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.

Editors' First Take

Electric vehicles are more common than ever, as are public charging stations that offer Level 2 or DC fast-charging. But there are a lot of folks who are still hesitant to take the plunge on EV living. I'm one of them, so I decided to spend a month exclusively driving EVs -- specifically, our long-term Mini Cooper SE and a LiveWire One motorcycle.

We've talked about our long-term Mini on CNET before. And while I generally agree that it's fun to drive, nicely equipped and easily the best car in Mini's current lineup, I'm not so sold on its EPA-estimated 114 miles of range, which, frankly, I've yet to see.

Still, as a city car, the Mini SE excels. Its small size and nimble handling make it a breeze to whip around in Los Angeles traffic, and it's easy to park in tight city spaces. The ride is on the stiff side, but it's not overly bouncy or jarring, and the interior is nicely appointed, with enough room in the back for a large grocery trip.

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