Should You Take the Mini Cooper Off Road?

The Mini Cooper is not suited for off-roading, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun cruising around town.
Written by Cassandra Hamilton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Mini Cooper
is a cute subcompact car that’s best suited for zipping around town, not hitting the trails and off-roading. If you need your vehicle to handle off-roading, keep looking. 
A good off-roading vehicle is essential if you want to go camping in the backcountry or take a drive down the beach. Leaving the paved roads behind really opens up the world, but not all vehicles are equipped to go off the road. 
We’ll talk about off-roading specs like ground clearance and torque, and why exactly the Mini Cooper isn’t built for off-roading.
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Can the Mini Cooper go off-road?

No. Whatever you do, don’t take your Mini Cooper off the road! While it's a popular subcompact car, the Mini Cooper is not designed at all for the challenges that off-roading poses, and you’ll be in for a world of trouble (and expensive repairs) if you decide to tackle anything more complicated than a smooth dirt road. 
If you’re looking for a car that will stay on the pavement, the Mini Cooper is a great option. It starts at $19,500 and is an affordable option for anyone who doesn’t require a ton of cargo space that’s looking for an attractive, eye-catching vehicle. 
What makes the Mini Cooper so unsuitable for off-roading? We’ll go into all the aspects you want to see in a vehicle with off-road capabilities so you can see how the Mini Cooper lacks, well, all of the necessary specs.

Ground clearance

The most important aspect of off-roading is a vehicle’s ground clearance. The ground clearance measures the point between the ground and the lowest point on your vehicle’s underbody. The ground clearance of the Mini Cooper is 5.7 inches
The best off-roading vehicles have a ground clearance between 8.8 and 10.8 inches. High ground clearances enable drivers to tackle rough terrain without the fear of damaging their vehicle’s undercarriage. When you compare the Mini Cooper’s ground clearance of 5.7 inches with the bare minimum recommendation of 8.5 inches, it’s clear that taking your Mini Cooper off-road will lead to nothing but trouble.


If you’re going to take your vehicle off-road, it needs to pack a lot of power at a low speed, so ideally you’d want a high low-end torque or high amount of torque at low RPMs. This determines how much turning power your vehicle has—and turning power is more important than the capacity for speed when you’re off-roading.
The Mini Cooper has a TwinPower Turbo 1.5-liter inline 3-cylinder engine that has a maximum torque of 162 lb-ft @ 1,250 RPM. That’s a lot of jargon for not a lot of power!


The Mini Cooper comes with P175/65R15 tires. If you’re not sure how that translates to off-road readiness, we’ll break it down.
These tires are all-season tires, which are great for navigating paved roads and the occasional dirt road. They last a long time and can be trusted whether the pavement is wet or dry. Off-roading typically requires
all-terrain tires
, though, which are designed for off-roading.


If you’re taking your vehicle off-road, you’ll want to have AWD or 4WD so the tires can gain traction independently of one another in case not all tires are making contact at the same time. The Mini Cooper has FWD, which means the back tires wouldn’t get any power if the front tires were lifted off the ground. Not ideal for off-roading!


The most important angles in off-roading are the approach angle and the departure angle:
  • Approach angle: the maximum angle at which a vehicle can climb without interference 
  • Departure angle: the maximum angle at which a vehicle can descend without interference
The Mini Cooper is extremely unsuitable for off-roading because Mini hasn’t even bothered to measure the approach and departure angles! Generally speaking, you want a minimum angle of at least 20 degrees for mild off-roading, while the Mini Cooper is estimated to have a max approach angle of 10 degrees.

Off-road rating: Rough and ready

We’ve rated the Mini Cooper using
super-technical DIRT rating system, broken down in the table below:
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
This might not be surprising, but we’re giving the Mini Cooper a D rating. The Mini Cooper is a great car for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for off-roading. Maybe if you jacked up your Mini Cooper with some giant tires and modified the torque you’d have a strange-looking vehicle capable of handling the trails, but you’d have an easier time purchasing a vehicle better suited for off-roading, like a
Toyota 4Runner
Jeep Wrangler

The best alternatives to the Mini Cooper

If you’re happy staying pavement-side and leaving the off-roading to the more outdoorsy among us, you’ll probably be satisfied with a Mini Cooper. If you’re looking to explore the world of pavement-ready vehicles further, we have a few suggestions.
These are the best alternatives to the Mini Cooper:
Best affordable alternative
Toyota Corolla
This classic sedan won’t break the bank on purchase price, insurance costs, or fuel costs.
Best cute alternative
FIAT 500
If you’re looking for a comparable car in terms of engine power and price, the FIAT 500 can hold its own in every department, including looks.
Best sporty option
Volkswagen Golf
If you love the Mini Cooper but require more cargo space, the Volkswagen Golf has more space available than some SUVs. Plus its sporty engine makes it fun to drive!
MORE: Cheap off-road trucks
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How to find affordable car insurance for your Mini Cooper

Stick to the roads and keep off the trails to keep your car insurance costs down. Why? Because taking your car off-road means you’re putting it in some risky situations, and insurance companies definitely take that into consideration when insuring a vehicle with off-road capabilities. 
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