The MINI 2019 model change will be plentiful and meaningful for anyone looking at a potential purchase in the months ahead. Wait? MINI just launched the 2018 models right? Yes they did and it will be one of the shortest model years of all time. The 2019 model (beginning in March of 2018) will begin the mid-cycle refresh for the F55, F56 and F57. And unlike other LCIs the rollout will be rather confusing.

Also of note for the 2018 calendar year will be much broader availability of the MINI Countryman Hybrid which has seen a a very limited release thus far.

Let’s get into the details of the next 12 months and what we’ll see from MINI.

MINI 2018 Model Changes – What Models Get What and When?

This is easy. The small MINIs will be getting a refresh as they’ve been on the market longest. While technically the convertible will have only been around for two years by the time the refresh hit next spring, MINI is going to likely roll out the alterations to the F56 hatch, F55 four door and F57 convertible.

Left: The standard transmission in DCT and 8AT favors. Right: the 8AT Sport transmission

MINI Shifts to DCTs

The MINI LCI is coming March of 2018. But MINI’s shift to using a DCT on many of its models (and surprisingly not on others) will take place over the span of a four month period of production that will culminate with the LCI (mid-cycle refresh) that will begin in March 2018.

As you can see in the data below, MINI’s initial rollout that begins with November 2017 production will be focused on diesel models. What’s unclear at this point is when the US will get these changes. What you see below is the European rollout plan that may or may not coincide with US production plans.

The next phase of the DCT rollout will begin in March of 2018 alongside MINI’s LCI for the smaller models (F55, F56, F57). If the US doens’t get the new Aisin 8AT transmission for the JCW in November we suspect this is when we’ll see them.

The surprise here is that MINI will have a two tier approach to transmissions for the near future. The DCT will form the automatic option on all MINIs except the larger Clubman and Countryman (which already have the Aisin 8AT) and all JCW products. That last bit may sound counter intuitive but MINI will be spreading the 8 speed automatic to the small range in the JCW only. Why not use the DCT? The difference in performance between the DCT and the 8 Speed torque-converting automatic may in fact be negligible. Further by making the 8AT the consistent automatic across all JCW products, MINI can better focus on refining the tuning a single combination of engine and transmission rather than having to deal with multiple. But the reality is that this change is coupled with the same changes across several UKL BMW products.

MINI’s new DCT electronic selector

That doesn’t mean we’re not disappointed that the JCW won’t be getting the DCT. Dual clutch transmissions have the promise to be slightly more fluid shifting and allow for quicker, smoother rev matching. We can attest to the 8 Speed sport automatic being very good but not perfect. In our 8-speed JCW Clubman there are moments that we wonder if a DCT wouldn’t be very slightly quicker and more eager to upshift – especially when cold. But if there’s one thing BMW has proven in the past few years it knows how to tune automatic transmissions to feel like DCTs. The secret often times is the refinement of software rather than hardware changes.

The new M5 for instance features a revised ZF 8-speed that reportedly matches DCTs shift times while being smoother and easier to live with. A similar unit was at the heart of the M240i we just tested at BimmerFile and we came away completely impressed with it’s reaction times and overall fluidity. Here’s to hoping MINI find that magic with the 8-speed in the revised JCWs.

For those who like their MINIs with three pedals disregard everything above. MINI will continue to offer manuals on all models (that aren’t electrified) for the foreseeable future.

MINI Upgrades its Engines – Eventually

MINI’s engine upgrade program will oddly not coincide with the other LCI updates but instead will rollout later in 2018. We’re told that this is due to the complexity of worldwide regulations and the need for so many different versions of the same engine for different regions.

That means the US market will likely not see any upgrades until July production at the earliest. The good news is that BMW and MINI are increasing power while also (slightly) increasing efficiency.

According to BMW sources, the first update will be both evolutionary and revolutionary depending on the model. For the Cooper, Cooper S and standard JCWs we’ll see an important evolution of the engine range that will include more power and torque (both increasing approximately 4%-5%) along with higher levels of efficiency will be on tap. Also of interest, we’ll also see enhanced acoustic properties (i.e. they’ll sound better), smoother operation and (this is key) a reduction in weight.

What do those percentages mean? Here’s an approximate:

– Cooper: 140+
– Cooper S: 195+
– JCW: 240+
– JCW Plus: 280+ (unconfirmed for Clubman and Countryman and likely not until 2019)

The revolutionary part will come in a special edition of the JCW power plant likely destined for the Clubman and Countryman – not part of this LCI. In the X2 35i that engine will make 300 hp. What MINI will do (or be allowed to do) with that engine will be pretty interesting. As you can see in the video above, MINI has been testing that new engine (a revised 2.0 four cylinder) all year preparing for something. We believe this highest performing engine will be relegated to the Clubman and Countryman due to the AWD system being able to handle the torque more effectively.

Styling Changes

Lighting will be a focus with the headlights featuring new LED day-time lights that look more cohesive (and less like a series of small lights) than the current version. Look for the inside of the lights to be darker and reflect some of the Design we saw in the recent JCW GP and MINI Electric concepts. We also expect some tweaks to the rear lights – namely a Union Jack design similar to the above show cars.

What about those front bumpers? Surprisingly none of the LCI prototypes have worn any cladding on the front and rear trim. This would indicate one of two things – MINI is spending its LCI money elsewhere or they’re being way more secret than normal. We’d guess the former but we’d certainly welcome the latter as the Cooper S in particular could use a new front valance.

One small detail coming in March with the LCI (that’s very overdue) is the switch to MINIs new brand logo that was first released over two years ago.

Technology Upgrades to the F55, F56 and F57

Wireless CarPlay will extend to the rest of the range with this LCI as will the multi-touch screen. We had expected some improvements to the adaptive cruise but MINI will likely wait for the electric MINI in 2019 for those upgrades.

Should You Buy Now or Wait?

If you’re looking at a F55 (four door), F56 (hatch) or F57 (convertible) we’d recommend waiting for March production if you can. These changes aren’t revolutionary but they’re a strong evolution in technology, styling and of course transmissions. If you’re looking for more power your wait will be a bit longer but may also be worth it.

Countryman Hybrid Avability

The Countryman Hybrid will become increasingly available as MINI works through production bottlenecks in Born Netherlands. The product mix is being refined based both on sales and as componeontent become more widely available.

Other 2018 Surprises

Concepts cars? Yes. Previews of the MINI electric car? You bet. Stay tuned.