MF Longterm Review: 2015 MINI Cooper S

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14,000 miles in one year is a great way to get to know a car. And it’s especially good when you’ve already driven and dissected it previously. But driving the new generation F56 MINI for a day or a week isn’t quite like living with it. So we started our year with our BRG Cooper S asking a few key questions. First is this really a better MINI than what came before it? The F56 after all was MINI’s first entirely new platform since the 2001 relaunch of the brand. And (alarmingly to some) it shared both the drivetrain and UKL chassis with a new range of front wheel drive BMWs. Does the driving experience still excite the way MINIs always have?

Secondly we wanted to know if this could be the first small MINI that was truly comfortable to live with. The F56 has gotten a lot of press for offering a more comfortable ride, better noise isolation and plenty of tech. But how would it fair during the rigor of every day life in Chicago?

Options – What’s Worth it and What’s Not

We carefully chose the options on our Cooper S to both harken back to vintage color combos of the 1960s while providing us with all of the latest technology available. Unabashedly classic on the outside and perhaps surprisingly suave on the inside, the idea was to create a combination of color, leather and material that referenced history yet felt modern.

Inside, our F56 has held up well with the only obvious wear being seen on the off-white lounge leather seats. Yeah probably to be excepted. But here’s the thing. They look nothing less than stellar when clean and the process of cleaning takes nothing more than a damp cloth and a good scrub game. While they don’t necessarily look as crisp as new, they look plenty luxurious against the darker tones of the interior.

F56

Unfortunately while the car’s exterior and interior colors made it intact through the ordering process, many of the options we requested did not. Due to an ordering snafu brought about by a change in the way options were configured internally at MINI, we were left with a puzzling collection of options and packages.

Among the many options that got left off our car was MINI’s comfort access. After 12 months we can easily say that there are few non-performance options we’d look at as mandatory more than comfort access. But first let’s back up. With keyless go standard on the new MINI not only is there no key but there’s no place to even put the fob. With the optional comfort access, the process to unlock and start the car would be as seamless as possible. Simply walk-up, get in and start the engine. However without the optional comfort access the process goes from seamless to aggravating.

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The issue is that you get used to not needing the key to start the car. It’s touch-less, buttonless and frankly invisible. Without comfort access you need to dig into your pocket, find the appropriate button (that’s impossible to find without looking), wait for the unlock and then slide into the seat. Sure it’s easy. But experiencing a system that doesn’t require buttons and keys makes you realize what an unnecessary chore it is to have to physically hit a button to unlock the trunk or open a door.

In our eyes this makes comfort access nothing less that a must have optional alongside adaptive suspension, rear fogs and navigation.

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One positive side note however, was that our MINI’s remote fob had at least double the range of the system on the previous R5X models.

There are a couple of other must have options that are worth mentioning. While the navigation system isn’t as intuitive as the one found on smartphones, it’s good enough for us to call it an essential choice if only for the gorgeous screen. Which is in essence a larger window into your MINI.

Sport seats are standard on the Cooper S but it’s worth mentioning that they were as excellent after 14,000 miles as they were when we first drove the car two years ago. Our off-white Lounge leather certainly had to patina after a year but any dirt was easily cleaned with a damp cloth.

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The Right Wheel Makes a World of Difference

A result of our ordering issues was a loaded Cooper S with the smallest wheels MINI offers. When our Cooper S arrived last January we were taken aback by at finding 16” wheels on our MINI. Our first thought – surely those are winter tires that MINI nicely threw on for us. Alas, not the case – not only were they small but they were also summer tires. But then something interesting happened. We actually liked the ride and the softer handling characteristics that the large sidewalls offered. They didn’t look great and there was less feeling at the limit, but there was a more fluid feel when pushing the car over broken pavement.

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Yet ultimately for us the look and the feel (or lack of) at the limit were too much to look past. As soon as the weather broke in Chicago we made a call to our friends at NM Engineering.

