it sideways, work the bottom of the seat into the car, and then rotate the rest of the seat in. If you've ever fit an L-shaped desk through a narrow door, you'll already understand the basic principle. But in this case there's a bit more vertical wiggling. Once the seat is in the vehicle, the best way to secure it is to just climb into the back seat on the driver's side. In fact, get used to that maneuver because that's also the easiest way to arrange your kid's harness."

That's quite a lot of finessing for a car seat, and frankly, the Mini hasn't grown to a size we'd call truly practical. It's still too big to be called a Mini, but it's a little too small to be easy to live with. We appreciate that it has back seats; they can just be a pain to use properly.

2023 Mini Cooper S Hardtop interior dashboard

Rough going when going slow

When we're not being taking by the urge to drive with a little verve, the Mini's ride can be jarring. Its short wheelbase and firm suspension can often feel like a beatdown. It jostles and jiggles and jitters over anything but perfectly smooth tarmac, and we wish years of development had ironed out that classic Mini trait. That said, the firm ride does contribute to the Mini's snappy and fun-to-drive nature, so we're not going to let that bother us too much.

Other odds and ends include notes about the admittedly weak HVAC system and menu-heavy infotainment system. Editor Jake Sundstrom said, "The air conditioning on this vehicle is not good. A mild heat wave in Orange County (read: 82 degrees Fahrenheit) required the max AC function to properly cool the vehicle — it also needed to be reactivated to keep it cool. Keep that in mind if you live somewhere it gets proper toasty."

And Kaufman added, "The menus are unintuitive and poorly labeled, and the outcomes of pushing around the knob aren't always expected. For me, the most egregious is that, while trying to turn on the steering guidelines for the rearview camera, I discovered that nudging the knob over the wrong way one too many times would just close the camera entirely. While the vehicle is still in reverse. YOU CAN CLOSE THE REARVIEW CAMERA WHILE THE VEHICLE IS IN REVERSE. WHY IS THIS EVEN AN OPTION?"

That might sound harsh, but he's absolutely correct. The trend of finicky infotainment systems in Minis hasn't been rectified with this generation of car, and we wish BMW would ditch the silly circular element the infotainment screen sits in. We get that it's a classic part of the Mini experience, but it's time to move on.

2023 Mini Cooper S Hardtop profile

10,000 down, another 10,000 to go

With the first half of our time with the Mini done and dusted, we're looking forward to another few months and many thousand more miles in this impractical-yet-enjoyable little go-kart. Stay tuned to see if Kaufman learns to love our Mini or if he's decided to avoid it like the plague.

Edmunds says

It's a mix of both surprisingly good and frustratingly finicky with our Mini. Maybe we'll get used to it before we have to say goodbye.