What Is It?
An iconic 2-door hatchback, the 2015 MINI Cooper is all-new, marking the Cooper's third generation since BMW took the reins over a decade ago. It makes its worldwide debut at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show.
While the new Cooper generally keeps its familiar pug-faced styling, the nose is longer and more upright this time around. The car's dimensions have grown across the board, including an extra 3.9 inches front to back, and MINI claims noticeable improvements in rear-passenger comfort and cargo capacity.
Moving to the dashboard, the pie-plate-sized central display remains, but it no longer houses the speedometer, which has been relocated to the gauge cluster behind the steering wheel. An iDrive-style infotainment system will be offered in that central display instead, while a traditional 3-knob climate control system takes the place of the outgoing model's odd vertical thumb-switches. Happily, MINI's trademark shiny toggle switches have made the cut, appearing in their customary spots on the overhead console and at the base of the center stack.
Under the hood, the base Cooper will be powered by a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine with 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, while the Cooper S gets a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft. Both engines employ a twin-scroll turbocharger, which means the old naturally aspirated base engine is no longer available. A 6-speed manual transmission will continue to be the standard offering, with an automatic unit available. The Environmental Protection Agency has not rated fuel economy, but we expect a highway figure of 40 miles per gallon or better; the outgoing car topped out at 37 mpg.
MINI pricing has been creeping upward in recent years, but we still expect the base model to start at a reasonable $23,000 or so. Figure at least mid-to-high $20,000s for the zippy Cooper S.
When Can You Get It?
Add It to Your Shopping List Because...
The MINI was already an awesome car, but the 2015 model looks to be significantly improved in key areas. There's more room and better ergonomics inside, respectable power in the formerly weak-kneed base model and better fuel economy than ever. As long as you're cool with that elongated nose, the 2015 MINI Cooper is a must-drive in this segment.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Fiesta ST -- The similarly compact Fiesta ST offers robust turbocharged performance and track-ready handling for less coin than a Cooper S.
Volkswagen Golf -- Scheduled to hit the market around the same time, the new 2015 Golf has considerably more interior space, and it's also offered in frugal TDI (turbodiesel) and sporty GTI trims.
Scion FR-S -- Sure, it's a rear-wheel-drive sports car, but the FR-S is also stylish, fun-to-drive and affordable, just like the MINI. It's an interesting comparison.
Used MINI Cooper -- Yeah, we said it. Although the new MINI is appealing, its predecessor remains an all-around excellent car, and there should be some great deals on used MINIs when the 2015 Cooper starts arriving in dealerships.