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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.
Full our full breakdown on what the five-door model is like inside, read our full review.
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