For some, it’ll seem that the 2018 Mini Cooper is awfully expensive for such a small car. You might look at its dimensions and feature content compared to similarly priced cars and wonder just what the heck you’re paying for. Well, let’s try to answer that question.
First and foremost, the Mini is a more premium car than other sub-compacts. Just because something’s small, doesn’t mean it can’t be nice. This translates into a higher quality cabin and more sophisticated engineering under the skin. You can also outfit it with luxury features and deluxe trappings no other car its size offers. Then, it’s important to note just how much of a riot it can be to drive, as it’s blessed with terrific handling and grunty little turbocharged engines that also get great fuel economy.
And then there’s the Mini factor. As any loyalist of the brand will tell you, there’s just no substitute for the various quirks and unique attributes that make a Mini and Mini. From its myriad of customization options to quirky design elements like dash toggle switches, there’s so much character present that a Cooper can transcend a simple "car" and become something you grow to love.
Of course, love can be compromised by practical considerations like that elevated price tag, some missing features (there’s no Apple CarPlay or accident avoidance tech items) and its diminutive proportions. Sure, the front seats offer a huge range of adjustability for even taller drivers and the available 4-door model ups practicality in back, but it’s not called a Mini for nothing. All of this means that a 2018 Cooper won’t be for everyone, but just know that there’s at least plenty to justify that price tag.
What’s New for 2018?
A backup camera and rear parking sensors are now standard on every Mini Cooper.
What We Like
Unique style and driving character; sporty driving dynamics; energetic and efficient engines; surprisingly roomy front seats; quality cabin
What We Don’t
Gets pricey with options; stiff ride, especially with the sport suspension and bigger wheels; clutch can be difficult to modulate; no collision-avoidance tech
The Mini Cooper offers three engines. Base models (available in 2- or 4-door guise) use a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. With the standard 6-speed manual, that engine returns 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. With the optional 6-speed automatic, it returns 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. You may get slightly better fuel economy with the 2-door Cooper.
Next up is the Cooper S, also offered as a 2- or 4-door, which uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the Cooper, getting the automatic on the S yields better fuel economy, at 25 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined. With the manual, it’s 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
At the top of the range is the John Cooper Works variant, which only comes as a 2-door. It uses an upgraded version of the standard Cooper S engine that produces more power, 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, but gets the same fuel economy estimates.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Mini Cooper Hardtop is offered in three trim levels: a base model dubbed Cooper, the even sportier Cooper S and the high-performance John Cooper Works variant.
The Cooper ($21,600 for the 2-door; $22,600 for the 4-door) boasts 15-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors, a backup camera, automatic climate control, height-adjustable front seats, split-folding rear seats, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a 6.5-in central display screen and console-mounted controller, Bluetooth, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack, HD Radio and a 6-speaker sound system.
Step up to the Cooper S ($25,200 for the 2-door; $26,200 for the 4-door) and you’ll get the more powerful 2.0-liter engine along with 16-in wheels, run-flat tires, fog lights, adjustable driving modes and sport seats. Apart from the engine, these items can be had on the base Cooper.
The sporty John Cooper Works ($31,800) is available only as a 2-door. It adds even more power, 17-in wheels, upgraded brakes, a sport-tuned suspension (the standard suspension can be had as a no-cost option), LED headlights, special styling, sport seats, a sport steering wheel and special cloth upholstery.
You’ll really be able to customize your Mini by taking advantage of the hatchback’s options list. Available equipment is plentiful, much of which is available either as stand-alone items or bundled within packages. These include larger wheels, an automated parallel-parking system, a dual-pane sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, various upholstery upgrades (including leather), an 8.8-in display screen with various functional and feature content improvements, a navigation system, a head-up display and a Harmon Kardon sound system. You can also choose from a multitude of exterior and interior trim customization options.
All 2018 Mini Cooper models include anti-lock disc brakes, front-side airbags, front knee airbags, side-curtain airbags, stability and traction control and a backup camera. Unlike the Clubman and Countryman, the Cooper doesn’t offer any accident avoidance tech features.
In crash tests carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2-door Mini Cooper earned four out of a possible five stars for overall, frontal and side crash protection. The 2-door Cooper earned the best possible ratings for crash protection in testing by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Its Poor headlight rating resulted in it missing a Top Safety Pick award.
Behind the Wheel
Unlike with past Mini Coopers, don’t be so quick to select one of the more powerful engines. Even though the base-level Cooper has only three cylinders, the little turbocharged engine is surprisingly eager to accelerate. If you’ll be sticking to errands around suburbia, the base engine should offer more than enough power and fun. Of course, the 4-cylinder Cooper S and John Cooper Works models are zippier and more eager to go fast. They’re the models to turn to if you’re looking for your Mini to be more of a performance machine.
Inside, today’s Cooper offers better materials as well as controls that have sacrificed some whimsy in favor of improved function. We approve. At the same time, there are still plenty of unique elements that make a Mini a Mini. There are still toggle switches, special upholstery and trim types and our personal favorite feature: The circular center display, which boasts a novel ring of LED lights. They serve a number of different functions, acting as a tachometer, parking proximity display and even an alert for upcoming navigation system directions.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Mini Clubman — If you have doubts that the Cooper hardtop has enough space, especially if you only have one car, the Clubman is most definitely worth a look. It’s considerably larger than the Cooper, but it also manages to be a bit more comfortable and refined without losing its whimsical Mininess.
2018 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 same sort of sharp driving experience.
2018 Volkswagen GTI — If an exciting driving experience is what you’re looking for, you might want to consider the Volkswagen GTI. Based on the Golf, it offers a turbocharged engine and a choice between a slick-shifting manual or a dual-clutch automatic. It’s also considerably cheaper than the Cooper S when comparably equipped.
Used BMW 2 Series — Although the Mini Cooper offers a lot of pizzazz for the money, it can’t quite top a rear-wheel-drive car like the 2 Series from Mini’s parent company, BMW. A used model will be in the Mini’s price range.
Order your car. Don’t get stuck paying for stuff you don’t want or a color combination that’s not exactly your cup of tea. In one to two months, you can have the exact Mini Cooper you like — you should even be able to get a similar price to one that’s just sitting on a dealer lot. And if we were ordering, we’d simply try to keep our Mini as close to $30,000 as possible. Whether that means prioritizing features, style or performance is up to you. Anything pricier seems a bit silly.