Mini introduces a new dual-clutch automatic gearbox in a bid to improve performance and fuel economy
Priced from £16,575/$22,045 Release date On sale now
Think Mini and a peppy petrol or diesel engine paired with a snappy manual gearbox probably springs to mind. However, for some a manual won’t do, and like most of its rivals, you can also have your Mini Hatchback with an automatic gearbox. The trouble is, the old six-speed option previously available wasn’t particularly recommendable. That could be about to change.
Ahead of the three and five-door hatchback range’s mid-life facelift, Mini has introduced a new dual-clutch automatic to its lower-powered petrol and diesel models. The new ’box will be shared with BMW models built on the same underpinnings, such as the 2 Series. The sportier, larger-engined Cooper S and John Cooper Works versions will persevere with the old automatic for now.
The new, light, compact seven-speed gearbox has been introduced by Mini to eke out a bit more performance from its 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines, increase overall fuel economy and reduce emissions. As part of this, the unit has the ability to disengage and coast when you come off the throttle.
2018 Mini Hatch 5dr DCT on the road
To most people, the only recogniseable difference between the old transmission and the new one from first glance is the new gear lever, which mimics the slick levers you’ll find in BMW’s 5 and 7 Series. So, it feels classy to interact with, but does it improve the Mini’s driveability?
In short, yes. The earlier six-speed unit worked well, by and large, but could be slightly hesitant to hook up and go from standstill. Testing the new and old gearboxes back to back, that indecision is intensified to the point that the old auto feels downright ponderous. Over time, it erodes your confidence in the car’s responsiveness.
However, the new DCT, tested in combination with Mini’s 114bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine, is a breath of fresh air. Its smooth and precise changes improve the overall driving experience no end, the gearbox going about its business in the background unlike the sometimes-jerky changes experienced from the old six-speed unit.
It hooks up better from standstill, too, meaning around town the Mini offers peppier performance that was previously lacking. Sure, there’s still moment’s delay between pressing the throttle and the gearbox reacting when you look to pull away from a junction or overtaking but it is far less pronounced. And the new coast feature works seamlessly, the revs dropping and rising without interfering with the driving experience.
In all other respects the five-door Mini we drove was much the same. Mini’s 1.5 diesel is strong at low revs and remarkably smooth and quiet under load – more so than any other diesel in the class, in fact. It still handles well, too; its steering is a little quick off centre, but there’s decent grip so things never get out of hand.
2018 Mini Hatch 5dr DCT interior
Aside from the new gearlever, inside, Mini’s typical busy but high-quality interior remains, and the five door still offers better rear leg room and boot space for anybody not content with the three-door’s effort.
All-in-all it is impressive how well the new DCT automatic integrates. It provides a noticeable difference in performance and costs no more than the old six-speed option did. The only drawback for the time being is that there’s no option to add paddle shifters. However, given this gearbox is shared with the BMW X1, that SUV’s ‘sports automatic’ option will likely be passed onto the Mini range in due course, which gets two paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
But does Mini’s new DCT better the Volkswagen Group’s dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, as seen in the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo? It’s close, but we’re not sure it does. There’s no doubt, though, that this new DCT makes an automatic Mini a more enticing prospect now than it ever has done previously.
Mini Cooper D DCT 5dr specs
- Price £19,325/$25,703
- Engine 3cyl, 1496cc, diesel
- Power 114bhp at 4000rpm
- Torque199lb ft at 1750-2200rpm
- Gearbox 7-spd automatic
- 0-62mph 9.6sec
- Top speed126mph
- Official economy 72.4mpg
- CO2, tax band 102g/km, 21%