Mini Cooper Hardtop

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.

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Editors' First Take

Walking around the 2020 Mini Cooper SE development mule -- yes, the new electric version will be called SE -- it's difficult to spot many differences between the new battery electric version of the two-door hardtop and the normal, gas-powered car. The yellow camouflage wrap certainly doesn't help, but for the most part it looks like any old Mini Cooper.

The SE's sheet metal is unchanged from the base car. The 16- and 17-inch wheels are also the same ones found on all the other Cooper hardtops -- no funky, aero-friendly rollers here. There are, however, a couple of small differences beneath the vibrant wrap, including a specific front fascia with a new grille and rear bumper that doesn't have cutouts for an exhaust.

Like the exterior, the inside of the SE is covered to hide it from prying eyes (and Mini wouldn't let me publish any photos), but I can tell you there's a new center console with an electronic parking brake. When sitting inside it feels like, well, a Mini Cooper, with a full backseat and 8.7 cubic feet of trunk space out back. That's the same as a regular Mini Hardtop, so buyers won't sacrifice cargo space for EV power. That's unlike the Mini E pilot program vehicles that were leased to a handful of customers back in 2009 that lost its backseat and most of its cargo area to a monstrous, 573-pound battery.

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