Posted by reader James Vandenberg:
The MINI CVT is a fun drive!
We picked up our MINI Cooper CVT in late June, it was one of the first builds to come with the new Paddle shifters on the steering wheel. In the Canadian market it appears all CVTs ordered will now come with the paddles, while they are currently unavailable in the USA.
The CVT has alot of fun in store for those who give it a chance, and I think this is why MINI added the Paddles, to encourage customers to try the CVT's Steptronic and Sports Drive modes out.
In the MINI CVT you push the shifter over to the right to switch the car into Sports Drive (SD). SD is basically automatic with higher revs, giving the car a beefier feel while not having to change gears. >From the Sports Drive position, pushing forward or pulling back will take the car into 'Steptronic' mode. Pushing forward will knock the car into a lower 'gear', pulling back from the Sports Drive position will knock the 'gear' up. The feel of driving in Steptronic is very similar to a traditional manual (but without the clutch). You can drive in SD mode, and when it's time to overtake that SUV, go into a lower gear and overtake without putting the peddle to the metal. Once youre done you can either continue driving in Steptronic, returning to a higher gear, or pull the shifter back to the left and into Automatic mode.
One problem I found with driving in Steptronic when I test drove the CVT MINI, was that instinctively I wanted to push forward to go up a gear and pull back to go down a gear. While the new CVTs with Paddle shifters operate the same way (forward goes down, backwards goes up), using the Paddles this way is totally natural.
Like using the shifter, once you are driving in SD mode you can tap the Paddles forward or backwards to move the car into a lower/higher gear and initiate Steptronic mode. Both Paddles have the same operations, meaning you can Paddle Shift with the left or right side. You can easily operate the Paddles without taking both hands off the wheel, pushing the paddle forward with the thumb to drop down a gear, or pulling it towards you with your finger to go into a higher gear.
The responses of the paddles are very fast, and you can easily change gears quickly and remain in complete control of the wheel. While using the shifter to change gears feels more traditional in terms of your driving position, having the paddles when you want to make a start turning left of right in gear lets you focus on steering and still have the power at your fingers for speedy gear changing.
Design of the MINI Paddle Shifters is one thing I wasnt to keen about when I first saw pictures on MINI2 (before picking up my MINI), but they arent half bad looking in person. While I would have liked having a more discrete solution, they are certainly very usable right now and maybe the decision to use this design was more function than form.
All in all the Paddle Shifters are a great addition to an already very fun car, time to motor.