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2021 MINI Cooper Review

The 2021 Mini Cooper finishes in the middle of our subcompact car rankings. It's stylish and athletic, with a high predicted reliability rating. However, its cabin is cramped, and this car is more expensive than rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Nimble handling
  • Energetic engines
  • Stylish cabin
  • Good predicted reliability rating
  • Significantly more expensive than its classmates
  • Below-average cargo capacity
  • Worse fuel economy than rivals

New for 2021

  • New Mini Sidewalk and JCW GP editions
  • Expanded availability of Oxford Edition
  • Manual transmission returns
  • Some feature shuffling between trims

Rankings & Research

The 2021 MINI Cooper's #5 ranking is based on its score within the Subcompact Cars category. Currently the MINI Cooper has a score of 7.7 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 36 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.3
Performance: 7.4
Interior: 6.2
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.9 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Mini Cooper a Good Car?

Yes, the Mini Cooper is a good subcompact car. It comes in three body styles – the two- and four-door Mini Hardtop and the Mini Convertible – and it's fun to drive thanks to its punchy engines and adept handling. The cabin is handsome and stylish, and the tech features are easy to use. This Mini also earns a high predicted reliability rating.

The Mini Cooper has its faults, though. Many rivals have more standard features and get better gas mileage. The Mini's cargo area and rear seats are on the small side as well.

Why You Can Trust Us: 36 Reviews Analyzed

We don’t base our car reviews on our personal opinions. Instead, we combine the findings of professional test drivers with data such as reliability ratings and safety scores to give you a complete overview of every vehicle we rank.

This 2021 Mini Hardtop review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2014.

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking the best cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years’ worth of auto industry experience combined. To keep our reviews unbiased, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside company manages our advertising.

Should I Buy the Mini Cooper?

Buyers who prioritize performance and style will want to move the Mini Cooper (or the Mini Electric Hardtop, which we review separately) up on their shopping list. If you place more emphasis on tech features and interior space, then this car may not be the best choice for you. Regardless of what you want in a vehicle, it's worth noting that the Mini Cooper is far more expensive than most of its classmates. In fact, you'll pay more for this Mini's base model than you will for most fully loaded competitors.

Instead of the Mini Cooper, you should consider subcompact cars like the Honda Fit and Kia Rio.

Compare the Mini Hardtop, Fit, and Rio »

2020 vs. 2021 Mini Cooper: What's the Difference?

The 2021 Mini Hardtop and Convertible see a few noteworthy changes compared to the previous model. There are new special edition variants of the Mini Convertible (the Mini Sidewalk) and the Mini Hardtop (the John Cooper Works GP). Also, the Mini Hardtop Oxford Edition becomes more widely available after only being offered to college students and military vets in prior years.

And finally, the change that driving enthusiasts will care most about: A manual transmission is once again available in most 2021 Mini Hardtop and Mini Convertible models after being dropped for the 2020 model year.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Mini Hardtop »

Here are the key changes for the Mini Cooper over the last few years:

  • 2017: infotainment system became standard
  • 2018: rearview camera and rear parking sensors added to standard features list
  • 2019: gained available Apple CarPlay and wireless device charging
  • 2020: manual transmission discontinued; forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking made standard
  • 2021: new Mini Sidewalk and JCW GP editions join lineup, Oxford Edition trim gets expanded availability, and manual transmission returns

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Mini Hardtop, 2019 Mini Hardtop, and 2020 Mini Hardtop reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Mini Cooper Cost?

The Mini Cooper's base price sits at $19,750. That's one of the highest starting prices in the class. The range-topping John Cooper Works GP model starts at $44,900. That's outrageously high for a subcompact car's top trim, and it's more than double many class rivals' top-trim prices. That said, no other subcompact car comes close to the JCW GP's level of power and performance.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mini dealer.

Mini Cooper Versus the Competition

Mini Cooper vs. Mini Clubman

The Mini Clubman joins the Mini Cooper in the subcompact car segment. Both are sporty by class standards, with agile handling and peppy powertrains, and they have similar interior styling and comparable features lists. The Mini Cooper has a slightly higher predicted reliability rating, though both cars are above average. The Clubman has more rear-seat and cargo room than the Mini Hardtop, but you’ll pay more for it. Starting prices for the Clubman eclipse the base Hardtop by several thousand dollars.

Compare the Mini Hardtop and Clubman »

Mini Cooper vs. Mini Countryman

The Mini Countryman is a subcompact SUV that’s roomier and pricier than the Mini Cooper. The Countryman is more like the Clubman in terms of size and space. As such, it has more of both than the Mini Cooper while retaining the same interior quality and driving dynamics.