After looking wistfully at other 17” and 18” shod MINIs rolling around the hood we finally decided to plunk down for something big and light. After some research (and the help of Aaron at Outmotoring) we came across the NM Engineering 18” RS12s.

As much as our MCS was transformed in appearance with the RS12s, performance was also affected. The result is an 18″ wheel that only weighs a hair over 18 lbs. That in turn reduces unsprung weight (the best possible weight on your car to reduce). It’s had immediate affect on our F56 allowing for more lively turn-in, steering that is more communicative and grip limits that are increased. Ride has been affected (as you’d expect) but not as much as you’d think thanks to going from run flats to standard tires.

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Large Wheels and Suspension Choices

If you haven’t heard MINI has made the Sports Suspension an exclusive option on the JCW and taken it off the option list for other MINIs. In its place you can spec variable dampers which on paper allow for the best of all worlds. The problem is that they don’t go quite far enough on the sporty side with spring rates about 20% less stiff.

As we mentioned earlier, the Sports Suspension combined with the our car’s original 16” wheels and tires gave it pleasantly aggressive dynamics without a ride that was unbearable. It’s an interesting combination that gave our MCS good body control and confidence at the limit without being unsettled by broken pavement mid-corner. Moving to the 18” NM Engineering wheels and Dunlops endowed our car with a more harsh ride but still better than nothing.

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The downside with the small wheels however is the reduction of that knife-edge feel of precious that a set of 17” or 18” wheels and good tires can give you. There’s a sense that the entire set-up is slightly dulled by the larger sideway and narrower 195 mm width.

After a couple weeks with our car we’d recommend the sport suspension for those looking for the ultimate enthusiast choice. But it can only really be paid off with 17” or 18” wheels with wider tires. The combination allows for a feel and a performance that’s more akin to the R56 and even the R53.

But why the sport suspension over the variable dampers? For us it allows a more sporting experience that feels right on a MINI. Truthfully if the variable dampers had the ability to go from -10% all the way to +30% (matching the sport suspension calibration) we’d call them the ideal choice. But MINI did’t endow the variable dampers with that range and therefore they feel a bit more compromised than we’d want.

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Making a MINI Feel Like a Mini.

At times handling and steering feel can be subjective. Other times it’s just plainly obvious how good something is. The F56 is immediately good. While the steering ratio hasn’t changed, it feels sharper and quicker than the R56. The reason for that is a decrease in unsprung weight and a revised rear suspension – especially the new hollow anti-roll sway bar in the rear.

In talking with the MINI engineer responsible for suspension design, I learned that this area was of intense focus for MINI for the F56 generation. The goal was to create a foundation that allowed for a greater range of either comfort or performance. The effect is a car that feels more composed even over the bumpiest midwestern roads I came across.

With the R56 and to a lesser degree the R53, modern MINIs were incredibly fun to drive but often seemed to be working against you when pushed hard. Our 2015 Cooper S feels both more communicative while balanced and forgiving at the same time. With 14,000 miles and several back to back drives we can unequivocally say that there’s decidedly more feel in the hand with the F56 than the previous R56 generation.

The electronically boosted steering is an entirely new system which feels much more transparent than the set-up found in the R56. It’s hard to believe but after years of us complaining that MINI’s steering feel has gotten worse, it would seem MINI has reversed the trend. Is it on par with the R50/R53? Not quite. But the immediacy of the turn-in, the improved grip and the increase in road feel has produced an experience that doesn’t feel that removed from the first generation new MINI. And that is intended to be a huge compliment.

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MINI’s new Sport mode system (standard in all MINIs sold in the US) is a huge improvement over the previous sport button. The system affects three things – throttle mapping, steering weight and suspension firmness (if you opt for the variable dampers).

