Base Camp: 2022 Mini Cooper 3 Door
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Ever since it was resuscitated by Bavarian hands, the Mini (we won’t capitalize it for this article since it sends our spellcheck into a snit) brand has been a go-to for customers seeking a sensible machine with a heavy dose of retro style. The lineup has grown to include vehicles with extra doors and ground clearance, some with power going to all four wheels. At the heart of it all is this entry-level model, simply called the 3 Door.
It is the least expensive Mini in the line, wearing a $24,490 price tag. For that sum, one will find themselves in command of a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, a mill good for 134 horsepower and a decent amount of noise. Fortunately, a six-speed manual transmission is the default choice on this powertrain, retaining a level of fun that should be standard equipment in any car with a face as expressive as this machine. Highway speeds will spin up from rest in about 8 seconds.
Outside, LED headlights are part of the deal, along with a so-called ‘bad weather function’ integrated into the LED peepers which takes the place of traditional fog lamps. The back of bonnet hood scoop is a dead giveaway you’re driving the base three-banger, as is the lack of a chrome fuel filler cap. These are the sacrifices made at the cheap end of this spectrum. Still, 16-inch tires are the same size as on the more expensive S trim, and a myriad of airbags plus all manner of driving aids like dynamic stability control are standard across the board.
Mini offers more space inside the 3 Door than its name may suggest, at least in the front row where legroom is listed as just two cm less spacious than in a 2021 Honda Accord. The 3-spoke steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, six-way manual seats are covered in leatherette (read: fake cows) and the rear seats flops forward to expand the cargo area. The centre dial, which is the size of a dinner plate and a Mini styling trademark, has morphed into an infotainment touchscreen over the years; a set of digital gauges resides in front of the driver these days, as well.
Mini sadly charges an extra $590 for every single colour on the palette save for the metallic hue shown here, mystifyingly called Moonwalk Grey. Jazzing up the roof and mirror caps with white paint is gratis, however. A single tailpipe juts out of the rear valence, and a smattering of brightwork surrounds certain pieces of trim.
What We’d Choose
While $4,300 is hardly chump change, and can represent about $80 extra per month on a five year purchase plan, it’s difficult to recommend against stepping up to the S and its four-cylinder turbocharged engine which makes 189 horsepower and – more importantly – 207 lb-ft of torque. It still comes standard with a manual transmission and shaves almost 1.5 seconds off the non-S acceleration time.
While you’re in the menu options, go ahead and select the $500 package which includes Dynamic Damper Control. So equipped, owners will be able to adjust their suspension settings, thereby avoiding being pummeled by a flinty ride over our nation’s rough roads. And, if you want to splash out extra money on an interesting colour for your new interesting car, we won’t stop you.