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2021 Mini Cooper Review

The 2021 Mini Cooper range is the least expensive way of getting into a brand-new Mini. This means highly distinctive styling, immense scope for customization, and front-wheel-drive dynamics that earn the respect and admiration of experts and everyday fun-seekers alike.

Even with the small, entry-level turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, a  Mini Cooper is a blast to drive. With the more powerful alternatives, it gets better and better. Body styles are the Hardtop hatchback with two or four doors, and a convertible with a powered folding roof. They are all classified as subcompact cars.

Yes, despite the modern Mini being so much bigger than the tiny British classic that inspired it, there’s still not a lot of space for tall occupants or a hefty amount of luggage. Most buyers realize this going in.

The only warning we would give is that although the many option permutations result in every car leaving the factory being a virtual one-off, it’s far too easy to inflate the bottom line with enticing extras. But if anyone balks at paying almost-premium prices for a diminutive car, then they’re missing the point of a Mini.

What’s New for 2021?

A 301-hp John Cooper Works GP variant is introduced, the fastest and most powerful production Mini the company has ever offered. A new digital driver information display is standard in the Iconic sub-trim and optional in the Signature. A technology package that includes navigation with real-time traffic updates and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration is offered for Signature trim. And last year’s limited-availability Oxford Edition Hardtop versions are now on sale to everyone.

What We Like

  • Distinct style
  • Engaging and sporty driving experience
  • Energetic and efficient engines
  • Surprisingly roomy front seats
  • Quality cabin

What We Don’t

  • Options push the price up quickly
  • Sport suspension and bigger wheels result in a seriously firm ride

How Much?

$20,600-$45,750

Fuel Economy

Base 2021 Mini Cooper models use a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Drive goes to the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

This configuration returns 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in combined driving, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Convertible’s figures are the same.

The Cooper S uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. With the 7-speed Sport double-clutch transmission, estimated fuel economy for both Hardtops is 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. With a 6-speed manual transmission, it’s 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.

The Convertible version achieves 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined (DCT) or 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined (manual).

The John Cooper Works variants employ an upgraded version of the Cooper S engine that produces more power, 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Or 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque in the JCW GP.

Estimated fuel consumption for the JCW Hardtop is 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined (8-speed automatic transmission) or 23 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/29 combined (6-speed manual). 

The JCW convertible returns 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined (8-speed automatic transmission only). The JCW GP model  runs to 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined (8-speed automatic transmission only).

Standard Features and Options

The 2020 Mini Cooper range consists of 2 Door Hardtop and 4 Door Hardtop models, plus the Convertible. Next come the drivetrains of the base Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Then there are sub-trims of Classic, Signature and Iconic.

To streamline this section, we’re showing the price for the base Classic trim with each engine, then listing the added content related to the Signature and Iconic trim levels. The prices in parentheses refer to the cost of those trim levels above the Classic version. All prices include the destination charge of $850.

However, Mini has also created Oxford Edition versions of the Hardtop cars. These are base models with a few popular options and cost less than the regular “basic” equivalents. It starts at $20,600 and the 4 Door Hardtop is $1,000 more. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, panoramic moonroof and an automatic transmission.

The regular Cooper Classic (2 Door Hardtop $23,250; 4 Door Hardtop $24,250; Convertible $28,250) has 15-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated outboard mirrors, Dynamic Cruise Control, rear parking sensors, manual climate control, height-adjustable front seats, split-folding rear seats, simulated leather upholstery, multi-function steering wheel, 6.5-in central display and console-mounted controller, Bluetooth, LED taillights, USB port, auxiliary audio input, HD radio, satellite radio capability, and a 6-speaker sound system.

The Cooper S Classic (2 Door Hardtop $27,250; 4 Door Hardtop $28,250; Convertible $32,250) brings the 2.0-liter engine along with 16-in alloy wheels, run-flat tires, fog lights, selectable driving modes, automatic climate control, and heated sport seats. Apart from the engine, all these items are available in the base Cooper.

The higher-performance John Cooper Works model comes as a 2 Door Hardtop ($33,250) or Convertible ($39,250). Classic trim here means 17-in wheels, rear spoiler, upgraded headliner, upgraded brakes, sport-tuned suspension (the standard suspension is a no-cost option), LED headlights with cornering lights, special styling, sport seats, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, and special cloth upholstery.

