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.
I've always had a huge roadblock when it comes to electric cars. No, I'm not talking about range anxiety -- it's the lack of an EV that's as fun to drive as it is affordable. Teslas are great, but they definitely aren't cheap. A won't really break the bank, but it's not exactly a blast to drive. Thankfully, Mini's new electric Cooper SE checks both of these boxes.
The Mini Cooper SE is only available in two-door Hardtop guise, in Signature, Signature Plus and Iconic trims. Sure, the Mini SE only gets 110 miles of range from its 32.6-kWh battery, which is far behind competitors like theand , but the trade-offs are a low price and great on-road manners.
The Mini can behave like a staid EV, quietly streaming down the highway or battling midcity traffic with ease. There's enough regenerative braking power for one-pedal driving, and there's an eDrive screen in the available 8.8-inch central infotainment system that displays options for Green, Green Plus or Mid settings that control the power delivery and climate control usage. If I want maximum range then I have to be prepared to go without air conditioning. The Green settings can even calculate efficiency and can warn me when I hit my desired threshold. Driving at 70 mph on the highway translates to 94% efficiency, but I'm OK with dropping to 92%, so my speed warning is set at 75 mph. It's a neat little feature.
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