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Both the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Mini Cooper S are hot hatch legends. But they’ve both strayed far from their humble roots, as well. In 2023, the GTI and Mini are both near-luxury hatchback with the size and weight to match. But which one retains its fun-to-drive flair? Both, although the GTI has grown quite a bit beyond what the Cooper can deliver.

A direct performance comparison puts the Golf GTI ahead

a red Volkswagen GTI
Volkswagen GTI | Volkswagen

At first glance, the 2023 Golf GTI and Mini Cooper S feature similar layouts. Both come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, and both are available with a six-speed manual transmission (for now) or a seven-speed automatic. But it doesn’t take long to split these two hatchbacks on performance.

Despite the same displacement and turbocharging, the Cooper S lags far behind the Golf GTI. At just 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque the Mini hatchback is neutered compared to its German competitor. The Volkswagen’s 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque makes the hatchback feel much more lively.

The results are clear. The Mini takes 6.2 seconds to reach 60 mph. The GTI needs just 5.1 ticks to reach the same mark. This, despite both cars carrying a nearly-identical $31,000 starting price, per Edmunds data.

Does the John Cooper Works Mini match the Golf GTI?

Mini Cooper S JCW
Mini John Cooper Works | MINI

Even if you’re willing to shell out the extra $6,500 for the Mini John Cooper Works hatch, you’ll still be slower than the base GTI. The JCW Mini features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo like the base car. However, it gets a more aggressive tune and more boost for 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. That drops the 0-60 mph sprint to 5.7 seconds, still half-second behind the Volkswagen.

The GTI is better than the Mini Cooper for road tripping

The VW Golf GTI isn’t done trouncing the Mini Cooper S with performance. It continues the assault on the inside as well. For starters, the 19.9 cubic-feet of cargo space is nearly seven more than comes in the Cooper. And for passenger space, the Volkswagen offers more legroom, headroom, and shoulder room than the Mini. It also comes with more standard tech, standard safety and driver assistance features, and more unique looks thanks to the iconic plaid upholstery.

Is there anywhere the Mini Cooper S beats the Golf GTI?

Frankly, no. The 2023 Mini Cooper S is no match for the Golf GTI out of the box. Unless it’s the specific visual charm of the Mini’s rounded headlights and unique shape you want, the Golf GTI is simply a better hot hatch in every conceivable metric.

The Mini isn’t a bad car, by any stretch. It’s still playful thanks to its lighter weight, and so many customization options mean no two Mini Coopers are alike. The two-door option is especially sprightly, and unique within the category. But as a thing you’ll use every day, the Golf GTI just works better. It’s quicker, more versatile, and more comfortable for the same money.

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