2018 MINI Cooper Review

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2018 MINI Cooper Overview

The original Mini of 1959 pretty much defined the modern economy car, but the new version resurrected by BMW back in the early 2000s is something more. While neither revolutionary nor terribly inexpensive, it’s a popular choice for people who want a compact, zippy, fun little car that has a lot more personality than most of the commuter cars on the road. Since the lineup was redesigned three years ago, the 2018 doesn’t have many changes, although a rearview camera is now standard and some packages are shuffled around a bit. The 2018 Mini Cooper is available as a two-door or four-door hatchback, or a convertible. Trims include the base Cooper, the sporty Cooper S, or the pocket rocket John Cooper Works model.

Under the short hood of the standard Mini Cooper is a buzzy little 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. That’s not a whole lot of grunt, but the little base Cooper gets from 0-60 mph in a surprisingly quick 7.4 seconds. Stepping up to the Cooper S gets you a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes 189hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. That little bump in power gets a bigger bump in speed, pushing the light Cooper to 60 in 6.5 seconds. The Cooper Works model, available only as a two-door, is still the top dog. Its edgy 2.0-liter engine makes 228hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, which in a little hatchback with a short wheelbase is enough to scare you. Transmission choices are either an automatic with paddle shifters or a good-old-fashioned 6-speed manual with the automatic rev matching system that will allow even novice drivers to make smoother transitions from high rpms.

Fuel economy is naturally mixed given the range of engines and body styles. The three-cylinder Mini predictably does best with 28 mpg city/38 highway/32 combined, but the Cooper S and John Cooper Works pay for the added power in gas mileage. The Cooper S will manage 23/32/26 with a manual and 25/32/28 with an automatic. All Minis come with a stop/start system.

For 15 years now, the new Mini has been winning people over with its sharp, taut handling. These cars are just a blast to drive no matter the model. All Minis have a spring strut front axle with multi-link rear suspension. Things are naturally stiffer in the sportier models, and there are customizable driving modes that are controlled by a toggle near the shift knob. A sport package available for $1,500 comes with adaptive dampers and larger wheels.

Like the original Mini, the 2018 Mini Cooper is bigger on the inside than it looks. The lion’s share of space goes to the front passengers while the rear seats are a bit tight on two-door models and even smaller in the convertible. With the seats up, the back of the base model has just 8.7 cubic feet of storage, but those seats do mercifully fold down and expand the rear cargo area to 40 cubic feet. The convertible model has just 5.7 cubic feet of space. The aforementioned sport package adds different seats, while a premium package adds a Harman Kardon stereo and dual-panel sunroof. A “Fully Loaded” package adds a head-up display and parking assist. Finally, a technology package comes with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with a navigation system. But what has really endeared the Mini to so many people is how configurable it is. There is a dizzying number of color combinations to choose from, and configurable items include roof color, body color, mirror accents and interior trim.

While the Mini has gotten mixed results in the usual run of crash tests, none has exactly been bad. Its thick pillars don’t do any favors for outward vision, but the addition of a rearview camera as standard equipment across the range is a help. The Fully Loaded package, which costs approximately $5,000, is the only way to get automatic emergency braking.

While the Mini may not be the most practical choice for car shoppers, it makes up for any shortcomings with its funky interior, quirky styling, and intoxicatingly tight handling. It’s an appealing little car that harkens back to its fresh introduction in 2002.

Updated

Since 2012, Andrew Newton has been writing about cars both old and new. Andrew has been an associate editor at Sport Car Digest as well as a contributor to sites like BoldRide and JamesEdition. He was also the Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA before becoming the Auction Editor at Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. He currently splits his time behind the wheel between his NA Miata, 1994 Corvette, and Triumph TR6.

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