- We ran a 2023 Mini Cooper S in our long-term fleet for a year.
- In that time we drove it over 16,000 miles and got a pretty solid impression of what it's like to live with.
- Here's everything we learned, what we liked, and what we didn't.
Watch: Here's What We Learned After a Year With a 2023 Mini Cooper S
The smallest hot hatch you could buy proved to be plenty of fun but compromised
The Mini Cooper, even in S spec, isn't the first car that comes to mind when you think of the term "hot hatch." But when you take its overall shape, turbocharged engine, snappy transmission and Mini's heritage, you do get a hot-hatch-like recipe. So when BMW rang us up and asked if we'd run one for a year in our long-term fleet, we happily welcomed it into our garage.
We logged plenty of info, general impressions and key numbers when it came to the Mini. All in all, our editors agreed that the little British Racing Green Cooper S was a fun but compromised package. Its gutsy turbocharged engine gave the whole car a genuine go-kart feel, and our editors loved driving it. While we would have preferred a manual transmission, our long-termer came with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Even though it isn't the purist's pick, it did mean that our Mini was more usable in LA's infamous day-in, day-out traffic.
The Cooper S on the whole, however, was lacking in a few key areas. The front seat area was acceptable, but most of our editors didn't appreciate the weak A/C, and the straight-up omission of Android Auto was a ding for the few of us who don't use iPhones. Despite being bigger than ever, the Mini was still too small to be a genuine 2+2. In fact, we could barely fit three regular-sized adults in there, even with one sprawled out across both rear seats. Similarly, getting a car seat in the back was a burden, and we'd struggle to call the Mini suitable for new families.
It's also too stiffly sprung, the wheels are too big, and they're wrapped in summer tires that translate too much noise into the cabin. Not to make matters worse, but cargo space behind the rear seats is too small for anything bigger than a small laundry basket and maybe a carry-on bag — but no more than just one.
That's a long way of saying you'd have to think hard whether a Mini Cooper S like ours is right for you. It's plenty of fun, but is that enough to offset its deficits in other areas? We don't think so, but that's always been the trade-off Mini buyers have been willing to make.
All that said, it's worth noting that the first brand-new Mini in a decade is coming soon, and fans of the brand might want to stay tuned to see what Mini's got in store for us next.