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When BMW bought the Rover Group in the late-1990s, it inherited a floundering MINI brand. And we're lucky it did. Because BMW released the all-new MINI Cooper in the U.S. in the 2001, followed by the MINI Convertible in 2005.
Coming into the 2013 model year, the MINI Convertible carries over from the 2012. There are three trim levels: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. The Cooper provides the basic amenities expected of a premium hatchback, and a 1.6-liter engine that produces 121 horsepower. Fuel economy ratings are 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, and it hits 60 mph in 8.9 seconds. The Cooper S gets a sportier look inside and out, and a 181-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine that hits 60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. It's good for 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The John Cooper Works bumps the 1.6-liter engine to 208 horsepower, netting a 6.6-second 0-to-60 dash to go along with ratings of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Though a base model, the Cooper is still relatively well-equipped. A 1.6-liter engine with 121 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission are standard, as are: speed-sensitive power steering; keyless entry; a convertible top that opens in just 15 seconds; 16-inch alloy wheels; and a chrome grille. Inside, you'll find a Mini Connected infotainment system with iPhone connectivity, an HD Radio and six speakers; a multifunction steering wheel with audio controls; and push button start.
The Cooper S is the higher-performance version of the base Cooper. It has a twin-scroll turbocharger that ups output from the 1.6-liter engine to 181 horsepower, but shares its six-speed manual transmission with the base model. A Cooper S comes with an aggressive hood scoop; a black mesh grille; and dual chrome exhaust tips for a more muscular look. Inside the cabin, the Cooper S features aluminum pedals and sports seats.
The John Cooper Works is the highest-performance MINI you can buy. It squeezes 208 horsepower from the 1.6-liter engine, but specifies the same six-speed manual transmission found in other Coopers. A sportier suspension, electronic differential lock control and JCW-exclusive 17-inch Challenge-Spoke wheels are standard on the John Cooper Works.
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Excellent fuel efficiency, low base price and stylish, but lacks power, cramped cabin
Powerful base engine, impressive turbo engine, but poor fuel efficiency and unrefined engines
Excellent fuel efficiency and automated manual transmission, only seats two, slow, negligible cargo space
Stylish , optional panoramic sunroof and good highway mileage, but lackluster performance