MINI has made the system lightly configurable with drivers able to select on or off to the throttle mapping and variable dampers settings for each stage. What we would have loved however is to configure the system to allow for the more aggressive throttle mapping without the extra weight in the steering that seems to subtly dial out some of the great tactile qualities MINI engineered back into the system. While it doesn’t blunt the feedback through the wheel like the previous system did, it’s still not quite perfect.

What of the torque steer that plagued the R5X chassis? Our initial tests of the F56 showed that MINI has dramatically reduced it. While the F56 will understeer at the limit (even if you lift off the throttle), with the right tire you rarely hit that limit on the street. And if you do, MINI’s engineers have carefully dialed in the chassis to allow the understeer to build gradually giving the driver plenty of time to back off.

I recently spoke with the lead on the F56 project and asked him about the work done to reduce the torque steer. He mentioned that during the development process he had a R56 JCW – a car with perhaps the most pronounced torque steer at the time. Driving that car every day reminded him of how important it was to get it right. Through a process of redesigning the meeting point between the driveshaft and the suspension (along some electronic wizardry) it’s clearly been accomplished.

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The Engine – A 2.0L Torque Monster

The new 2.0L engine of the Cooper S feels every bit as strong as the old 1.6L JCW power plant. The mid-level torque increases drivability. In combination with the revised six speed automatic it almost never feels caught off guard by anything you ask of it. Having spent quite a lot of time in the JCW version recently there’s clearly more that MINI could have done to this engine. But if you never got behind the wheel of the Cooper S’ big brother you’d never know.

The sound is also all new. The 2.0L creates a deeper yet more refined growl that is a big step up from the previous Prince family of engines. With the sport mode engaged it emits some serious pops and burbles – even with an automatic chosen.

With that extra size and torque comes a couple of downsides. Despite the car being designed approximately seven years after the R56 generation, my average MPG was roughly what I experienced in the 2012 JCW Roadster we had for a year. Then there’s the way the engine revs. The previous 1.6L engine (especially in JCW trim) felt light and quick in the way it moved the tach needle. The new 2.0L (with more engine to motivate) has a decidedly more gradual build to revs and never quite feels as “alive” as that previous engine.

So in essence MINI has traded some of that angry and quick character of the previous engine for a faster, more elastic and relaxed experience.

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Is Navigation Worth It?

Speaking of that navigation we found MINI’s substantially upgraded system to be a huge leap forward as compared to the R5X generation. Traffic data has gotten better (it now uses peer to peer data from other MINIs and BMWs to create a more clear picture) and routing is smarter. Yet it’s still not as fast or smart as Google Maps (or Apple Maps for that matter).

My solution was to combine both. I typically used Google Maps for traffic data and a quick gut check on the best way to tackle long Chicago commutes. Then I put the phone away before slotting into 1st. However when I’m going somewhere I’m not familiar with or on long trips I will almost always use the built in nav as it’s the safer option when it comes to distracted driving.

Of course navigation isn’t the only thing that happens on that large screen. And that’s really the other critical reason I’d never do without the option. It’s a window into the car and in my mind you always want the largest window. Sure your smartphone will run rings around navigation etc. But you will never regret having the option if you’re someone who likes to constantly fine tune your driving experience or make use of the things like MINI Connected and that incredibly helpful reverse camera.

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That Look.

For some the newer generation of MINIs takes some getting use to simply because we’ve been seeing the previous generations for years. But a year on the design seems to be aging well. Once I swapped the poor little 16” wheels with 18” RS12s from NM Engineering, the overall shape and size of the car simply made a lot more sense.

Yes, that front overhang is still something I personally struggle with. But this is a car that was designed in an age of ruthless regulations and efficiency requirements. In other words the shape of the F56 is designed to both cheat the wind and offer the world a safer MINI.