Cooper Signature (+$3,000) augments the Classic with 16-in alloy wheels, keyless entry, panoramic moonroof, heated front seats, LED headlights/fog lights, piano black interior accents, and automatic climate control.

Cooper S Signature (+$3,500) builds on the Cooper S Classic with most of the Cooper Signature features plus a John Cooper Works steering wheel.

John Cooper Works Signature (+$1,500) adds to the JCW Classic with nearly all of the above-listed Signature features.

Cooper Iconic and Cooper S Iconic (+$7,000) adds to the Signature with a specific leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-folding/self-dimming side mirrors, keyless entry/ignition, digital driver information display, self-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, automatic climate control (Cooper), LED headlights with cornering lights, LED fog lights, Harman Kardon surround-sound system, head-up display (Cooper S), Apple CarPlay, navigation with real-time traffic updates, and wireless charging.

John Cooper Works Iconic (2-Door +$6,000; Convertible +$6,500) includes most of the above features plus 18-in alloy wheels.

The new-for-2021 John Cooper Works GP ($45,750) raises the power levels and has an even stiffer suspension than the JCW. It comes as one variant, with all the necessary equipment as standard. Buyers can, at no extra charge, delete the climate system if they want to keep weight at a minimum for faster laps on track days.

Personalizing a Mini is easy, thanks to an extensive list of options. Many are available either as individual items or bundled into packages. These include larger wheels, automated parallel parking system, keyless entry/ignition, heated front seats, leather upholstery, 8.8-in touchscreen with various functional and feature content improvements, navigation, head-up display, and the Harman Kardon audio system. There is also a multitude of exterior and interior trim customization choices.

Safety

All 2021 Mini Cooper models include anti-lock disc brakes, front side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags, stability and traction control, and a rearview camera. Mini’s Active Driving Assistant, with its camera-based system, low-speed braking with pedestrian detection and emergency braking assistance at higher speeds, is also standard.

In crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2-door Mini Cooper earned four out of a possible five stars for overall, front, and side-impact protection. 

The 2-door Cooper earned the best possible ratings for crash protection in testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The optional headlight upgrade makes the Cooper an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Behind the Wheel

Even though the base-level Cooper has only three cylinders, this little turbocharged engine is surprisingly eager. It’s capable of delivering more than enough power and fun for running errands around the suburbs. Naturally, the 4-cylinder Cooper S and John Cooper Works models are zippier. These would be the choices for those seeking more of a performance machine.

An ever-maturing Mini now contains good-quality cabin materials and foregoes some whimsy in favor of improved function. Yet there are still plenty of elements that make it a true Mini. Such as toggle switches, special upholstery, and trim types, and the circular central display, surrounded by a ring of LEDs. These serve a number of different functions — acting as a tachometer, parking proximity display, and even an alert for upcoming navigation directions.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Mini Clubman — All the personality and involvement of a Mini, but with more space. No convertible alternative, though.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI — A new generation debuts for 2021 with 241 hp. It’s also larger and more comfortable than a Mini.

2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata — Something a potential Mini Convertible buyer should consider, or anyone whose main motivation is accessible and affordable driving fun. This rear-drive 2-seater roadster is wonderful.

2021 Hyundai Veloster N — Hyundai hired some former BMW engineers and this is one of the upshots. Should cost $30,000 or just below.

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 example will be in this price bracket. Check out BMW’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Questions You May Ask

How reliable is a Mini Cooper?

Looking at the data for 2019, the NHTSA only received seven complaints about the Mini Cooper range. Its reliability is around 95 percent, with 7.3 percent of owners experiencing more than one problem. That’s pretty good.

Is Mini English or German?

Mini has its roots in England. The original small car from the 1960s was designed and made there, and it became part of the culture. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones could often be seen driving around the groovier parts of London in a Mini. But BMW bought that company and created the Mini we now know and (possibly) love. So it’s a bit of both.

Where is the 2021 Mini Cooper built?

There are two factories producing the Mini. One is in England — Cowley, Oxfordshire, to be precise. The other is in Born, Netherlands, not far from the border with Germany.

Autotrader’s Advice

Don’t be pressured into buying one that’s been sitting on the dealer’s lot and may not have the combination of features you really want. Have it ordered to your particular specifications and wait for one or two months. You should even be able to get a price similar to that model the salesperson is trying to push.

Unless you absolutely desire something specific like the JCW GP, stay as close as possible to a $30,000 limit. Anything more for a kind-of-premium subcompact hatch seems a tad too extravagant. Find a Mini Cooper for sale

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