Review: 2022 Mini Hardtop will delight your inner Austin Powers
Whereas most Mini models are really just lumbering imitators of the original, the Mini Hardtop in its two-door glory is the most Mini of Minis. The 2022 model year brings a few design changes and upgrades, as we discovered for ourselves.
Chief among the upgrades to all models are better styling in the front and rear, newly-available roof color options for a two-tone motif, and a larger digital instrument cluster and touchscreen. The Mini Hardtop is the only Mini we really like, though, having the most "Mini-ness" of the lineup of two- and four-door options.
At a glance
- Nostalgia is a strong selling point here
- Fun to drive in this configuration, with vigor and panache
- Quirky enough to be fun, while fun enough to not be a cheap imitation
The current generation Mini was introduced in 2014, with a redesign from BMW. Drawing on the nostalgia of the car’s past, some high publicity in the 1990s Austin Powers films, and premium interior design cues, the Mini Hardtop has seen some success. It’s got two doors, four seats, and is tight in the turns.
Most of the changes for the new model year are obvious to onlookers and fans of the Mini. The front grille and fascia are a little more shapely, with a body-colored panel that runs around the chrome grille to replace the black-is-the-only-option that was there before. This adds a surprising amount of pop to the look of the car, especially in the signature British racing green (or Rebel Green for the Mini) in which it’s so often seen. For those who liked the black, however, there is an option to add gloss black to the grille, badges, door handles, and tailpipes. The rear sees similar changes, though the Union Jack tail lamps are still there.
A contrasting roof color option is also available on the new Mini Hardtop. Blue, yellow, grey, white, and black are options, as is a new Multitone option which grades the color from blue to black for a really cool effect. Those opting for a John Cooper Works model can get an aggressive rear diffuser, while those opting for the electric Cooper SE can remove most of the yellow exterior accents to make it more DL.
Inside, changes include making the SE model’s digital instrument cluster standard on all Hardtops, and upgrading the infotainment to an 8.8-inch display. Lane-departure warning and satellite radio are now standard as well. Oddly, however, Apple CarPlay is an upgrade option and there is no Android Auto availability at all. Performance lovers will be disappointed to hear that the JCW GP model has been discontinued.
There are two engine options for the Mini Hardtop, as well as the all-electric SE model. The engines are a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder that outputs 134 horsepower (98.5 kW) to a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. That base engine is adequate for the car and, with the six-speed manual, it's fun to drive. The real goodness comes with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo found in the S Hardtop and JCW models. That engine outputs 189 HP (139 kW) in the S and 228 HP (167.7 kW) in the JCW. We drove the latter, and it’s a hoot to punch and maneuver – especially while slamming the nicely done six-speed gearbox. The JCW model also has a revised sport suspension, larger 17-inch wheels, and sportier seating up front.
The Mini of old was a delight to toss around street corners and lug up to speed for fun. Though it wasn’t the most performance-oriented sports car in that period, it was a small, cheap, and hilariously fun toy-sized car for janking around. The modern Mini lost much of that, getting larger, heavier, and less fuel efficient in a bid to appeal to a more safety conscious, comfort-oriented buying public. The nostalgia worked and it’s sold well, but something was lost in the process.
Some of that comes back in this 2-door ... at least the part remembered with the passing of decades and the rose-colored glasses which accompany that. The 2022 Mini Hardtop in its JCW package (starting at US$32,900) is grin-inducing in its mixture of retro style, peppy (but not necessarily fast) performance, and maneuverability.
With decent enough cargo space for its super-compact size and a nearly useless back seat as a consequence, the BMW-made Mini is festooned with nostalgic touches to its exterior, and 1950s aircraft switchgear on its interior. Round infotainment cluster? Check. Oddly-placed chromed switches to flip up and down for various things that may or may not have anything to do with the car’s operation? Check. Giant red aircraft fuel-style on/off switch? Of course. That’s the Mini way.
So while the four-door and not-Mini-based Mini models may have muddied the waters for the brand, the Mini Hardtop that started it all is still where it’s at. So put in some ugly teeth, don your floppy 1960s blouse, and scream "Ya, baby!" at everything. It’s part of the lifestyle.
Product Page: 2022 BMW Mini Hardtop