MINI is credited with bringing the first premium compact car to America, proving that high quality and small packaging are not mutually exclusive concepts. Thoroughly engineered with a well put-together feel, all the Coopers in the MINI lineup are praised for their agility and fun-to-drive factor, and all of that returns for 2016.
The MINI Cooper hardtop now comes with a choice of two- or 4-door body styles, while each is available in either standard Cooper or Cooper S trim. The 2-door is also available in the high-performance John Cooper Works trim.
The basic Cooper version is powered by a turbocharged 1.5L 3-cylinder engine. While diminutive, this powerplant makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, more than the old 4-cylinder engine found in MINI Coopers of years past. Transmission options include either a standard 6-speed Getrag manual or a 6-speed automatic.
The Cooper S adds an additional level of performance to the MINI. It's powered by a 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder, and the Getrag 6-speed is standard. A 6-speed automatic is available, as are steering-wheel mounted shift paddles. Finally, the John Cooper Works is powered by the same 2.0L, but produces 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque.
The Cooper Convertible comes in both base and S trims and in manual and automatic transmissions. The roof is of the fabric variety and will open and close in 18 seconds.
Four-door MINIs ride on a stretched wheelbase, adding more interior room, bigger back seats and the extra pair of doors. Overall, the 4-door adds roughly six inches to the overall length of the car when compared to the two-door. As a result, interior space grows in nearly every direction, with additional head, shoulder and foot room for rear-seat passengers.
MINI typically offers little variety between trim models, other than engine choices. Buyers are instead welcomed to option up their cars individually or through option packages, of which there are many. Being a bit of a premium small car, the MINI Cooper hardtop is available with several upscale features, including a heads-up display, a navigation system, adaptive cruise control, automated parking assist, a Harman/Kardon sound system and leather seating.
A John Cooper Works Interior Package includes a variety of JCW-branded interior accents and upgraded steering wheel and seats. Add the John Cooper Works Exterior package to get unique 17" wheels and unique aero enhancements. The Fully Loaded package brings the MINI into luxury territory with heated seats, a premium stereo, keyless entry, LED headlamps, rear view camera and integrated navigation.
In addition, MINI's customization program is legendary. The automaker wants buyers to make the car their own and allows each owner to go beyond simple alloy wheels and paint colors by offering hood stripes, mirror caps, roof décor and a dazzling array of interior upholstery options.
The Good The Mini Cooper S Convertible offers open-top driving for you and a few friends. Its handling feels more nimble than most cars, and its eco and sport modes make a real difference. An optional Harman Kardon audio system is a must for music lovers.
The Bad With the top up, the Mini Convertible's blind spots get large, and with the top down the rear view becomes compromised. The brakes feels a little weak for sport driving. The infotainment system lacks support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the destination and music search interfaces are needlessly tedious.
The Bottom Line With its unique design and fun handling character, it's easy to forgive some of the Mini Cooper S Convertible's flaws, but wise buyers should take a close look at the non-sport Mini Cooper Convertible, which will likely offer equal satisfaction.
The potent little hatchback is nevertheless a fun alternative to your traditional small hatchback.
While the Mini John Cooper Works Clubman isn't the last word in hot hatch thrills, it should appeal to those who want a fast alternative to the plethora of small crossovers on the market.
The project was first announced about two years ago.
It has between 146 and 168 miles of range by European estimates.
It'll go on sale in 2020, but supplies will be rather limited.
With only 3,000 units available, you'll need to be as quick as the car is if you want one.
We drove an early prototype and walked away quite impressed.
Don't try this at home, not that you have a 777 lying around.