The goal was to decrease drag from the R56’s .39 cd to under .30 cd. That of course would represent a huge savings and, according to the F56 product manager was a very difficult task given the car’s overall shape. But MINI engineers looked at every millimeter of the car optimizing the shape and adding details. The improvements were measured in the thousandths and became incredibly incremental. But they all add up to an astonishing drag coefficient of only .28 cd. At high speeds that’s a difference you can feel. With the R56 at high speeds it felt like you were trying to push a brick through the air. Our 2015 Cooper S was not only more eager at high speeds but also more stable and confident.

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Thoughts On a Year With the 2015 Cooper S

There’s no question that the F56 MINI is the best product the brand has ever produced. It’s little larger than the previous MINI but for that tradeoff you get a car that has much more utility, performance, technology and comfort. The interior is a revelation as compared with the R50 and R56 generations and the quality has been dramatically improved.

With every MINI I’ve ever owned there was always a certain amount of excuses I’d have to make. For the ride, the space, the ergonomics and even lack of green credentials (looking your way R53). Our 2015 Cooper S was a car that needed none of them. For a year it not only conquered the corners but day after day it comfortably tackled the rigors of life.

It seems impossible but MINI has made both the F56 more broadly appealing and yet a better driving car for the enthusiast. MINI designers and engineers have brought some of the purity found in the R50/R53 generation of MINIs and added a massive dose of technology, safety and performance that that car never could have dreamed of. Not everything is perfect of course. The size of the front overhang and other details takes some getting used to for some. But the overall driving and (crucially) ownership experience is such a huge improvement over what came before that it’s hard to not look at this new Cooper S as more than just a great MINI. It may just be one of the best cars on the market full-stop.

Our Rating

7 Design

8 Performance

7 Efficiency

6 Utility

8 Value

9 MotoringFile Enthusiast Index

Everything is scored within the context of the market and the MINI brand.

  • 9c1

    What a great review! I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on the manual transmission shift feel of the F-series? I own a F55 Cooper S as well as one of the last R56 JCW’s – both manuals – so I’m lucky to be able to compare them back to back every day. I’ve found the shift quality / feel of the F55 is not as “precise” as the R56 – it doesn’t have that “rifle bolt” precision feel when you change gears like in the R56. This was probably my biggest gripe about the F55 – it felt like an “ordinary” car to drive and not very “go karty” like mini’s of old. My cheap solution to the issue was to purchase a F56 JCW gear knob which has a longer metal shaft and this improved the “mini feel” quite a lot for me. Apart from that I think the F55 is a good car – quite different to the R56 in terms of refinement and technology, but I’m very lucky and spoilt for choice – if I want an exciting drive to work I take the R56 JCW, but if I want a relaxing commute I take the F55.

    • Really great point and I think your observation is spot on. The F56 is what I would call more rubbery in its action and thus more forgiving.

      Every generation of MINI the clutch hash often lighter and the shifter slightly less crisp. On the face of it you might think that’s bad. But the friction point in the clutch is still very obvious and the shift action still precise. It’s just easier and (theoretically) quicker to go from gear to gear.

      • 9c1

        Very interesting thought Gabe! Taking a step back, probably something else worth considering is the philosophical change occurring in Mini’s (and all cars for that matter!) with the introduction of many “nanny” features such as auto rev matching (which I hate personally). My question is does easier and more forgiving equate to more fun? For the purists out there I think maybe not? The market niche for pure “driving pleasure” based cars is getting smaller by the day – the availability of cars with manual transmissions being a prime example. I know many brands are going towards things like DCT paddle shift transmissions only which are quicker and more economical to drive, but are they more “fun” or engaging to drive? Being engaging and fun to drive is what I love about my R56 JCW – I love the visceral feel of the car compared with the refinement of the F55. I’ve also driven the F56 JCW at length – it’s quicker yes, but to me it’s just not as fun to drive. I understand times change – the recent “mature” change of mini brand values being a prime example, so maybe it’s just me. It will be very interesting to see what the third generation of the GP will be like? Pure track car like a Porsche gt3 rs or just a faster, lighter and more expensive JCW?

        • FWIW I love love love rev matching. And this is coming from someone who historically has used heel to toe 100% of the time while driving a manual.

