For the most part, the new Mini Coopers, now refreshed for 2022, look a lot like the cars they’re replacing and even their last-gen predecessors. The outline of the daytime running lights within the oval clusters has been a good look, and halving the Union Jack across the taillights was a stroke of genius. The latest Minis are maybe a little bloated, but I think they continue to clean up.
Still, it’s hard to get past the goatee.
That’s really the best way I know how to describe the face of the latest Mini, which now has a plastic, softened pseudo-octagonal ring encircling the upper and lower grilles, with a body-colour bar bisecting the two. Previously, this trim accentuated the grille and licence plate mounting point in more of a centralised way, but now it’s descended to the car’s floor.
Aside from the goatee thing, it reminds me of the bad dudes in that one episode of The Powerpuff Girls who dress up as the Powerpuff Girls to rob a bank, which I’ll link here to refresh your memory because rules prevent me from embedding pictures.
The result is like some kind of vacant, agape stare, and I don’t trust it. My colleague Erin said “it looks like it wants to explain something I already know over craft IPAs,” which is even more chilling for a car that, ostensibly, is supposed to be cute and fun. Who hurt you, Mini?
My other aesthetic issue is the toothy grille inserts at the bottom, which lend a rugged look that really doesn’t belong on a compact hatchback that isn’t a high-riding Fiat Panda. Maybe Mini’s trying to channel an unconscious association with crossovers to boost sales. The heavy plastic trim between the grille and the lip already evokes an EV vibe, and while Mini does offer an electric Cooper, they aren’t all sold that way. The wheels also have that heavy graphical, flat aesthetic that look like one of those tunnel boring machines used to dig the Chunnel, or CERN, or the 2nd Ave subway.
Moving past the exterior stuff, an 8.8-inch touchscreen now comes standard on all models, though it still notably only supports Apple CarPlay and not Android Auto, which really shouldn’t be permissible in 2021. The steering wheel has been redesigned, along with some dashboard elements, like the climate vents.
The powertrains and transmissions on offer are the same as they used to be, the upside of which is that you can still get a manual in most Mini hardtops and convertibles. Starting prices for most models have gone up by $US500 ($650), though certain variants, like the Signature and Iconic trims of the Cooper S, will stay put where they are. Mostly, you’re paying for the goatee.