Mini Cooper

2016 Mini Cooper

The reborn MINI Cooper has been around for 14 years now, and the 2016 MINI Cooper is in the third year of its third generation, having been introduced for the 2014 model year. In case you havent been keeping track, there are or soon will be 10 versions, including a Hardtop 2-Door (sometimes referred to as the hatch or three-door hatchback), Hardtop 4-Door (longer five-door hatchback), Clubman (rear barn doors), and Convertible. And thats not counting S and JCW versions separately. For 2016, the Coupe and Roadster models have been discontinued.

The front-wheel-drive MINI has grown in size and changed some over the years, but its cute looks, cheeky character, go-kart handling and BMW build endure. There are fewer flaws and compromises today, and its quieter and more comfortable, but that should be expected from any car over 12 years. However it might be suggested that so-called flaws can be considered character, coming from lack of compromise.

There are two basic engines, designed and shared by BMW, both with variable valve timing. The base engine is a small three-cylinder, a direct-injected and turbocharged 1.5-liter making 124 horsepower; it arrived with this generation, and makes as much power as the earlier four-cylinder did, while getting better fuel mileage. Even with just three cylinders, its no slouch, with 162 pound-feet of torque as well as an overboost capability that can deliver another 7 pound-feet in bursts. It zips from zero to 60 miles an hour in 7.3 seconds, and can reach 130 mph.

The MINI Cooper S uses a 189-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, also with direct injection and turbocharging.

A 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission is available with either engine. We like the crisp manual gearbox, as it better suits the personality of the car.

The 6-speed manual also gets better fuel mileage, at least with the 1.5-liter engine: an EPA-estimated 27/37 mpg City/Highway for 33 mpg Combined, versus the automatics 31 mpg Combined. With the 2.0-liter engine, the manual gearbox gets 2 mpg less, at 24/34 mpg City/Highway, 27 mpg Combined, versus 26/33/29 mpg with the automatic. Both engines demand Premium gasoline, because of their high compression.

Stop/Start technology comes standard, fairly smooth in the 1.5-liter but jarring with the S. Theres a Green mode for better fuel mileage and less power.

Eight airbags are standard, along with a suite of safety systems, and an option for corner braking that uses sensors that feel the cars cornering attitude to brake the four wheels individually, optimizing grip at each wheel. IIHS gives the MINI Cooper the top rating in every test, including the tough new small-overlap test, where the car is crashed at 40 mph into the edge of a wall.

2014 Mini Cooper

Its a coming of age for the 2014 Mini Cooper. The original hardtop is all-new for 2014, bigger and more refined, while still retaining its classic looks and lively handling.

Now 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider, the 2014 Mini Cooper rides on a wheelbase thats been stretched by more than an inch. Though the concept of a bigger Mini may be a contradiction in terms, the result is more interior room, increased cargo space and a more comfortable ride.

The Mini Coopers design is familiar, yet more mature. The wide-mouth, hexagonal grille remains, as does the circular headlights, though the latter are now fitted with optional LEDs.

Inside, circular shapes are echoed everywhere, from the air vents, speakers and door pulls to the gearshift surround. The speedometer, previously located in the center stack, has been moved in front of the driver. The circular area vacated by the former speedo now houses a display screen, controlled by a large iDrive-style knob and surrounding buttons located on the center console.

Powering the 2014 Mini Cooper hardtop is an all-new, 1.5-liter turbocharged, direct injection three-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The new inline-3 is the first example in the U.S. on a production car of BMWs new modular engine, which is essentially a 3.0-liter inline-6 cut in half. The base Mini is efficient but not a track star; it goes from 0-60 mph in an estimated 7.4 seconds with the manual, and 7.3 second with the auto, according to Mini. Its great for daily driving, but we found it lacks oomph off the line and in the low revs.

The more powerful Mini Cooper S uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 189 hp and 207 lb-ft. of torque (or as much as 221 lb.-ft with an overboost function). With the larger inline-4, the 2014 Mini Cooper S can dash from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds with the manual and 6.4 seconds with the automatic. We found this peppy setup great for darting through pokey traffic and for tackling winding mountain roads. It also passes on the freeway with ease.

