MINI isn’t just eliminating the manual. It’s completely changing how you select gears on the All New MINIs. We go Hands-on to See How It Works.

MINI’s new interior is full of new ideas for the brand. Case in point MINI’s new “key” which replaces its toggle switch starter button. Today we’re giving you a sneak peek at MINI’s new radically different gear lever which is dramatically minimized and moved to the dash. We wanted to find out how it worked compared to the old school, centrally mounted gear lever and if it really is an improvement.

While MINI’s interior is full of new ideas, they’re not all new ideas in the automotive world. The new gear lever design is a great example. Almost all European cars (BMW, Porsche, Audio and VW) are transitioning to a similar switch style drive selector as they phase out manuals and move to electric. So MINI’s change may seem radical but in reality it’s following an established trend.

Why are automakers moving in this direction? The concept of a stick protruding from the console for an automatic or an electric car makes little sense when you consider the purpose of selecting reverse or drive. It’s a call-back to the manual transmissions (RIP) which doesn’t have much relevance in these new cars. If anything it’s the steering wheel mounted shift paddles that will matter more to enthusiasts in ICE powered automatics.

Hands-On With the New MINI Gear Lever

MINI’s new gear selector simplifies the process of selecting park, reverse or drive while freeing up interior space for storage, screens or other functionality. But how does it actually work in the real world? We got behind the wheel (albeit stationary) of the J01 MINI Cooper EV and the new U25 MINI Countryman to find out.

The first you notice is its placement on the dash is surprisingly good and feels immediately intuitive. It’s both right next to the engine start switch and the steering wheel. That means it’s a very intuitive series of movements to start the car, pull the lever down to “D” and grab the wheel. It’s made even better by the quality of the materials. I never felt the F56 was particularly bad when it came to the chromed finished on the plastic toggles but the quality of the materials on the gear lever is a clear step-up.

One thing that does take a moment to wrap your head around is where reveres is. While identical to BMWs (and other European cars) it doesn’t follow the PRnD pattern so many are used to. Instead park is actually in the middle with neutral and reverse above and drive below.

This change has also allowed MINI to do is free up room in the center console for storage which the J01 and F66 Cooper and U25 Countryman use well. And in use the new layout is immediately intuitive and frankly an improvement over the classic layout. Pulling the lever up to go backward and down for forward is immediately intuitive and after one or two drives you’ll likely never think about it again. Yes the manual will be missed and we think it died too soon. But in our opinion if you’re going to go all automatic (and eventually electric) you might as well be smarter about functionality like the drive selector.

The new MINI gear lever (or drive selector on the EVs) will be standard on the following new models and all their variants: