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2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop: New Car Review

Editor’s note: You may also want to read our updated 2018 Mini Cooper review. or the in-depth article, Buying a Used MINI Cooper: Everything You Need to Know.

 

At its core, the 2015 Mini Cooper is a practical hatchback. The 2-door 4-seater manages to offer both great gas mileage and a surprisingly large cargo area when the back seats are folded down, but the Cooper is also much more than just a small hatchback.

For one thing, it’s tremendously fun to drive. It isn’t rear-wheel drive, and it’s not especially fast compared to purpose-built sports cars, but the folks at Mini have managed to tune the Cooper’s suspension so that it drives better than virtually any other similarly priced car, regardless of drive wheels. It’s also easy to get over the lack of a huge engine because the Cooper is extremely eager to have fun around the corners.

The Mini Cooper also offers a retro-themed design that appeals to drivers who are interested in standing out. Thanks to its unique styling that was updated last year, the Cooper boasts an iconic look that’s not likely to get old anytime soon. See the 2015 Mini Cooper models for sale near you

What’s New for 2015?

With a full redesign last year, the Cooper offers only minor changes for 2015. Updates include newly standard automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and newly optional roof rails.  

What We Like

Great styling; sporty driving dynamics; enjoyable powerplants; surprisingly practical with the rear seats folded down

What We Don’t

Gets pricey with options; looks a lot like last year’s model; sport suspension means stiff ride

How Much?

$21,300-$25,000

Fuel Economy

The Mini Cooper currently offers two engines. Base models have a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. With a standard 6-speed manual, that engine returns 30 miles per gallon in the city and 42 mpg on the highway. Drivers who upgrade to a 6-speed automatic will see 29 mpg city/41 mpg hwy.

Next up is the Cooper S, which uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Also offered with a manual or an automatic transmission, this engine returns 25 mpg city/38 mpg hwy with three pedals or 27 mpg city/38 mpg hwy in the optional automatic.

Standard Features & Options

This year’s Mini Cooper is offered in two trim levels: a base model, the Cooper, and a sportier version, the Cooper S. A high-performance John Cooper Works model is currently unavailable, though we expect Mini to add it to the Cooper’s lineup sometime soon.

The Cooper ($21,300) has a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. It also boasts 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, power accessories, a USB plug for music, air conditioning and HD Radio. The Cooper also offers driver-selectable driving modes thanks to a new-for-2015 adjustable suspension.

Step up to the Cooper S ($25,000), and you’ll get the more powerful 2.0-liter engine, along with larger wheels, sport seats and fog lights.

You’ll really be able to customize your Mini by taking advantage of the hatchback’s options list. Available equipment is plentiful, and it includes features such as a backup camera, an automated parallel-parking system, leather upholstery, a navigation system, larger wheels, a huge panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, a Harman Kardon sound system, automatic windshield wipers and a park-assist system. You can also choose from a multitude of exterior colors and available interiors.

Safety

All 2015 Mini Cooper models include anti-lock disc brakes, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, knee airbags and traction control. While the Mini doesn’t offer as many cutting-edge safety features as some competitors (forward-collision alert or a blind spot monitoring system, for example), it does include a few safety-related options, such as a park-assist system and a backup camera.

Because the newly redesigned Mini Cooper has just made its debut, neither the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has had a chance to perform crash tests.

Behind the Wheel

We’re impressed with updates to the Mini Cooper’s interior, which were largely designed to address customer feedback. For example, though we liked the look of the car’s center-mounted speedometer, the speedo is simply more convenient when it’s located behind the steering wheel. We also prefer the door-mounted window switches in comparison to last year’s position in the center control stack.

Even though the base-level Cooper’s new engine is just a 3-cylinder, we thought it felt surprisingly eager when driven hard. With that said, it can feel a bit sluggish during routine driving. Whether it has a 3- or 4-cylinder engine, a base-level Cooper has always needed a little coaxing in order to pick up speed. Meanwhile, 4-cylinder Cooper S models are zippier and more eager to go fast, thanks to a broader power band and a smooth, quick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

Inside the cabin, both Cooper models offer improved ergonomics, better materials, and our personal favorite feature, a novel ring of LED lights around the center display screen. The lights serve a number of different functions: They can act as a tachometer, they can show parking proximity, and they can even display upcoming turns via the car’s navigation system.

Other Cars to Consider

FIAT 500 — FIAT’s subcompact 500 hatchback offers a lower base price than the Mini Cooper and similar head-turning looks. With the sporty Abarth model, it also boasts an enjoyable driving experience.

Volkswagen Beetle — The Beetle boasts unique styling, a wide range of engines and a larger interior than the Mini, but it doesn’t offer the Mini’s sports-car-like driving experience.

Volkswagen GTI — If an exciting driving experience is what you’re looking for, you might want to consider the newly redesigned Volkswagen GTI. Based on the Golf, the GTI offers a turbocharged engine and a choice between a slick-shifting manual or a dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s also available with four doors for added practicality.

Autotrader’s Advice

We really like the Mini Cooper, and we think last year’s updates only give us more reason to appreciate the small hatchback. If we were choosing, we would go with the Cooper S with a few luxury options, though we’d try to keep the price under $30,000. Going over that figure would be tempting, but we think it’s easy to get all the Mini you need — and all the equipment you need — for $30,000 or less. Find a Mini Cooper for sale

 

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