Both models get two new transmissions: a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. On cars equipped with navigation, the automatic transmission uses GPS to identify the cars location and map out possible drive routes, then adjusts shift points accordingly for better performance.

Adjustable driving modes include Mid, Sport and Green, which change throttle mapping, steering response and engine acoustics. In green mode, the Mini maximizes fuel efficiency by reducing the energy used by air conditioning and heated outside mirrors.

Fuel economy ratings from the EPA: 30/42 mpg City/Highway for the base hardtop with 1.5-liter three-cylinder and manual transmission 29/41 mpg City/Highway with the automatic. For Mini Cooper S models with their 2.0-liter four-cylinder, estimates are 25/38 mpg with the 6-speed manual and 27/38 with the 6-speed automatic. Premium gasoline is recommended for both engines.

Suspension and steering have been revised, which helps to make ride and handling in the 2014 Mini Cooper more refined than in the past. Minis signature quick steering is still present, but doesnt feel as darty. Nor does the suspension feel as teeth-chattering. As before, the chassis is stiff and responsive, with practically no body roll around corners.

Because its marketed as a premium car, the 2014 Mini Cooper is more expensive than other compacts, and options can add up quickly. Those looking for a small car with head-turning design might also consider the less expensive (but less powerful) Fiat 500 or the Hyundai Veloster. Alternatives to the Mini Cooper S include the Fiat 500 Abarth and Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

2013 Mini Cooper

The 2013 Mini Cooper hardtop is the original Mini model. Now available in both hardtop and convertible variants, the Mini Cooper delivers agile handling, crisp performance and an interminably cute appearance in a tidy, efficient, front-wheel drive package, with plenty of space and comfort for front seat passengers.

2013 Mini Cooper models get Bluetooth handsfree connectivity and a USB port as standard equipment. Satellite radio is an option on all 2013 models, and the high-performance John Cooper Works model is now available with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

All Mini Cooper hardtops and convertibles are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine available in three levels of power output, and are available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Premium gasoline is required on all models.

Base Mini Coopers make 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration performance isnt quick, but its adequate. We think this engine works best with the manual transmission, which adds to the sportiness. The Mini Cooper delivers excellent fuel economy, earning an EPA rating of 29/37 mpg City/Highway with the stick, and 28/36 mpg City/Highway with the automatic.

Mini Cooper S models come with a turbocharged version of the same engine that generates a more substantial 181 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Despite the increase in performance, fuel economy is still very good, with an EPA-estimated 27/35 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 26/34 mpg City/Highway with the automatic.

John Cooper Works models play on the brands heritage, and are named for the multiple rally and touring-car racing champion in the 1960s. They use the same turbocharged engine as the S, and are tuned for even more power. JCW models use an ultra-firm suspension and churn out 208 hp and 192 lb.-ft. of torque, making for one of the best power-to-weight ratios on the market. Surprisingly, though, fuel economy remains the same as the S, with 26/35 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 26/24 mpg City/Highway with the newly available automatic.

The Mini Cooper Hardtop is quite practical when viewed as a two-seat car with good rear cargo capacity. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, and they are large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers. With its hatchback and folding rear seats, the Hardtop can haul reasonable amounts of gear. Although the back seat can carry two people, its hard to climb into and offers very limited legroom. The back seats are best left for small children or, better yet, stuff.

A wide range of styling options allows owners to personalize their cars, and its a major part of Minis appeal. The choices cover upholstery style, material and color; exterior graphics; trim pieces; ambient lighting; and exterior paint, including contrasting colors for the roof. Functional options include high-end features like adaptive Xenon headlights, rear obstacle warning and a navigation system.

Minis have a price premium over other compacts, and options can add up quickly. But fans dont seem to mind, and Mini has developed quite a cult following. Its perhaps no surprise, considering Minis distinctive looks, signature go-kart handling and its BMW-sourced engineering.

Those looking for a small car with head-turning design might also consider the equally charming but less expensive and less powerful Fiat 500 coupe or convertible or the Hyundai Veloster. Performance seekers might also consider the Fiat 500 Abarth or Hyundai Veloster Turbo.


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