Compare the Mini Hardtop and Countryman »

Compare the Mini Hardtop, Clubman, and Countryman »

Mini Hardtop Interior: Small but Stylish

Mini Hardtop Cargo Space

This Mini has unimpressive cargo capacity, regardless of body style. Two-door hardtop models give you 8.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 34 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, while four-door hardtops provide 13.1 cubes behind the rear seats and 40.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The Mini Convertible has the least cargo space in the lineup, with a 5.7-cubic-foot trunk that expands to 7.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.

How Many People Does the Mini Hardtop Seat?

The Mini Hardtop 2 Door and Convertible can seat up to four people, while the 4 Door seats five. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the rear seats are less accommodating. Adults can fit in the back of four-door models on shorter trips, but the rear seats in two-door models are downright cramped.

Mini Hardtop and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the Mini’s rear outboard seats.

Mini Hardtop Interior Quality

Minis are known for their stylish, if somewhat eccentric, cabin design, and this subcompact car is no exception. The Mini Hardtop and Convertible both look good inside, and they're well-built. The only downside is that outside noise is noticeable at highway speeds.

Mini Hardtop Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The standard infotainment system has easily reachable controls and a straightforward interface, but there aren't a lot of features included with it. The optional system is more robust, with a touch screen, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity. However, this Mini doesn't offer Android Auto.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.5-inch display, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, and a USB port
  • Available infotainment features: an 8.8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, navigation, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, and satellite radio
  • Other standard features: a power-folding soft top (convertible models only)
  • Other available features: wireless device charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, and a panoramic sunroof

Read more about interior »

Mini Hardtop Performance: Enjoy Yourself

Mini Hardtop Engine

There are no bad choices when picking a Mini Cooper powertrain. All of the engines are turbocharged, and even the base three-cylinder feels lively and delivers adequate acceleration. The four-cylinder models are quicker and more energetic, but you may decide you don't need the extra juice.

The all-new John Cooper Works GP model has a 301-horsepower turbo-four, which is far more powerful than any other engine. As exciting as that sounds, it's the only model not available with a manual transmission (which is once again an option in the Mini Cooper after being dropped for the 2020 model year).

There's also a Mini Electric Hardtop EV, which we review separately.

Mini Cooper Powertrain/Performance Options:
  • Base engine: 134-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder; starts at $19,750 (Cooper and Oxford Edition)
  • Available engines:
    • 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; starts at $26,400 (Cooper S)
    • 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; starts at $32,400 (John Cooper Works)
    • 301-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; starts at $44,900 (JCW GP)
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual; available seven-speed automatic (Cooper and Cooper S); available eight-speed automatic (standard in JCW GP)
Mini Cooper Individual Performance Options:
  • Dynamic Damper Control (starts at $500; available in Cooper S and John Cooper Works)
Mini Hardtop Gas Mileage

Most other cars in the class earn better fuel economy ratings than this Mini. With its three-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission, the Mini Cooper gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Cooper S and John Cooper Works models get about 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The JCW GP is the least efficient model: It gets 24/30 mpg city/highway.

Mini Hardtop Ride and Handling

This is one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class. With impressive agility and precise steering, the Mini Cooper inspires confidence on winding roads, and it's easy to maneuver in crowded spaces. The ride is generally comfortable, although it can feel stiff over rough pavement.

Does the Mini Cooper Have All-Wheel Drive?

All-wheel drive is an uncommon feature in this class, and the Mini Cooper does not offer it.

Read more about performance »

Mini Hardtop Reliability

Is the Mini Cooper Reliable?

The 2021 Mini Cooper has a good predicted reliability rating of four out of five.

Mini Cooper Warranty

This Mini comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Mini Hardtop Safety

Mini Hardtop Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Mini Hardtop an overall safety rating of four out of five stars. The Mini received four stars in the rollover, frontal, and side crash tests.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Mini.

Mini Hardtop Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Rear parking sensors

Available advanced safety features:

  • Front parking sensors
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Parallel park assist

Read more about safety »

Mini Hardtop Dimensions and Weight

This Mini is between 12.6 and 13.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,627 to 3,946 pounds.

Where Is the Mini Cooper Built?

Mini builds the 2021 Mini Hardtop in the Netherlands and England.

Which Mini Cooper Model Is Right for Me?

You have options galore when selecting a Mini Hardtop or Convertible, which gives you a lot of flexibility, but it can also make choosing a model an ordeal. To start with, there are three body styles: two-door hardtop, four-door hardtop, and convertible. Beyond that, there are three trims: Classic, Signature, and Iconic.