  • fishbert

    I have just over 28,000 miles on my 2015 Cooper S, and the one option I have kicked myself on more than one occasion for not ordering is … roof rails. Not because I ever plan on carrying anything on the roof, but because I suspect they may help prevent the lap-full of roof water I get anytime I go through a drive-thru in the rain.

    It is so much quicker to enter in navigation destinations on the F56 than on my old R56 (may she rest in peace) because I don’t have to pick the correct category of listing first. And yes, the vastly improved range of the key fob is wonderful.

  • KO

    I came from 14yrs in a E46 wagon, and only short drives in R53s, and was looking for something in between. Now with a year on my F55 Justa, I’m generally pleased. I’m actually glad I skipped Comfort Access. I’d understand for folks carrying their key in a bag, but since Comfort Access, according to the manual, requires pressing the button on the handle, I’d rather press the fob button on my person. And since you can get the screen without NAV, that’s what I did. Definitely better than the tiny base orange display. I DID get the NLA fixed sport suspension, and at first, I blamed the stiff and jiggly nature (compared to my slightly modified E46 sport suspension; it’s almost as jarring as my NSX) on it, but after driving a base suspension F56 loaner and being rather similar, I guess it’s just a characteristic of the platform. I don’t know if it’s a function of the Mini market in my area, or what the dealers stock, but the vast majority of F55/56s I see on the road are very sparsely equipped, and I think it’s not fair to the car. The aforementioned loaner was so equipped (base seats/trim/lighting/radio), and it lacked the premium feel I was used to, and I felt it detracted from the overall value given its place in the premium segment.

  • Madoc

    I took delivery of a leftover 2015 MCS automatic with JCW tuning kit about three weeks ago. I love it, but if I had spec’ed it, I would have added the MINI Connected option. I can’t believe that Bluetooth media playback is not standard on a car of this class.

    Briefly- Likes *Exhaust note *Quickness *Color (Volcanic Orange) *Comfort access

    Dislikes *Lack of paddle shifters (my wife’s 2007 MC had them as standard equipment) *Parking brake / armrest interference *Complex systems check *Piano black interior trim

    Am I the only one that misses the window switches in the center stack?

    • R.O.

      “Am I the only one that misses the window switches in the center stack?” Madoc, I’m really missing it there, at the door is ok, but I wish MINI would have put the boot open button in the center stack instead of way down low almost at bottom of drivers side door frame. I dislike it there.

      • Bernie4pres

        I don’t get the hate on the boot button. I’ve never ever felt the need to use it. I wouldn’t care if there wasn’t one at all. Just hit the unlock button on the door handle then squeeze the button on the boot itself which is right where you’d have to grab to open the boot anyway. It’s even easier with comfort access. Just squeeze the switch on the boot – it unlocks and opens in one motion.

    • HeDidn’tWeDid

      I MISS the window switches being in the center stack. For the first few months I kept reaching down with my right arm to lower the windows…only to find no switch. Now I have to lift my left arm up and fumble with the buttons on the door. I actually find this much less convenient than the center stack switches. I also drove a Jeep Wrangler Sport before I got back to the MINI world with my 2015 MCS and it also had the window switches on the center stack. I think MINI caved in to all the auto-journos who have to ALWAYS say something like “This interior is so wacky. MINI is trying too hard. What’s with these round vents?”. Oh, want to know what other car uses round vents similar to the MINI? Yeah, that would be Ferrari and you don’t see the auto-journos complaining about the Ferrari interior do you? Anyway, I miss the window switches and wish MINI would bring them back. Please MINI, don’t water down the interior of the 2-door Coopers any more. Just keep upgrading the quality of the materials. It’s a nice place to daily drive now.

  • R.O.

    Interesting piece. Some comments and feedback on the article.

