Mini's family of Hardtop models proves that small cars can be economical, fun to drive, and loaded with charisma. Now well into the third generation, they also prove that retro design is more than a passing fad.
Available in three- and five-door hatchback body styles, the Cooper, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works are perhaps the most customizable vehicles this side of a Porsche 911 with countless interior, exterior, and optional equipment.
Beyond its cute looks, the Cooper packs plenty of technology. It rides on a platform jointly developed for use on BMWs, and can be fitted with unexpected luxury and performance features including head-up display, emergency autonomous braking, and adaptive dampers. Indeed, many interior components from the turn signal and wiper stalks to the iDrive controller are shared in common with BMWs.
Larger than a Fiat 500 but much smaller than a VW Beetle, the 3 Door Cooper offers a big-car driving experience in a tiny package thanks to its weighty steering and go-kart prowess. The 5 Door builds on this with additional practicality. Beyond the two additional doors, its stretched wheelbase, taller height, and longer overall length mean that adults can sit behind the front seats, and more luggage can be brought on board. 5 Door models have a 60/40 split rear bench that can accommodate three adults in a pinch; 3 Door hatches have a 50/50 split folding bench that’s only fit for two. Luggage space is on the small side due in part to Mini's use of a fully independent rear suspension. The 3 Door has 211 L, while the 5 Door has slightly more at 278 L.
The standard-issue engine for the Cooper still comes as a surprise to many buyers. The 1.5-litre turbo engine is sized similar to its key rivals, but what's unusual is that it has three cylinders, not four. Horsepower is par for the course at 134 horsepower, but its 162 lb-ft of torque gives it an urge unlike any Cooper of the past. It also sounds cool, with an unmistakable and slightly gruff growl.
The S has a more conventional powerplant. Its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder makes a respectable 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. The speed demon of the group, the John Cooper Works, offers up a higher-output version of the S' engine. Here it develops 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque but is only offered on the 3 Door bodystyle.
All Mini Hardtops use a six-speed manual transmission with available rev-matched downshifts, and can be fitted with a six-speed automatic at extra cost. S and John Cooper Works models get paddles for manual shifting. Unlike the Clubman wagon, the standard Hardtop is front-wheel drive only.
New for 2017 is the Seven Edition, which is a tip of the bowler hat to the original 1959 Austin Seven. Offered in three- and five-door hatch body styles, they are dressed to the nines - or should that be sevens? - with the Mini's finest options. Available in Lapisluxury Blue, British Racing Green, Midnight Black, and Pepper White, the Seven Edition also gets a Melting Silver coloured roof with stripes outlined in Malt. Cars also get unique 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there's premium Cloth and Leather sports seats with diamond Malt Brown upholstery that's colour keyed to Malt-coloured dash and door trim. Black and gray leather trim is also available.
From an equipment standpoint, the Mini Connected Package is now standard, which adds Bluetooth and USB audio, a 6.6-inch display audio system, plus a centre armrest - all good valuable features. A larger 8.8-inch display with navigation is available.
The 2017 Mini 3-Door Cooper starts at $21,990, with the S selling for $26,240. The John Cooper Works 3-Door sells for $33,740. Add another two doors and the price of a Cooper 5-Door climbs to $23,240, while the S 5 Door sells for $27,490.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed