Review: Mini Cooper D

Review: Mini Cooper D
Review: Mini Cooper D

A new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission comes to the Mini. Is it any good?

When it comes to automatics on the new-style Mini (well, maybe we should say BMW-era Mini, as it’s been around for 17 years now), conventional torque-converter systems have pretty much been the chosen method.

So the arrival of the first ever dual-clutch transmission (DCT) Mini is quite an event in the history of this very successful small car. The seven-speed DCT ‘box will be available to UK buyers of One, Cooper and Cooper D models, and it will spread out into other parts of the range later on in 2018.

Mini 5dr Hatch Cooper D DCT

Price: £19,230
Engine: 3cyls, 1496cc, turbocharged diesel
Power: 114bhp
Torque: 119lb ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerbweight: 1205kg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.5sec
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg
CO2 rating: 99g/km

The hitch with dual-clutch transmissions for Mini up to now has been their relatively large size, but specialists Getrag have come up with a compact twin-clutcher activated by electricity rather than hydraulics. Besides size and weight, its other claimed advantages over the old six-speeder are quicker gearshifts and slightly better mpg, courtesy of the extra gear.

The £1345 premium over the manual is the same as before. The new gearbox is only rated to 221lb ft so it won’t be an option on 2.0-litre diesel models or the top-of-the-range John Cooper Works, and to start with at least, the new DCT won’t have paddles. Manual changes are possible though via the gear selector, and there will be paddles at some point.

Our test car was a Cooper D five-door hatchback. Diesel automatics are always going to be a bit less snappy than petrol ones because of the greater inertia of their engines, and this limits the speed of upshifts. We weren’t given any comparative gearshift times for the old and new transmissions, and with the gearbox in manual and Sport mode selected, the new setup seems no quicker or more urgent than the old auto – but in everyday use they do feel noticeably sharper and smoother. Mini engineers do say that they put a lot of hours into ensuring there was no loss of smoothness.

Control over downshifts in manual mode certainly seems more precise (the old automatic sometimes didn’t pay any attention to the driver’s wishes). Mini does reckon that the DCT performs more smoothly in tests. You will notice the twin-clutch’s tendency towards clunkiness when downshifting to a halt, but that’s far from unique to this unit. In manual mode, the DCT will change up when the engine hits its rev limiter, but holding onto lower gears will be a feature when it is applied to higher-performing models like the Cooper S.

We’re not convinced by the decision to omit shift paddles on less sporty models, given that the Mini is generically sold on sporty character. Still, at least the gear selector does work in the ’right’ way in manual mode, ie push forward to change down and pull back to shift up. Not every DCT-equipped car adheres to that natural (to us, anyway) principle.

Away from the gearbox, the Mini Cooper D five-door acquits itself well in the hatchback segment. It looks a bit odd to some people, but the cabin is distinctly upmarket and it delivers the expected Mini dynamics of dartiness and agility. The diesel engine is no over-achiever but nor does it ever feel stressed and the refinement is very good. You’ll only become aware of the distinctive three-cylinder diesel thrum when pressing hard.

We’re pleased that this new DCT is superior to the old auto in just about every respect, and that there’s no additional financial penalty to be paid. Having said all that, it might not be good enough yet to convince those who are swithering between two- and three-pedal operation.

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