My first car was a 1997 Rover Mini, one of the last “classic” Coopers. It’s funny; owning a classic Mini, I always thought the idea of a big Mini — or “Binis”, as they were known in the community — was sacrilegious. I always wondered if those reservations were deserved, so I grabbed the keys to a 2024 Mini Cooper 3-Door optioned with the six-speed manual, and held my breath.
While a Mini may be the epitome of an enjoyable small car to drive, its small size and cozy interior might not suit every potential buyer. But those who can integrate a compact car into their lifestyle will be absolutely delighted by the Cooper and its enticing personality that livens up almost any drive.
The Cooper’s primary and most well-known configuration is a three-door hatchback, but you can opt for a five-door or a convertible, all of which showcase Mini’s blend of iconic retro design with modern touches. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, you can acquire an entry-level Cooper for a price comparable to a Honda Civic. However, once you begin adding desirable features, such as upgrading the base turbocharged three-cylinder engine to the more potent turbo-four in the Cooper S, the Mini quickly approaches Audi A3 or BMW 2 Series territory. If you have an even more generous budget, you could opt for the Cooper S convertible or the performance-oriented John Cooper Works model.
The base engine is a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder, good for 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It’s peppy for puttering around town in such a small and light car, but it leaves you wanting a little bit more on the highway. My preference leans towards the Cooper S and its 189-hp 2.0L turbo-four. With the larger engine, the S does the zero-to-100 km/h sprint in just over six seconds — more than a second quicker than the base engine. Regardless of which engine you pick, the three-door Cooper takes a corner very well, but it’s worth noting the stiff ride can be a tad harsh on uneven or rough roads.
While Mini does offer an automatic transmission, the six-speed manual adds the crucial fun element, even though it’s not the best manual gearbox in the world. Last year, the stickshift was limited to three-door hardtop models, but you can now spec it on convertible and five-door models as well. Unfortunately, it looks like this year will be the last for the manual, as the next-generation model due out next year will be automatic-only. If you’re in the market for a stick Mini, now is the time to buy.
The Mini’s interior possesses a charmingly unconventional design, although it comes at the expense of user-friendliness. Rear-seat space is limited, but those up front won’t have much to complain about. The Cooper hardtop is more practical than the convertible, but cargo space is still limited due to the car’s small dimensions, offering just 731 liters even with the seats folded down. Infotainment is handled by an 8.8-inch display, augmented by a digital instrument cluster, as part of the standard package. Satellite radio is also included across the lineup, but features such as Apple CarPlay or in-dash navigation are optional. It’s also important to note Android Auto connectivity isn’t offered at all.
As far as value goes, the base Mini Cooper 3-Door starts at $33,740. Standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats, LED lighting, and even a panoramic sunroof, among a plethora of other features. The only option on our tester was an extra $590 for the Chili Red paintwork, bringing the total to $34,330 as-tested. If you’re looking for the best value out there, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but considering the Mini’s driving experience and overall interior build quality, you can do much worse.
After living with a modern Mini for a week, I honestly think it’s one of the few new cars out there that prioritizes fun above all else. Even as a fan of classic Minis, the latest one still struck a chord with me. If you prioritize how a car makes you feel over numbers and value, the 2024 Mini Cooper 3-Door wins you over with its adorable looks, decent feature set, and playful nature. Few other modern cars out there can be as charming as a Mini.