The F66 MINI Cooper and U25 MINI Countryman won’t have shift paddles as standard. Depending how they’re optioned, even some Cooper S and Countryman S won’t have them. And without a traditional gear lever there’s seemingly no way to manually control gears. However we’ve uncovered a secret mode that fully enables manual control even without shift paddles.

The lack of shift paddle will be a big issues for many buying a Cooper or Countryman as a sporty car. While they will be available on JCW models and reportedly on some configurations of the S models, many F66 and U25 will be without them. Luckily with help from MotoringFile reader Jorge Andrés, we’ve discovered a secret mode (likely diagnostics related) that allows the plus and minus rocker button the steering wheel to act as a manual shift control.

If it sounds a bit like a video game, that’s because it feels like one in action. In fact it’s like a smaller version of Porsche’s original rocker button manual controls for its automatics in the 90s and early 2000s.

The feature is actually a diagnostic mode intended for service and not public use. Thus MINI is not a promoting the feature and probably doesn’t even want you to know about it.

Getting to this mode isn’t necessarily quick. Here’s the sequence; start the car, select D, then pull down and select D/L, then pull down again and select D but this time hold it. And hold it. And hold it. For about 15-20 seconds actually. Finally you’ll see the D turn into a M1 which means it’s now in manual mode.

MINI Cooper

A couple testing notes. While we’ve tested this on a new U25 Countryman, we’re told this will also work o the F66 MINI Cooper models as well. Also there is no memory with this setting. This means you’ll have to do this every time you start the car if you want to go into manual mode.

The bigger question from a lot of you will probably why has MINI eliminated the shift paddles from so many models? It’s unclear to us and we’re still getting conflicting reports on what trims and options bring them back in each model. But it’s clear that MINI has limited their availability more so than we’ve seen in the past.