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Is a 2023 Mini Cooper S a Good Road Trip Car? We Find Out

We drove nearly 1,500 miles in one long weekend to find out

  • The Mini Cooper S earned its reputation as a nimble city car.
  • But sensible two-door cars are going the way of the skinny jean.
  • Can the Cooper S be more than just a semi-sporty city car?

We added a 2023 Mini Cooper S to our long term test fleet this year to find out if there's still room for a less specialized two-door hatchback among a sea of Subaru BRZs and Mazda Miatas. In the world of these honest-to-goodness sports cars and with the likes of the VW Golf GTI, Honda Civic Si (which we also have in our long-term fleet), and Elantra N Line hanging around, the Cooper isn't an obvious choice to those who value performance over visual nostalgia. As a result, we like to think of our Cooper S as sport-adjacent.

It's an automatic, much to the chagrin of our testing team, but its two-door configuration makes it a dream car to drive around Edmunds' home base of Los Angeles. In that way, it's certainly a true-to-its-roots Mini as a daily city-bound runabout. Its usability in the city might be reason enough to pick one over the equivalent GTI, but the Mini is probably no one's idea of a road trip companion. But perhaps we're not giving the diminutive Cooper S enough credit; at least, that was my thought when I loaded it up with a handful of bags and drove it to Salt Lake City for the weekend. Here are some of my takeaways from four days and more than 1,000 miles in our long-term Mini.

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2023 Mini Cooper S

Storage is not a problem for a two-person trip

Folding down the rear seats for the Mini creates a surprisingly large aperture for storage where the rear bench would normally go, and a removable trunk cover makes access easy. Traveling with four people would make things tight; you're not fitting four roller bags in the Mini's trunk let alone two grown adults in the back. But the Mini boasts more than enough storage for a two-person trip, even if you're planning a long getaway or packing large items.

On the road comfort is just adequate

The sticker price of our Mini Cooper S is $33,700. It is not, by any means, a luxury car. The dampers themselves are stiff and big wheels with thin sidewalls meant we were subject to a good thrubbing from road imperfections. It comes equipped with extra side padding that I found beneficial during a nine-hour drive, but drivers of differing body types may not. There's no lumbar support and the cushioning in the seat is minimal. Both are mildly annoying after an hour's worth of LA traffic, but after almost half a day on the road my body was pretty unhappy.

2023 Mini Cooper S

Technology leaves something to be desired

This is where we can blame the parent. BMW is Mini's parent company and that is no more evident than Mini's menu-heavy approach in the center-screen area. That is less of an issue if you use Apple CarPlay, but a long day in the car fiddling with a frustrating user interface isn't anyone's idea of a good time. Our Mini also doesn't include adaptive cruise control, which is a bummer on long road trips, particularly because other, less expensive vehicles like the Honda Civic come equipped with the technology.

Fuel economy is pretty darn good

Even with the sporty setup of our Mini, we averaged 35.39 miles to the gallon during our road trip. That number is mostly a result of the highway-heavy trip to Utah and back, but it also included a fair amount of around-the-town driving in Salt Lake City. The EPA estimates a combined fuel economy of 27 mpg and a highway mpg of 33, but we beat those numbers comfortably thanks to cruise control and a lot of open road. Our overall mpg is currently 29.1.

2023 Mini Cooper S

It's terrific for your final destination duties

Many great road trip vehicles are wonderful on the highway, but not so nimble around town. That's certainly been a point in the favor of the crossover — SUVs that aren't the size of aircraft carriers. But despite the understandable rise of BMW X3s and Toyota RAV4s across the nation, it was refreshing to drive around downtown Salt Lake City in a comparably small vehicle.

The Mini, fresh off a long drive, went right back to its bread and butter: engaging city driving. It's easy to park, easy to live with, and, as it turns out, pretty easy to road trip, too. Consider us surprised and impressed in equal measure, we just wish the seats were more comfortable and that the cabin was quieter. Beyond that, though, good one Mini.

2023 Mini Cooper S

Edmunds says

Stretching out the Mini Cooper's legs comes with some sacrifices, but the hatchback can surprise you if you give it a chance.