    I’m not getting the whole comfort access thing? I guess because Gabe is in the mid-West (Chicago) and the cold/harsh winter and freezing temps where a person would be wearing gloves, comfort access would be something that is a need. But that’s only 4 months out of the year.

    The thought that: “However without the optional comfort access the process goes from seamless to aggravating.” Aggravating, Really? As in: annoy; irritate; exasperate. Come on, are you serious?

    Then: “Without comfort access you need to dig into your pocket, find the appropriate button (that’s impossible to find without looking)” Maybe with gloves on but I don’t find it impossible without looking. Easy; top button unlock, next button down (below unlock) is lock and then bottom bottom (next to bottom if you have the car Alarm system) is boot unlock. Easy and certainly not impossible.

    Next; “But experiencing a system that doesn’t require buttons and keys makes you realize what an unnecessary chore it is to have to physically hit a button to unlock the trunk or open a door.” A chore? Wow. Yet in the same article it states:

    “obvious wear being seen on the off-white lounge leather seats. Yeah probably to be excepted. But here’s the thing. They look nothing less than stellar when clean and the process of cleaning takes nothing more than a damp cloth and a good scrub game.”

    So touch a button on the key fob is a “chore” but cleaning with damp cloth and a good scrub” isn’t thought to be a chore. Ah, ok. I disagree. Light color (White, beige, etc) interior and especially seating areas are very difficult to keep clean and looking nice. I would never get light color interior seating surfaces.

    Exterior look (color) that really is a personal choice. Everyone has a color they like and one they don’t care for. I’m not a green color person. Also I’ve never cared for Pepper White (or Red) but again, we all have our colors we like (for me it was Volcanic Orange)

    Wheel Size: 18″ I feel is too big. Not enough rubber especially with low profile tires. Most cities have far to many potholes and roadway off-set seams. Damage the rims why to easy. I’m perfectly fine with the 16’s. Never had any thought of getting the 17’s, especially not 18’s

    NAV system: In 2014 and till mid 2015 there were 2 NAV systems. One without traffic and one with traffic. I had thought about getting the one without traffic but didn’t see the point and the XL system cost was about my budget. I have one of the newest Garmin systems that includes free life time map updates and traffic. Works great and don’t have to think about MINI at some point no longer supporting their own system (as they have done with the previous system).

    Here is my feelings and review of my 2015 (April) F56 Cooper S with 5,500 miles (I have a very short commute to work and have only taken two trips of 80 miles last year.)

    Steering: Almost as good as my R50. The F56 steering and feel is way better than the R56. No comparison. I like it. Only thing I’ve notice the full turn to turn distance is less than on the R50/53. A couple of times backing out of a tight spot and having to make a sharp turn, I reached the end travel of the steering wheel. Never had that with my R50.

    Seat comfort and material (Leatherette): Much better than the R50. Better material and more padding. Seating position at first was something I had to adjust to (vs R50) but I’m ok now.

    Boot space?Storage Package: With the Storage package (a major must have) it’s wonderful. Having an under the floor space to keep things out of sight is great, also good of storage of a emergency/safety equipment bag without permanently taking up usable in the boot is outstanding. I don’t understand why the article didn’t list the storage package as a must have.

    Visual Boost and HK audio system: VB is a must have, far better than the standard audio 3 line display. VB provides easier access to various things, plus looks far better than standard audio system.

    HK: If you enjoy listening to music and listen a lot, HK was a must for me and I’m very happy I got that option. The standard system is ok and if the HK is not in one’s budget, it still sound good, but the HK gives a much better listen experience. I know the R56 HK system was poor.

    Backup Camera and rear parking sensors: Another must have for me. With the F56 roof line slopping down toward the back and a smaller rear window, the backup camera is great especially if you live in a big city where cars park tight to driveways and lots of parallel parking is. As is the rear parking sensor. Added bonus is that object detection and onscreen visual warning is included, not just guidelines.

