James Flammang
Contributing Editor - July 9, 2015

2016 MINI Hardtop OVERVIEW

Not many cars with moderate sticker prices possess as much character, and heritage, as the MINI. That’s especially true of the two-door Hardtop, which revived, in modern guise, the Minis that were produced in Britain in the 1960s. Cooper Hardtops come in two- and four-door hatchback form, but it’s the two-door that best identifies the MINI brand. Despite small size, MINIs offer 38 cubic feet of storage volume with the back seat folded down (but less than 9 with that seat up).

What's New for 2016

Not much has changed. MINI can now be considered a SULEV (super ultra-low emitting vehicle), due to upgrading of the three-cylinder base engine. That modification does not impact performance. In several areas, trim that was previously silver-painted is now high-gloss Piano Black, including the standard Cooper grille. Loaded and Visual Boost packages are no longer available, but base and S buyers can pick a Sport package, and the option list contains many more possibilities.

Choosing Your MINI Hardtop

MINI Hardtop models are defined by their engines: base Cooper, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works. Named for the man who sent the original MINI into motorsports, the John Cooper Works edition is the hottest performer – not only more powerful, but tuned to derive maximum response and pleasure.

All Cooper Hardtops use TwinPower turbocharged engines: three-cylinder 1.5-liter in the base Cooper, and 2-liter four-cylinders in the Cooper S and John Cooper Works models. The three-cylinder makes 134 horsepower, while the Cooper S ups that figure to 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Beneath the bonnet of the John Cooper Works edition sits the most powerful engine ever in a MINI production model, developing 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet. Cooper Hardtops are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. All MINIs are front-wheel drive.

Expect about 29 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway with the base engine and manual shift. The estimate drops to 24/34 mpg with a Cooper S, and 23/31 mpg with the John Cooper Works.

Base Cooper

Basic two-door model comes with the three-cylinder engine, manual gearbox, sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, 15-inch silver-colored wheels, and heated mirrors and washer jets. Leatherette seat upholstery is standard, along with automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and harman kardon six-speaker audio with HD radio. A four-door Hardtop adds $1,000 to the price of a basic two-door.

Cooper S

Adds $3,400 to the basic Cooper’s MSRP and comes standard with a 189-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine; manual shift; mesh grille; cloth sport seats; hood scoop; and 16-inch wheels. Cooper S is the choice for performance, but not necessarily worth the extra cost to other buyers. Two- and four-door models are available.

A Sport package includes 17-inch wheels, as well as dynamic damper control that lets the owner adjust suspension from comfortable in the city to track-ready.

John Cooper Works two-door

Adds $6,500 to the price of the Cooper S. In addition to the hottest engine of the lot, John Cooper Works models have a sport exhaust, refined suspension technology, and model-specific design features, as well as optimized aerodynamics qualities. Standard equipment also includes stainless steel pedals, LED headlights, a rear spoiler, side sills, Brembo brake calipers, and 17-inch wheels. The John Cooper Works Hardtop comes only in two-door form.

CarsDirect Tip

Except for the Fiat 500, Mini Coopers have no direct competition. They've been so popular at times that used models have sometimes sold for more than new ones. Whether to buy a base Cooper or Cooper S depends on the level of your yearning for experience, though even the three-cylinder model releases abundant energy. If a Cooper S won't quite suffice, the John Cooper Works Hardtop may be irresistible. Why not go all the way, if your pocketbook permits?

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