For the new generation MINI Cooper and Countryman, MINI hasn’t just killed the manual but also eliminated shift paddles on all non-JCW models. Why have they done this and could this decision be reversed? We have details on why and some speculation for the future of the option. But we’ll need your help.

There’s no way to spin this other than to say it’s a huge blow to all who crave some interactivity while driving. While it’s sad to see this move on the Countryman, it feels tragic on the Cooper and Cooper S. It was just a few months ago when we saw the last manual transmission roll off the line for the F56 Cooper and Cooper S, and now gone is any ability to manually control shifts at all on 70% of the models sold in the US.

The MINI Countryman JCW with its standard steering wheel mounted shift paddles

MINI USA has celebrated the manual transmission for years and saw over 50% take rates for the manual on the JCW last year. Perhaps even more important, the Cooper S had a 22% take rate for the manual in the US. Clearly, there’s a core group of buyers of the Cooper who are looking for the interactive nature of the manual. While there’s no full substitute, a well-engineered automatic with responsive manual shifting can be fun and create interactivity with the car that so many enthusiasts crave.

Why MINI USA Isn’t Offering Shift Paddles on non-JCW models

While we don’t have an official statement yet from MINI USA, in talking with several sources globally, it’s become clear as to why this move has taken place. According to sources, MINI global made the decision to exclusively tie the optional shift paddles to the JCW Trim (Sport Trim in the UK). Like other MINI Trims, the JCW Trim brings together several options in a single package to create a specific look and a few performance features. In other words, it gives the look of a JCW to any MINI without having to pay for it. In the case of the F66 MINI Cooper and Cooper S, JCW Trim adds 18″ Lap Spoke 2-tone wheels, black JCW seats, Adaptive Suspension, JCW brakes and the aforementioned Sport Automatic DCT transmission (which is the only way to get shift paddles).

The U25 Countryman JCW

Thus checking the box for the JCW/Sport Trim is the only way to easily manually shift via paddles in a combustion-powered MINI Cooper or Countryman. And that’s where the problem arises.

MINI USA made the decision not to offer the JCW Trim in the US a while back. From our conversations with representatives, they believed that the JCW trim takes away the specialness of the full JCW and ultimately will negatively affect the JCW brand. And we agree. It’s something we’ve seen BMW offer with its M Sport kits for years and has led to general confusion from buyers around what a real M product is.

But that decision has apparently cost MINI USA the chance to offer shift paddles on any non-JCW model. It would seem that MINI global isn’t giving any exception in making paddles exclusive to JCW Trims and thus no non-JCW MINI sold in the US will have shift paddles moving forward.

MINI Cooper
The sad lonely paddle-less steering wheel of the F66 Cooper S in Classic Trim

The MINI USA Model Range & What Gets Paddles

To put it in black and white, we’ve listed out the entire forthcoming combustion range of MINI models coming to the US. As you can see below there will only be three combustion JCWs out of a total of ten MINI models in the US. That means three or just 30% of the range will have shift paddles available.

Combustion MINI Models (US Spec)Power OutputStart of ProductionShift Paddle Availability
The U25 MINI Countryman Family
U25 MINI Countryman S241 hp03/2024No
U25 MINI Countryman JCW312 hp03/2024Yes
The F66 MINI Cooper Family
F66 MINI Cooper161 HP07/2024No
F66 MINI Cooper S204 HP03/2024No
F66 MINI Cooper JCW231 HP11/2024Yes
F65 MINI Cooper 5 Door161 HP07/2024No
F65 MINI Cooper S 5 Door204 HP07/2024No
F67 MINI Cooper Convertible161 HP11/2024No
F67 MINI Cooper S Convertible204 HP11/2024 No
F67 MINI Cooper JCW Convertible231 HP03/2025*Yes

The Secret Mode that Will Still Allow Manual Shifting

Thanks to a secret mode on all new combustion MINIs, there will still be a way to manually control shifts. While it’s not necessarily easy or satisfying, it does work. With help from MotoringFile reader Jorge Andrés, we’ve discovered a secret mode that allows the plus and minus rocker buttons on 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. And getting to this mode isn’t easy. 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 an M1 which means it’s now in manual mode.

While we’ve tested this on a new U25 Countryman, we’re told this will also work on the F66 MINI Cooper models as well.

See this sporty-looking MINI Cooper S? With no easy manual shifting it looks like an appliance to us.

What The Future Might Bring and How You Can Help

We find it hard to believe that MINI USA will continue to limit shift paddles to JCW models in the years ahead for one reason – you. And that’s where all of you come in. To change this oversight, we need you to leave comments on primarily but also on our social channels that relate to this story (Facebook, Threads & Instagram). MINI USA reads MotoringFile daily and gives comments on the site and our social channels a lot of attention. If we can make it evident that this is a major oversight then there’s a chance we’ll see optional shift paddles across the entire MINI range in the US.

So sound off below and let them hear your thoughts.