No more manual Minis!

Boss Stefanie Wurst confirms it's auto-only from now on

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 5 September 2023 / Loading comments

Following the reveal of the new Mini Cooper EV, boss of the company Stefanie Wurst has confirmed to Top Gear that there will be no more manual versions – even when the petrol powered version arrives. It means the recent JCW 1to6 Edition is the last six-speed manual Mini to make production, so it probably was quite a good idea to nab one of those. The recent Bulldog Racing Edition has a claim to fame, too, though as an aftermarket overhaul rather than a factory model it’s a slightly different prospect. Looks even more appealing given this news, however.

Because manual Minis were good. Manual Minis are good. Perhaps the shift didn’t snick through the gate like a Civic Type R, but compared to some long winded gearchanges in French and German hot hatch they weren’t bad at all. Your correspondent owns one, and even after a dozen years of use the shift remains satisfying. There have been better manual gearboxes, yes, but plenty more that aren’t so good. It plays so well to the cheeky character of a Mini, too, pretending you’re in The Italian Job (or on a special stage) when shifting as fast as possible or getting the downshift just right. The overrun burbles are just better in a manual, too.

Sad news for fans, then, if somewhat inevitable given the way things are moving. It would be a surprise to find that the manual outsold the auto for the previous generation in any variant, and with the shift to electric the DIY gearbox had to go at some point. On the plus side, it means that there are more than 20 years and three generation of manual Minis to pick up secondhand to remind you just how good they can be. Take that from someone who never saw themselves as a Mini owner and now is all too attached – they’re great fun. Still relatively affordable, too, which seems unlikely to last…

See this R53 Cooper S as proof. Electric Blue, low mileage, one owner, the limited slip diff and just £5,495. Or there’s British Racing Green, freshly serviced and MOT’d, for just £4,590. For hot hatches that look so good and drive so well, even with their issues, that’s not very much. Especially when you bear in mind how much a GP still is. The later R56 can be bought for even less, though you really want one of the later, 184hp Cooper S facelifts (from 2010) for a less trouble engine – this one is just £4k. And there are some really, really lovely ones out there: see this Reef Blue with Polar Cream example. Expensive, yes, but maybe worth it. Or how about one of the best GPs this specialist has seen? A real manual hot hatch gem, that one.

There’s fun to be found in the most recent, F56 generation, too – if you know where to look. The JCW Challenge was a proper pocket rocket hero, with Nitron suspension, a Quaife limited slip diff, Michelin Cup 2s, better brakes and lighter wheels. Mini actually made just 53 – it was originally meant to be 100 – so they’re very rare these days. This one has been modified further, and looks a very fun way to spend £25k. Especially thanks to that manual gearbox…

  • Mini JCW 1to6 Edition salutes manual gearbox
  • Two-seat Mini returns with Bulldog Racing Edition

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