By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
While the name is about the only thing that's actually Mini on the 2016 Mini Cooper, the philosophy behind the car remains the same as it was so many decades ago when the first (truly) Mini appeared on the scene. Today, a new Mini Cooper gets you a high-end subcompact as either the 2-door Hardtop, 4-door Hardtop, or as the new Convertible. All Minis come with any one of three different turbocharged engines. All Mini Cooper models -- whether base, Cooper S, or the racy John Cooper Works editions -- offer a fun-to-drive feel, high style and nearly infinite equipment variations. If you're willing to spend extra money, a new Mini Cooper makes a compelling high-fashion option against more common subcompact cars like the Honda Fit.
The 2016 Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible offer a zillion customization options and a fun-to-drive feel in a car that's still small enough to be fuel efficient and practical around town. The 4-door model was added last year, giving Mini Cooper buyers the option of a usable rear seat.
"Roomy" is a relative term, and if you regularly carry more than one additional passenger, a bigger car is probably a good idea, even if the 4-door offers 5-passenger seating. Then there's the price, which can come in at thousands more than a similarly equipped Hyundai Veloster or Fiat 500.
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For 2016, the Mini Cooper Convertible now shares architecture of the Mini Cooper 2-door Hardtop. Additionally, 3-cylinder-powered Mini Cooper Hardtop models get super-ultra-low- emissions-vehicle (SULEV) status without affecting performance. The Sport Package now includes dynamic dampers, allowing owners to adjust from comfortable ride to sporty handling with the flick of a switch.
Whether you choose the original 2-door Mini Cooper, the new convertible, or the 4-door Mini Cooper, you'll find yourself behind the wheel of a sporty subcompact with surprisingly sharp handling...
... and quick reflexes. Even though power isn't a strong suit -- with the notable exception of the 228-horsepower John Cooper Works models, of course -- the Mini makes the most of its front-wheel-drive chassis with a corner-carving ability that has to be experienced to be believed. On the highway or on rough pavement, the ride is on the rough side, it's definitely loud inside, and the quick steering can make the car feel nervous. Three turbocharged engines are available, from the 3-cylinder in base models, to the 4-cylinder in the Cooper S models, to that relative powerhouse in the 2-door John Cooper Works Hardtop and Convertible. Whether you choose the manual or quick-shifting automatic, every Mini Cooper is fun to drive.
FUEL ECONOMY/FUN FACTOR
The 2016 Mini Cooper 2-door and Mini Cooper 4-door hatchback and convertible models are fun to drive, and they also get good fuel economy. For example, while the base models aren't exactly fast, they're quick enough, and fuel economy of up to 40 mpg is more than a consolation prize.
The Mini Cooper is just as fun to look at as it is to drive. There are clever details everywhere, from the classic bug-eyed styling to the use of toggle switches inside. Even the ignition switch is a big red toggle in the middle of the dash.
There's an odd dichotomy between the 2016 Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible interior's blend of modern tech and retro styling. There's the huge circular center display, which houses either the speedometer or the infotainment system depending on options. The various toggles look decidedly retrograde, but are in charge of modern functions like the keyless ignition. There's nothing retro about the comfortable seats, clever packaging and slick head-up display on the windshield. The 4-door offers reasonable room for two, with a center seating position if you absolutely must cram five people in the car.
The "bulldog" stance of a 2016 Mini Cooper means it's low and squat, not furry and drooling. Beyond giving them the distinctive look we've come to love, it also directly contributes to why these little cars handle so well. Beyond the different trim levels, there are contrasting color schemes, racing stripes and a number of other personalization touches owners can request. Dimensionally, the Mini Cooper 4-door is only about 10 inches shorter than the VW Golf, but still managing to look sharp. The John Cooper Works edition adds special badges, wheels and brakes. Mini Convertibles manage to look good top up or down.
The standard 2016 Mini Cooper 2-door, convertible and 4-door models come with a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, along with 6-way-adjustable manual seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and automatic climate control, while Convertibles get a power top. Mini Cooper S models get a more powerful 4-cylinder turbo engine, sport seats, run-flat tires, LED fog lights, larger wheels and tires, and bigger brakes, plus sporty-looking features like a hood scoop. The Mini Cooper John Cooper Works edition gets a more powerful version of the 4-cylinder, even bigger brakes and a stiffer sport suspension. All Minis come with three years/36,000 miles of no-cost maintenance.
Mini's website says there are more than 10 million different combinations of options, and when confronted with the dizzying array of wheels and styling accents available, it's entirely possible. As for major options, a 6-speed automatic transmission is available for the standard, Cooper S and Cooper JCW models. A Technology package adds a high-definition screen, integrated iPhone apps, a navigation system and a harman/kardon audio system. A cold weather package adds heated seats and mirrors, while a sport suspension package beefs up the handling and now includes dynamic damper control to further fine-tune suspension settings.
Three cylinders may not sound like a lot, but the base Mini Cooper gets 134 horsepower out of its 1.5-liter 3-banger, which is more than the old base 4-cylinder engine from a couple of years ago. This year, the 3-cylinder achieves SULEV emissions status thanks to some clever tweaking of engine parameters, none of which affect performance. More power is available in the Mini Cooper S models thanks to the 189-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The Cooper JCW offers the most powerful engine ever put in a Mini: a 228-horsepower version of that 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Power goes to the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. While Minis are fuel-efficient, note that all Minis require premium-grade gasoline.
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-3
134 horsepower @ 4,500-6,000 rpm
162 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/40 mpg (manual), 28/37 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
189 horsepower @ 4,700-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/34 mpg (manual), 26/33 mpg (automatic)
John Cooper Works
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
228 horsepower @ 5,200-6,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg (manual), 25/31 mpg (automatic)
A 2016 Mini Cooper hardtop 2-door carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $21,500 (including the $850 destination charge). That's not bad, but it's not a lot of car. The Mini Cooper S adds power and costs about $25,000. The Mini Cooper 4-door adds $1,000 to those figures. The new Mini Cooper John Cooper Works edition starts at about $31,500. Convertible models add about $5,500 to the price of a 2-door. The automatic transmission adds $1,250, or $1,500 if you want steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. But those aren't the only options, and they add up fast enough that you could have a $30,000 Mini Cooper before you know it. That's notably more than competitors like the Fiat 500, Hyundai Veloster and Honda Fit, but the Mini chases a different audience. If that's you, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid. Note that upfront premium pays off later, thanks to the Mini's good resale value.