Total honesty time: I don't know how to feel about the Mini Cooper. I mean, overall. We'll get to my thoughts about the 2022 Mini Cooper S in a minute.
The "new" Mini has been with us for 21 years now. This is actually the ninth model year of the third generation of the Mini. Along the way, there's been the original two-door, four-doors, Clubman and Countryman models, convertibles...even an electric Mini. But when, in any of those forms, has it ever been the best choice? The standout among available vehicles?
Arguably, I'd have to say it may be now---with the 2022 Mini Cooper S. With the departure of the Volkswagen Golf TSI from these shores, the $26,900 starting price of the S might make it the last great inexpensive fun small car.
Saying yes to the S brings a 55 horsepower boost over a standard Mini---to 189 horsepower. And that makes the S a very strong performer, capable of zero to 60 sprints in 6.2 seconds, all the while maintaining an enviable EPA fuel economy estimate of 28 miles per gallon city, 38 highway.
That $26,900 buys a solid lineup of standard features---including a six-speed manual transmission and dynamic cruise control, selectable drive modes, a multifunction leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, rear park distance control, an 8.8-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with AM/FM, HDRadio and a 1-year subscription to SiriusXM Satellite radio.
The trouble comes if you want more than that. Our Mini Cooper S tester had just one option package, but it's a big one...Iconic trim, which adds a heated steering wheel, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, Nappa leather steering wheel, power-folding mirrors, black roof and mirror caps, piano black exterior trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, summer performance tires, a head-up display, a suite of connected services, Apple CarPlay compatibility and navigation.
For $8,000. Put $850 destination on that, and the $26,900 Mini Cooper S is now a $35,750 Mini Cooper S. And now, instead of a replacement for a Golf TSI, it's a competitor for a Golf GTI, which is quicker to 60 by a second, has much more room for people and things and only gives up 3 mpg in the city and four on the highway.
Is there a box-stock $26,900 Mini Cooper S in the press fleet (or on the planet)? I can live without the leather, the nav---I can drive stick. And how much would I miss Apple CarPlay?