The Mini Cooper has an iconic style all its own, and a long list of customizable appearance options that will please individualists. But a Mini can get pricey for such a small car if you pile on the extras, no matter whether you’re talking about the standard three-door hatchback, the five-door hatch models, or the costlier convertible. The standard Mini is offered with a turbocharged three-cylinder in the base Cooper trim or a punchy turbo four-cylinder in the Cooper S model. Thanks to the Mini’s sharp handling, either version is fun to drive—especially with the six-speed manual transmission, which returns for 2021 after a brief absence.
What’s New for 2021?
Manual-transmission Minis took a hiatus recently, but the six-speed stick is once again available for 2021 Cooper and Cooper S models, including the three- and five-door Hardtop models in addition to the convertible. A new GT special edition is available and gives the base Mini Hardtop several appearance items from the racier JCW car (reviewed separately). Mini has also expanded the availability of the value-oriented Oxford Edition model, which used to be exclusively for recent college graduates and U.S. military members but is now offered for everyone.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The standard engine is a turbocharged 134-hp 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, which provides plenty of pep in this small, lightweight vehicle. All of the Minis in this line come with front-wheel drive. These Minis have responsive handling and feel quick regardless of engine choice, but we like the S models that come with a turbocharged 189-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder. With the larger engine, the S proved to be a little more than a second faster than the 1.5-liter engine in our zero-to-60-mph test, clocking in at 6.2 seconds. We found the automatic transmission shifts well, but the manual transmission is still our favorite. The firm suspension lends itself to enthusiast-oriented driving, which can make the Mini Cooper exciting, but it can be unforgiving on rough roads.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The base three-cylinder engine in the entry-level Mini Cooper three-door, five-door, and convertible rings in the same EPA-estimated fuel efficiency for all models. That engine registers a combined fuel economy of 31 mpg. With the three-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual, we managed 38 mpg during our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route. The more powerful 2.0-liter engine in the Cooper S is rated slightly lower by the EPA, ranging from 27 mpg to 30 mpg combined depending on the configuration.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Mini’s interior is charmingly quirky but at the cost of user-friendliness. Rear-seat passenger space is tight, but front-seat occupants will find little reason to complain. The Convertible model’s power top will fold in 18 seconds to unlock the joy of unlimited headroom. Too bad its trunk is tiny. Hardtop models offer more practicality inside their hatchback bodies. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats come standard on the Mini Cooper, and a leather interior is optional. The Hardtop model’s trunk also is quite small, offering room for just three carry-on suitcases in our testing. But drop the rear seats, and there’s room for 12. The five-door Hardtop offers more space for cargo with the rear seats folded, but the Convertible offers less.