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Test Drive: The 2022 MINI Cooper S is more of a high-performance … – The Providence Journal

The 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door represents the culmination of more than 60 years of thinking — and designing — outside the box, inspiring a level of affection and fame that few automobiles have ever achieved.
The first Mini was conceived in Great Britain as a tiny, inexpensive and fuel-efficient two-door hatchback. Introduced in 1959, it could fit in a box measuring 4-by-4-by-10 feet and still carry four people. To do it, engineer Sir Alec Issigonis designed it with features that were outside the existing box.
Issigonis worked for the British Motor Corp., which originally sold the Mini as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor. His concept was a small hatchback with caster-like 10-inch wheels out on the corners, and equipped with a crosswise-mounted front engine and front-wheel drive to maximize passenger space.
The result was a little boomer with a 34-horsepower four-cylinder engine of less than one liter displacement with a broad stance and low center of gravity that optimized handling. It soon won racing and rally victories, especially after racer John Cooper tuned it, while at the same time functioning as economical transportation for millions of the hoi polloi. 
It became so mesmerizing to people everywhere it was sold that, by the turn of the millennium from the 20th to 21st centuries, more than 5 million had been sold and the Mini had been voted “European Car of the Century” by a panel of 130 international automotive journalists. It also was voted the second-most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T but ahead of the Volkswagen Beetle. 
However, new anti-pollution regulations in 1968 kept the Mini mania from reaching the United States — that is, until Germany’s  BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) acquired the Mini name and some assets and introduced the modern MINI in 2002 to American buyers. 
It is still assembled in the United Kingdom, in Oxford, but essentially is a German car with a British heritage. Almost a third of its parts, 32%, come from Germany, compared with 19% from the UK. 
So it’s OK to think of the 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop tested for this review as a British BMW, or maybe a German MINI. It exhibits characteristics of the automobiles of both countries, including some British eccentricities and German solidity.
But it’s no longer a minuscule mule for the masses. It still has the charms of a small size for competent handling, shooting holes in traffic, ease of parking and decent fuel economy. Although it has no direct competitors, it is relatively expensive — more like a Volkswagen GTI than a Nissan Versa or Sentra. 
The tester came with a starting price of $27,750, including the destination charge. With options that included a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, touchscreen navigation, Apple Car Play and custom upholstery, the suggested delivered price came to $34,850. Automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning are standard.
But it no longer can fit in the original Mini’s box. It is 12 feet, 8 inches long, 4 feet, 8 inches tall and 5 feet, 8 inches wide. That’s still small by U.S. standards, which classify it as a subcompact based on its interior volume, which totals 80 cubic feet for passengers with a scant 9 cubic feet for cargo.
With the injection of German technology, this new MINI is more of a high-performance hatchback like the VW GTI, Hyundai Veloster or Subaru WRX. MINI power emanates from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers that pumps out 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The grunt makes its way to the front wheels by way of a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic transmission is optional.
The manual is preferred by many enthusiasts, including this one. But the six-speed, though it works well enough once you get used to it, is a bit of a disappointment. The shift linkage is stiff and somewhat bumpy shifting up and down through the gears. No snick-snick here. There’s also a steep learning curve to master the infotainment system housed in the big circle in the dash.
On the road, the tested MINI Cooper two-door delivered what its predecessors always have: driving entertainment. Punch the throttle, shift quickly and you can hit 60 miles an hour from rest in about six seconds, accompanied by engine roar as the revs build. Cruising, it all quiets down to a smooth surge of power with “go-kart handling” on curves.
Model: 2022 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door subcompact hatchback
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, twin turbochargers; 189 hp, 207 lb-ft torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual with front wheel drive
Overall length: 12 feet, 8 inches
Height: 4 feet, 8 inches
EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 80/9 cubic feet
Weight: 2,813 pounds
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/33/27 mpg, premium fuel recommended
Base price, including destination charge: $27,750
Price as tested: $34,850


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