The four-door Cooper Hardtop S is now available with a manual gearbox.
Mini USA conducted a study to find whether there's still an interest in manual transmissions, and as a result, it has announced that four models will subsequently be available with a stick shift. These models include the Mini Cooper Convertible and S Convertible, and the Mini Cooper four-door Cooper and Cooper S. With these models now included, a grand total of seven Minis are available with a six-speed manual.
Orders for the models mentioned above are already open, and Mini will start producing them at the beginning of March. While we're not fans of the convertible in any guise (buy a Miata), it immediately makes the four-door more appealing and competitive compared to other vehicles in the same price range.
The Cooper is powered by a turbocharged triple producing 134 horsepower, while the S uses a turbocharged four-pot with 189 hp on tap. These figures are on the low side, but MInis are known for having fun handling characteristics. Combine that with an engaging manual, and you have a recipe for serious fun.
Mini has yet to update its online configurator, so we couldn't track down pricing. However, we expect it to be a no-cost option or even cheaper than the standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Will Mini stick with the manual transmission this time? In April 2020, Mini announced that its six-speed manual would return to seven models, and by May 2022, the manual was dead again. Mini was forced to simplify its range due to the war in Ukraine and the semiconductor shortage.
The most significant indicator that the manual is here to stay is Mini's investment in an all-new driving school dedicated to teaching people how to drive stick. Mini's manual school was announced late last year, and registration opened a few days ago. To learn how to drive using three pedals, Mini will charge you $500.
Why this sudden change of heart? For an explanation, we need to circle back to the study mentioned earlier. Mini commissioned a third-party company to conduct a survey, and the results are amazing. Of the 1,012 respondents, 63% agreed that learning to drive a stick is a right of passage and a valuable life skill.
Even more surprising is that "fun to drive" was the primary characteristic respondents associated with manual transmission. Can we get a round of applause for heel and toeing, please?
Unfortunately, only 24% of the people involved in the survey actually owned a manual car. This is an odd discrepancy because it's not like there's a shortage of manual cars in the USA. Looking at the price range these four Mini manual models compete in, consumers can also opt for a Civic Si, Jetta GLI, Hyundai's Elantra and Veloster N models, the Civic Type R, the Mazda Miata, and the daddy of all hatches, the Golf GTI.
Still, Gen Z seems to be saving the automotive industry once again. Nearly half (49%) of Gen Z said they had no idea how to drive stick. When asked if they'd be willing to learn, 53% were interested. Two-thirds (67%, to be precise) of participants aged 18 to 34 were eager to learn how to drive in the way God intended.
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