A winning, pricey formula
THE GOOD
  • Nimble handling
  • Capable, enjoyable engine
  • BMW-backed infotainment and build quality
THE BAD
  • Expensive for its performance, size, and equipment
  • Cannot sync dual-zone climate
  • Manual seat controls

Like the Jeep Wrangler or the Porsche 911, the Mini Cooper is an automotive icon that even the most car-clueless among us should be able to pick out of a crowd.

On the receiving end of yet another mid-cycle refresh (this generation’s first came in 2018), it doesn’t appear the brand has altered what made the spiritually British hot hatch a fun and solid compact car. Packing some extra power – and two more doors – the 2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door blends the model’s signature house-fly handling with a high-quality engine and tech from parent company BMW, yet none of it disrupts this car’s winning formula. Just prepare to pay a premium for the privilege of having one in your garage.

Styling: 8/10

Despite it making the car look a bit like it has a goatee, this latest Mini facelift has done a good job of keeping the Cooper fresh despite this generation having been around since 2013. The air intakes are new and surround a front bumper that’s now painted the same shade as the body. The rear bumper is new, too, and it sits underneath a pair of Union Jack taillights, which are now standard across the board. In addition to the performance enhancements, that S badge is accompanied by a cool – albeit fake – hood scoop, more aggressive accents, and centre-mounted dual exhaust tips.

It’s all very cool, very eccentric, and very Italian Job – although I don’t love what the extra doors do to the Mini Cooper’s proportions. Of course, aesthetics are subjective, and some might easily find this car’s dachshund-esque shape an additional source of quirk instead.

On the inside, the Mini’s style is similarly off-beat. Now sporting a new steering wheel and six-colour ambient lighting, seemingly everything is a circle. Interior fit-and-finish is superb, exhibiting very few creaks and rattles, but the quality of some of the plastics themselves can feel a bit budget.

Driving Feel: 8.5/10

The cliché when discussing a Mini’s driving feel would be to compare it to that of a go-kart but, as anybody who’s driven an actual go-kart will tell you, that’s always been a bit of an exaggeration. I understand the sentiment, though.

While the Cooper S may not literally handle like a miniature open-wheel racer, its steering is remarkably hefty, direct, and accurate; it’s darty, but in a good way. This works in harmony with a chassis that feels stiff, hunkered down, and very well-controlled, adding up to a driving experience that’s best enjoyed through slower, tight corners and short-burst straights. Such as the emptied streets of downtown Toronto in the middle of the night. Or through the cramped quarters of a Los Angeles subway station. Or... y’know... a go-kart track.

Unleash it on some bigger, faster routes and the road-holding isn’t bad either, although it does lose some of its mosquito-handling charm, reverting to a relatively comfortable cruiser reminiscent of a more traditional BMW product – a definite boon during highway commuting.

Another BMW-ism is the satisfyingly girthy steering wheel which feels nice to hold. The brakes, despite being saddled with a pedal that travels a little longer than expected, do their job well.

Power: 8/10

Under the hood sits a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Nothing Earth-shattering by any means (one could even easily accuse as stingy considering the near-$46,000 as-tested price) but, behind the wheel, the Cooper S rarely feels slow thanks to all of that turbocharged torque being available at just 1,350 rpm as well as the fact that this car, by modern standards, just isn’t very heavy. (I mean, it’s in the name and everything.)

Power delivery is as smooth as a $5 cup of coffee and is accompanied by a sound that somehow comes off as both scrappy and premium. For a four-cylinder, it’s a capable and pleasant engine to use. Thrust goes to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission featuring paddle shifters that respond acceptably quickly, with shifts that feel sharp and well-defined.

Safety: 7/10

As part of the Premier package, the tester you see here came equipped with frontal collision warning, lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, and automatic high-beams. It also had the $950 Driver Assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control. The system was able to keep its distance from cars in front, while the lane-departure warning vibrated the steering wheel when it detected drift, though there’s no lane-keeping. Modern basics like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, however, are conspicuously absent.

Features: 7/10

My tester was equipped with the Premier+ package, which includes a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, that automatic gearbox, keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming mirror, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a head-up display, a full digital instrument screen, Apple CarPlay, and wireless charging.

The optional audio system sounds good and that big sunroof does a lot to make the cabin feel more spacious and airy. Less positively, all of the seat controls are still manual and require quite a bit of force to use, while the head-up display is projected on a physical transparent piece of plastic that rises up out of the dash rather than on the windshield itself.

User Friendliness: 8/10

Despite its stylish execution, the Mini’s cabin is a fairly simple place to navigate. Setting Apple CarPlay up for the first time took quite a bit of menu-digging but subsequent connections were quick, wireless, and reliable. Essentially a reskinned version of BMW’s fantastic iDrive system, the stock infotainment is well thought-out although projected through a noticeably lower-resolution screen than what you’d find in most modern Bimmers.

