A new generation of MINI has hit the streets, but you would hardly know it by looking at the iconic hatchback's 2013 edition. Traditional styling cues present for the past 50 years remain intact and as appealing as ever. To be sure, the MINI Cooper has been freshened inside and out, but that has not altered the car's distinctive character: Changes are subtle, evolutionary, and completely loyal to the original MINI design.
A 121 horsepower 1.6-liter four, matched to a six-speed manual transmission or optional automatic, powers the base Cooper. Fuel economy is good either way: 32 mpg with the stick or 31 mpg with the automatic in combined city and highway driving. These are not the stellar mileage numbers of some small cars, but for a gas-powered car that hits 60 mph in 8.3 seconds (9.5 with auto), the Cooper is a highly efficient machine. The generous 13.2-gallon gas tank combines with a 37 mpg highway rating to give the MINI an impressive range of 488 miles.
When you're not on the open road, the petite dimensions and virtual absence of overhang take the stress out of parking and urban traffic. As expected, cargo space is limited to a few grocery bags when the rear seat is up: just 5.7 cubic feet. But with the seat down, 24 cubic feet provide enough space to accommodate a couple's luggage on a long trip.
The available Premium 1 package adds an alarm system, heated power folding mirrors, heated window washer jets, chrome interior trim, auto dimming rear- and side-view mirrors, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlamps. There's also a Sport package with a choice of three 16-inch wheel designs, fog lamps, traction control, a rear spoiler, sport seats, and hood stripes.
Moving up to the Cooper S gets you a turbocharged version of the 1.6 liter four-cylinder and a boost to 181 horsepower. Available with manual or automatic transmissions, the S can accelerate to 60 mpg in 6.5 and 6.7 seconds, respectively. For ultimate performance, MINI offers the John Cooper Works with more turbo boost (to 208 horsepower), Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit, and upgraded seat trim. Both the S and John Cooper Works models can be fitted with a Sport package of their own that includes additional suspension firming, 17-inch wheels, xenon headlamps and hood stripes.