For the first time, Mini has truly comparable gas and EV versions of the Cooper S - but which is better on paper?
Mini has finally unveiled the gas-powered version of the all-new two-door hardtop to see to the needs of those who aren't ready to go all-electric yet. And now that we have basic information on both, it's time to put them side-by-side to see which model represents the best buy. Since a Mini will always be an emotional purchase, we'll also be looking at which of the two powertrains epitomizes the spirit of Mini the most.
The Mini journey has been an interesting one. It started out as a budget car for the masses and eventually evolved into a premium fashion accessory. That said, the latest versions are possibly the closest in concept to the original masterpiece Sir Alexander (Alec) Arnold Constantine Issigonis created.
To our eyes, the latest generation Mini is already a win because it's visually smaller. That's at least 70% of the reason why we believe the 2025 model year is the coolest since the original. The ICE-powered model has a shorter wheelbase than its electric counterpart. On the outside, it's 152.6 inches long, 77.6 inches wide, and 56.4 inches tall. Oddly, the 2025 Mini Cooper Hardtop and Cooper Electric Hardtop are bigger in every direction than the models they replace, showing how good the design is.
If you look at them quickly, you won't be able to tell the difference. Even the LED headlights and taillights are the same. Study them closer, and you'll note some apparent giveaways. The gas-powered model has an open grille, while the EV's grille is blocked off. The ICE model has a red "S" on the grille, and the EV is blessed with a yellow "S."
Choosing between the two won't come down to the question of which design you like the most, but we need to address a glaring and upsetting omission.
Ever since the New Mini Concept debuted in 1997, shortly after BMW inherited the rights to the British automaker, every Cooper S two-door has had mid-mounted dual-exit exhaust pipes. The 2025 Cooper S hides its exhaust pipe underneath the car as if being gas-powered is something to be ashamed of.
Shame on you for removing this iconic bit of design, Mini.
The interiors are a match, too. Instead of the obligatory digital instrument cluster and square touchscreen infotainment system, you get a 9.5-inch high-resolution OLED display running Mini Operating System 9.
The upper half is reserved for the most critical information (also displayed in front of the driver via a head-up display), while the bottom half is used for stuff like navigation, climate control, music, etc. And instead of a voice assistant that sounds like a correctional officer, you get a friendly bulldog named Spike.
Mini is also using textile surfaces for the first time, and the interior quality is top-notch. It looks and feels expensive, which is precisely what we want.
All US-spec Mini's will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Mini did not provide power outputs for lesser models, but we know the Cooper S will have 201 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque on tap. Mini claims the S can sprint to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. This is on par with the outgoing model, despite its turbocharged four-pot only producing 189 hp.
Mini did not share any information about the available transmission options, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will likely be carried over. For proof, look no further than the BMW X2. It's built on the same FAAR platform as the gas-powered Mini and the bean counters will want to keep costs low. This is good news because the JCW will likely be equipped with the same 312 hp four-pot as the X2 M35i.
Whether a manual gearbox will be available remains to be seen. Mini is incapable of making a decision, though it has done a lot to promote the manual transmission, even going as far as opening a stick-shift driving school in California.
The electric S is called the SE, though it only uses "S" badges. It's equipped with a single electric motor that produces 215 hp and 243 lb-ft, sent to the front wheels only.
According to Mini, the SE can get to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, so it's a win for ICE. Or is it? Electric vehicles tend to feel faster than they actually are due to the immediate power delivery. The EV also doesn't have to do something as banal as shifting gears, so the driver will simply get an uninterrupted flow of power.
In a straight line, there's very little separating the two. Zero to 60 mph in six-ish seconds is on-brand for a Cooper S, but hardly the point of a Mini. You buy a Mini because you want go-kart-like handling, which gives us a nice segue to our next point of discussion.
|Mini Cooper S ICE
|Mini Cooper S EV
We already know from the EV introduction that various driving modes are available. Some will be used for the ICE model, while other EV-specific modes will be dumped. The ICE Mini also doesn't need the Mini Sounds feature because it has an engine to make noise, even though Mini is too ashamed to bless the car with decent tailpipes.
These driving modes work in harmony with the interior lighting system. In Go-Kart mode, the interior is bathed in red light, and the round infotainment system and digital instrument cluster display all sorts of sporty things. We know this feature will be carried over, as we can see the Mini Experiences button on the center console.
Now, your faithful correspondent is about to drop a bomb. Minis are close to my heart. I love them so much that I owned a classic Leyland model. I've driven every generation since BMW took over, and never in the company's history has one of them handled like a go-kart.
Here's what a Mini has in common with a go-kart: Nothing. I suppose both have a wheel-at-every-corner design, and the classic and early BMW models do oversteer when you lift off the throttle, but that's it. A go-kart is rear-wheel drive, has no suspension, and drives on slick tires. The steering is also directly connected to the wheels, and you feel like you've pumped some iron after 10 laps.
Minis handle beautifully, however. The power-assisted steering has traditionally been sharp and accurate. Couple that with a small body, and you get an agile car that you can push to the limits without killing yourself. The more modern models will understeer at the limit, which is less fun than lift-off oversteer, but much safer for noobs trying to have a bit of fun.
There will be a weight difference between the two cars, but we don't know what it is yet. The previous-generation EV only weighed 181 pounds more than its ICE counterpart, and great strides have been made in battery technology since then. With the battery mounted low down in the chassis, there's a good chance the EV might out-handle its more traditional sibling.
Yeah, so this was never going to go the electric vehicle's way. With the gas-powered model, you turn up, fill up, and leave. It's a five-minute job at the most.
The SE has a 54.2 kWh battery, and according to WLTP figures, it can cover 250 miles before needing a recharge. That number will drop once the EPA gets its hands on the car. Using DC fast charging, you can get the battery from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes.
If you have a garage and can install a home charger, the EV would be perfect. Americans don't actually drive that far daily, but if you're going on a longer trip, you can't beat the ICE.
The ICE Mini Cooper S will have a base MSRP of $32,200 when it arrives in the USA in July 2024. That's a $3,100 increase over the outgoing model, but it's sort of not bad if you look at all the upgrades Mini has made.
The pricing for the EV has not been revealed, but the old one sold for $33,900. If we apply the same increase, we're looking at a $37,000 car that won't be eligible for a sweet tax credit from President Biden. You'll have to drive thousands of miles in the gas-powered car before you make up that difference.
Essentially, these two are closer than ever before, and Mini has taken a page out of BMW's playbook in giving you a Mini Cooper S with a choice of powertrains, just like the BMW i5 is simply a 5 Series with electricity instead of pistons doing the work. This in itself is laudable, but we can't help but feel that if the EV can't pull a rabbit out of the hat price-wise, ICE sales might firmly trounce it.