Along the same lines, the turn signal here is of the old BMW variety that always reverts to the same position and requires a half-press post-lane change. However, it’s well-implemented and easy-to-use thanks to hard, well-defined detents. Chrome, toggle-style switches look novel and feel good to use. There’s even one overhead dedicated to changing the colour of the ambient lighting.

Practicality: 7/10

Those looking for space to stretch should probably stay away from a car that calls itself a “Mini,” but this five-door Cooper S is, in reality, fairly practical. Front-seat space is about as generous as any other compact car out there, with decently sized cupholders and some spacious nooks in the centre to empty your pockets into. The rear seats, meanwhile, are notably more cramped than those of say, a Honda Civic, but still reasonably usable for passengers of average height.

The rear seats fold down, too, allowing the five-door Cooper S to accommodate a particularly lengthy piece of furniture during testing, but all-seats-up cargo room is limited. With the rear row upright, this car’s 371 L of cargo capacity is significantly less generous than that of the subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage.

Comfort: 7/10

Similarly, a hot hatch that rides on a heritage of being small probably isn’t the car of choice for those looking for a soothing and comfortable ride, but the Cooper S does OK in that department anyway. The seats aren’t especially sumptuous but they held up on longer drives with little pain during testing. The sport-leaning dampers, meanwhile, are very well-judged, letting in just the right amount of road texture without verging out of its literal comfort zone. All told, it’s fine, but I’m not sure I’d want this car to be any less comfortable than it already is.

Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are included with the Premier package (which the Premier+ option our tester encompasses). Climate control is of the dual-zone variety but, oddly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to synchronize the two zones’ temperatures.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

As of this writing Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has not officially tested the 2022 Cooper S yet but, for what it’s worth, the 2021 version of this car, which uses the same powertrain, was rated at 8.9 L/100 km in the city, 6.6 on the highway, and 7.9 combined. Not bad ratings but pretty much par for a lightweight, four-cylinder turbocharged compact like this. Observed economy remained fairly close to those figures, too, with the car’s trip computer showing 8.3 L/100 km after a week of mixed driving. Mini recommends 91 octane but, a little surprisingly, the Cooper S will make do with mid-grade 89 if it absolutely must.

Value: 6/10

According to Mini, the five-door Cooper S technically starts at $30,090, but it doesn’t seem like the company really intends on selling many barebones models, because when you fire up a build of this car on Mini’s online configurator, you’re basically forced to choose between two “lines” – the $5,700 Premier package or the $8,600 Premier+ pack found in this tester. “If you would like to proceed without the selection of a line, please contact your local Mini retailer,” the site reads. Translation: The $30,000 base price is mostly for show.

I’m not sure you’d want that theoretical base model anyway, because the Premier packages include quite a few basics that a $30,000 car really ought to have. Add another $950 for adaptive cruise and a parking assistant, as well as $2,250 for the nice leather, and another grand or so for cosmetic options and the five-door Mini Cooper S you see here rang in at $45,975 after destination.

For just a few bucks more, one could have a Honda Civic Type R, which is in a whole other league in terms of performance and thrills. A similarly equipped Volkswagen Golf GTI, meanwhile, is more powerful than the Cooper S and costs about $10,000 less.

Priced more like an entry-level luxury car like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or Audi’s A3, value isn’t really this vehicle’s strong suit. For the price you’ll realistically pay, the Mini Cooper S just isn’t very powerful, very big, or exceptionally equipped.

The Verdict

However, for the brand’s fans out there, the refreshed 2022 Mini Cooper S ticks all of the Mini boxes. It’s reasonably practical in five-door guise, has that engaging, slot car-handling Mini drivers know and love, an engine to match, a well-assembled interior, and, most importantly perhaps, unmistakable Mini looks.

Yes, it is quite expensive for what you get, but if everybody only bought and did things that were of good financial value, cars like the Mini Cooper S would cease to exist. And I don’t think that’s a world I’d want to live in.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.0L   Model Tested 2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door
Engine Cylinders Turbo I4   Base Price $30,090
Peak Horsepower 189 hp @ 5,000–6,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 207 lb-ft @ 1,350–4,600 rpm   Destination Fee $2,245 – Ontario; $2,135–$2,645 depending on province
Fuel Economy 8.9 / 6.6 / 7.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (manufacturer estimate)   Price as Tested $45,975
Cargo Space 371 / 1,152 L seats up/down  
Optional Equipment
$13,540 – Premier+, $8,600; Style Package, $650; Driver Assistance Package, $950; Performance tires, $50; White Bonnet Stripes, $200; Anthracite Roofliner, $250; Island Blue Metallic paint, $590; Leather Chester Satellite Grey, $2,250