    Issues and what I don’t like:

    Fuel gauge. Continue to feel for a premium car MINI put in a cheap (looking and design) fuel gauge. The R56 was poor too. MINI could have done much better.

    Window creak/flex. This is a know issue as far back as late 2014. The blog MINI2 has many reports of the driver side (and passenger) window creaking and flexing. When it’s warmer I get it. Very annoying. First time it occurred I thought something was wrong with the door or window wasn’t sealing properly. In the UK I was reading on MINI2 that the dealer is using sometype of lube that reduces the window flexing/creak against the rubber seal around the roof/door line.

    Location of the boot open button. To low and far down. Would have preferred a toggle switch around the center stack area.

    Halogen HD: Very poor. Much worse than my R50. Getting the LED ($750) option was outside of my budget, but looking back now, I should have optioned the LED and found a way to fit $750 more into my purchase budget.

    Speedo/info in it: I would have liked if the odometer miles are always displayed. By having a 1/4 moon fuel gauge instead of the one currently, it that could have had the fuel level, clock, outside temp. Thus enabling the odometer to always show in the speedo.

    There are a few other very minor things but those are livable. Overall I enjoy my F56 S Cooper. I am glad I never got a R56 (had one for 2 weeks as a loaner), the F56 is so much better. I do miss my R50 (especially the CD player! lol) but the F56 takes that missing much less. One other thing, I wish MINI would have offered Anthracite interior dash/door available. I loved it on my R50. Not such a fan of the piano black.

    • Sounds like you’ve never lived with comfort access.

      • R.O.

        Never needed it, nor feel the need or it. Pushing a button on a key fob is not a chore or a big deal.

        I have a number of friends of have Premium cars (Lexus, Mercedes, etc) who have comfort access (came standard on the model they bought), they feel they could live without out. I’ve driven their car a couple of times and yeah it’s nice but not willing to pay extra for it.

        Now a woman friend of mine likes it because she doesn’t have to take her key fob out of her purse.

        Maybe because I live in CA, I don’t feel it’s that important or a need. I’m fine with pressing a button.

        • Not sure what CA has to do with it. Cold weather isn’t a huge reason I love it.

        • R.O.

          As I wrote, in cold/frigid temps I can see getting comfort access due to wearing gloves or not wanting to fumble with key fob when it’s snowing or in the minus plus wind chill.

          In CA we don’t get those temps as the mid-west or north east does.

          Gabe, maybe the comfort access is a generational thing: GenX and Millennium’s feel it’s a must have, boomers, not so much. As I wrote, I don’t see pressing a button on a fob a chore or aggravating. Before fobs putting a key in the door lock (and ignition) was standard. Heck many non-premium cars still use that method.

        • That argument I could buy more readily than climate.

        • R.O.

          Ok. 🙂 Cheers

        • Kevin Bartlett

          I’m 37, I totally agreed with R.O. until I had a car with Comfort Access. Now when I drive a car without it I just expect it to be there and feel dumb having to reach for the key. Though dumb using it, more dumb that I didn’t remember that I needed it. It makes me feel like a heel but its just the truth.

          What offends me more is that its optional at all. MINI wants to be premium than it should be standard. If they just put it on every car economies of scale would pay for it at half the cost. Take a Nissan Juke for example, comes standard with their version of comfort access and better bluetooth built in. I don’t want a Juke, but I don’t want to pay more for a vehicle thats missing out on the these sorts of things. BMW’s have the same problem though so we know where the philosophy comes from.

    • fishbert

      Fuel gauge in the R56 was great … if you had the nav.

      • R.O.

        Not really, at least not for me. The needle style/analog type in the R50/53 was/is the best. Plus I didn’t care for how the speedo/needle looked on this version with the NAV. It reminded me of some sort pendulum liquid measuring gauge.

  • Jamez

    Nice read. How about any problems you’ve had? How about the recalls, cost of ownership etc?

    • Just one minor issue – a squeaky clutch developed the last week I had the car. There was no mechanical change in the clutch however. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to take it in before it went back to MINI.

