My week with the Mini Cooper Hardtop Oxford Edition was my first go in a modern Mini, and I entered my time with the car with high expectations. With a starting price of $20,600 for the two-door model, the Mini Cooper Oxford Edition is the most economical Mini on the market. While the Oxford Edition Mini is certainly a bargain for those who are eligible to purchase it—more on that later—there are some shortcomings we need to talk about. So let’s jump into a few pros and cons before rendering a verdict.
The version I drove was the four-door hatchback model, and on the highway, there’s a ton of wind and tire noise, and the radio is a necessity to help drown it out. As I understand it, this is common for Minis—after all, they’re just compact cars at their core—as is a flinty ride. The Oxford delivered on that front, its short wheelbase and taut suspension tune meaning you can feel most, if not all, road imperfections. I was also frustrated by Mini’s famously lamentable ergonomics, even as they’ve improved over past models; simply adjusting the manual driver’s seat isn’t as simple as it might otherwise be. Another annoyance is the harmless and kind of dorky key fob. While the bubble-shaped device fits neatly in a pocket, its buttons are stubborn and didn’t always unlock the doors on the first (or second) request.
You may have noticed that affordable price in the opening paragraph, and the Oxford delivers lots of equipment for that money, as it includes a whopping $6,900 credit for add-on features you’d normally pay for in other versions. Those include an automatic transmission, exterior paint upgrade, anthracite headliner, “Cosmos” 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The actual standard equipment consists of black leatherette upholstery, a 6.5-inch color infotainment display, parking-distance sensors, and a black roof and mirror caps. Another great advantage of the low-cost Oxford Edition is the excellent fuel economy, which comes in at 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
Now the catch: This specific Mini is only available to two specific subsets of potential buyers. It was initially available for purchase only by current or recently graduated students (within one year of graduation) of two- or four-year accredited schools, as well as students pursuing a post-graduate degree, but the program was expanded to active duty and retired members from any branch of the U.S. military, including honorably discharged members within 12 months of their release date.
The Driving Experience
The specific four-door I drove (base price: $21,600) was coated in British Racing Green paint and rolled on 17-inch black wheels wrapped in Hankook rubber. Being that all Oxfords are non-S models, the cute Brit came powered by the entry-level, just-get-your-feet-wet turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine whipping up 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. During my first 18-mile commute home, I found the brakes to be bloody good, but my impressions of the suspension and road noise were, well, as you read higher in this story.
Whenever I accelerated past 45 mph, I had to crank up the volume on my Spotify playlist and prepare for a good rattling on rougher sections of road, and I crawled over speed bumps extra slowly when prowling shopping-center parking lots. But despite this, ahem, rough start to our relationship, I had fun throwing the pint-sized British cruiser around. As I understand it, the three-cylinder engine is the mightiest and most usable engine of any base-model modern Mini, and while you might expect an engine with an odd number of cylinders to add its own rough sounds to the car’s sound track, this one is pleasantly refined and mostly goes unnoticed.
The handling, which I experienced and tested out on the big-rig-infested and winding Grapevine section of I-5—during a foggy rainstorm, no less; ask me how terrifying that was given my road companions—is as tenacious and buttoned-down as ever, the main benefit of the firm suspension tuning. The steering is direct and accurate, and the Mini quickly responds to any request for a change in direction. The Mini Cooper and I survived the slick Grapevine, after which I felt like we had just survived The Hunger Games together.
While the pros outweigh the cons, even this affordable Oxford Edition is likely best enjoyed by someone who places a high premium on handling, or at least its spunky good looks, over pretty much anything else. The ride is best experienced on the smoothest roads you can find and the interior still has its quirks, but the basic Mini still satisfies with adept dynamics, a quality interior, and a fun-to-drive spirit. If you’re one of the folks eligible to buy this version, I say go for it.
2019 Mini Cooper Hardtop Oxford Edition Specifications
|PRICE||2-door, $20,600; 4-door, $21,600|
|ENGINE||1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-3; 134 hp @ 4,400 rpm, 162 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback|
||27/35 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||157.4 x 68 x 56.1|
|0–60 MPH||7.7 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||129 mph (mfr)|