Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one - or the required options - that earns a passing grade.
When the BMW Group re-introduced the MINI brand about twenty years ago, it was capitalizing on the then-lucrative retro craze which saw multiple automakers either revive names and shapes from the past (VW New Beetle) or craft an historical homage to the past out of existing cheap platforms (Chrysler PT Cruiser). In the intervening couple of decades, MINI has grown into a brand with several models, including all-wheel drive crossovers and all-electric hatchbacks.
Its 3-Door, the model which rebooted the show back in the Y2K era, remains a staple. It starts at a reasonable $24,490 plus freight, representing a Civic-like launching point in terms of price for luring new customers to the quirky brand. Under its hood is a turbocharged triple, good for 134 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is its milieu, of course, with factory rear-drive MINIs relegated to the pages of history.
We must note that industry-wide supply chain hiccups are hampering much of the car industry, so don’t be surprised if a Canadian MINI dealer requires customers to select a Premier or Premier+ package on top of the base car. They’re not cheap – costing $5,700 and $8,600 respectively – representing a significant percentage of the 3-Door’s base price. In fact, the latter package would be like if an automaker required shoppers to take a mandatory $22,000 option on a $65,000 pickup truck.
Nevertheless, landing in a Premier-equipped MINI Cooper 3-Door nets a well-equipped car. Its front-row of leatherette seats are heated, dual climate control permits the creation of two weather zones in this little cabin, and a heated steering wheel keeps hands toasty when cold Arctic air invades southern parts (or any part) of the country. A panoramic sunroof gives a great view of the sky above while the infotainment system is laden with all the tools you’d expect such as real-time traffic information and smartphone integration. It was a smart decision on the part of MINI designers to use the brand’s trademark round centre display (which was once reserved for a speedometer and secondary gauges) as a place to house its in-car tech. Driving aids like frontal collision warning and lane departure tools are also part of the deal.
What We'd Choose
The sole $0 paint hue is the entreatingly named Moonwalk Grey but selecting a MINI with uninteresting paint is like visiting an exotic location and staying in the hotel room to watch TV. Better to spend $590 on Chili Red or Island Blue, as irritating as those extra charges may rankle. At least selecting a white roof and mirror caps is no charge.
About the only other change we’d make to the spec is a $350 expenditure on piano black exterior trim. It swaps most exterior brightwork for trim dipped in inky black paint, creating a stealthier appearance especially when paired with darker colours such as Midnight Black Metallic.