      Otherwise it was perfect.

      • Jamez

        So none of the engine/clutch or impact recalls needed?

  • oldsbear

    Agreed: Comfort Access is right to have. If you don’t need the key in hand to start the car, then it’s a nuisance to need the key to unlock and lock the doors. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that when I ordered my 2016 MCS.

    As for handling: when I test-drove a 2015 MCS, it was clear that it needed the Sport Suspension. When I did a quick avoidance-steer, the car had to think about it before responding. And recovery was just as slow. Yet, as you say, the Sport Suspension is not available on the MCS. (But then you recommend getting it. Did I miss something?)

    So, when my 2016 MCS arrived and had that understeer problem, I had the nm engineering 22mm solid rear sway bar installed. It has made a big improvement in steering response. The car does well without 18″ wheels, though it would be fun to try them along with the new sway bar.

    A convenience item that bugs me is the fuel tank’s reduced size. The new car gets fewer miles per gallon than my 2011 MCS did, but its gas tank is smaller! Fill-ups are annoyingly frequent, every time reminding me of the reduced fuel economy.

    Because toddlers are not expendable, a backup camera is essential, but the cost of MINI’s is ridiculously high, and requires other, expensive options. I bought a wireless camera/monitor for under $100, which solves the problem. (Installing the camera, and seeing space for a larger fuel tank, brought up that irritating issue again….)

    Overall, the car is excellent. The engine has plenty of power, and it works well with the transmission. The looks of the car are good — different from any other car on the road, though not as attractive as the Generation One MINIs. It is built like a quick, little tank. The interior is fine. With a little help, the handling is great. The car starts, goes, and stops. Driving it is fun! And the toddlers in back, in their car seats, love it, even if they have to double-up their legs like astronauts when I push my seat back.

    • R.O.

      “A convenience item that bugs me is the fuel tank’s reduced size. The new car gets fewer miles per gallon than my 2011 MCS did, but its gas tank is smaller! Fill-ups are annoyingly frequent”

      Yup, I’m with you on that. I didn’t have to fill up my R50 as often as my F56, even though I’m getting better gas mileage with the F56. That 1.6 gallon tank size difference makes a big difference. I use to only have to get gas twice a month in my R50, now it’s 3 times a month and on occasion, 4 times a month. I’ve also experienced where it showed I had 75 miles left and then 10 minutes later the warning came up showing I only had 30 miles left. I wasn’t even pushing it hard or speeding in those 10 minutes. Crazy.

  • jcwcoupe

    Well this review gets me yearning for a MINI. I personally can’t wait to see what happens with the next-gen F56 GP. I bet that’s going to be next level.

    I also want MINI to hurry up and release a new JCW Clubman because I really dislike the ’15 Golf R I bought. That car really is a huge letdown.

    For my fun car I have a ’16 Cayman GT4 which is hands down the best sports car I’ve ever owned. Oddly thought the character of a Porsche makes me think MINI tried their best to pay homage to the P-car. I do miss the fact that the MINI flies under the radar and ownership costs are super reasonable. As nuts as this sounds, I could maybe see myself replacing the GT4 with a F56 GP when that comes out. I just feel like owning a car like the GT4 is such a financial waste.

    I may also consider replacing my GolfR with a F56 JCW daily driving duties.

  • The Mann

    I wander WHY everybody have the 5000USD screen.. Why isn´t there anything about the middle model, the normal priced Visual Audio.. WHY is everything about the BIG extremely expensive 8.8inch. What is so different with the 6.5inch. what it is that can´t do as well as the flagship. Nearly NO video explain what the 6.5inch do not do, and the 8.8inch do. in Denmark the big screen model is about 5times more expensive, around 8000USD with Danish tax. I Just bought the Cooper F56 with the NORMAL engine 1.5L. The engine with from the BMW I8. The most awarded of the two engine.