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 six-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.
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.
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.
Some automakers trot out special editions with unique engines, additional go-fast bits or maybe some beefier suspension. Other special editions are expressions of vanity; flashy little bits tacked on to an otherwise unchanged car to grab up a few more dollars at the dealer. Mini's latest special edition, the Seven, falls into the latter category.
Available on both the Cooper and Cooper S variants of the Mini Hardtop, in bothand flavors, the Mini Seven is nothing more than an aesthetics package. The exterior receives one of four unique shades (blue, white, black or green). The mirror caps are silver, as is the roof, there are special wheels on offer and the hood stripes are also exclusive to Mini Seven. Exclusive fender "vents" finish off the exterior trimmings.
Inside, you're looking at standard sport seats in Malt Brown fabric and black leather with a gray-and-black-checkered pattern. There are other interior motifs available, but why bother? Elsewhere inside, you get some Mini Seven branding and that's about it. I told you this package was all show and no go.
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