But wait! There's more! The body styles are available in up to three variants: Cooper, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works. These signify which powertrain the car has. Notably, the four-door Hardtop does not come in the John Cooper Works trim.

Finally, there are some specialty models: the value-oriented Oxford Edition, the high-performance John Cooper Works GP, and the uniquely styled Sidewalk Edition convertible.

With this lineup, you can mix and match. For example, you can get a high-output two-door JCW model as a Classic trim with few interior features or a four-door Mini Cooper S Signature with the latest tech enhancements.

Regardless of the body style and configuration, we recommend the Signature trim. It’s available with nearly all the equipment from the higher models, and it has comfort features not found in the base Classic trim.

The Mini Cooper has a 134-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. The Mini Cooper S has a 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and the John Cooper Works model uses the same engine but squeezes out 228 horsepower. The John Cooper Works GP has the most powerful engine: a 301-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard in all models except the GP, which has an eight-speed automatic. Base and Cooper S models are available with a seven-speed automatic, while the John Cooper Works model offers an eight-speed.

There's an EV version of this Mini – the Mini Electric Hardtop – which we review separately.

Mini Cooper Oxford Edition

The Mini Cooper Oxford Edition is a value-oriented trim that was previously only available to college students and certain military members. However, for the 2021 model year, it is available to the general public for the first time. The Oxford Edition starts at $19,750 for the two-door hardtop and $20,750 for the four-door. This trim is not available in the convertible body style.

Standard features include a dual-pane panoramic moonroof, heated seats, a rearview camera, park distance control, a 6.5 inch display, and Bluetooth.

Mini Cooper Classic

The two-door Mini Cooper Hardtop Classic has a starting MSRP of $22,400. Four-door models start at $24,400, and the convertible retails for $28,400. Standard equipment includes a 6.5-inch display, a USB port, Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo, and synthetic leather upholstery. Standard safety features include a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

You can add heated front seats for $500, satellite radio for $300, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for $1,250 ($1,500 in Cooper S models). In JCW models, you can add an eight-speed automatic transmission for $1,500.

The two-door Mini Cooper S Hardtop Classic starts at $26,400, and the John Cooper Works Classic starts at $32,400. Other than the powertrain changes, they mostly have the same features listed above.

Mini Cooper Signature

The two-door Mini Hardtop Signature (MSRP: $25,400), four-door Signature ($27,400), and convertible Signature ($31,400) gain proximity keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a panoramic glass roof. The Mini Cooper S Signature has a base price of $29,900, and the John Cooper Works Signature starts at $33,900.

Opting for an automatic transmission costs $1,250. The Signature Upholstery package ($2,000) adds leather upholstery and sport seats. The Touchscreen Navigation package ($1,700) adds an 8.8-inch touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, and Apple CarPlay.

The Driver Assistance package ($1,000) adds adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and parallel park assist. The Premium package ($1,500) adds a Harman Kardon audio system and satellite radio.

Mini Cooper Iconic

Top-trim Iconic models round out the lineup, with a starting price of $29,400 for two-door Hardtops, $31,400 for four-door Hardtops, and $35,400 for the convertible. All Iconic models gain leather upholstery, an 8.8-inch touch screen, navigation, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system Apple CarPlay, and wireless device charging.

An automatic transmission costs $1,250. You can also add the Signature Upholstery, Driver Assistance, and Premium packages.

The Mini Cooper S Iconic starts at $33,900, and the JCW Iconic starts at $38,900.

Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP

The John Cooper Works GP model is new to the Mini Cooper lineup, and it starts at $44,900. It features the most powerful engine you can get in this car: a 301-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. An eight-speed automatic transmission also comes standard.

Mini Convertible Sidewalk Edition

The Sidewalk Edition is another new specialty model for the 2021 Mini Cooper. It has a starting price of $38,400. The Sidewalk Edition is a variant of the Cooper S and features the same 189-horsepower turbo-four engine. Standard features in the Sidewalk Edition include keyless entry, heated front seats, automatic climate control, an 8.8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, a Harman Kardon audio system, and navigation.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mini dealer.

See 2021 Mini Cooper specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Mini Cooper is among the most athletic and fun-to-drive subcompact cars. It also has a stylish, well-built interior. However, it only finishes in the middle of our class rankings because many rivals have better fuel economy ratings, more interior space, and more features. Combine these facts with the Mini's exorbitant (by class standards) starting price, and you get a small car that – despite its appeal – may not be the right buying choice for most people.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Mini Cooper has an iconic style all its own, and a long list of customizable appearance options that will please individualists. But a Mini can get pricey for such a small car if you pile on the extras, no matter whether you're talking about the standard three-door hatchback, the five-door hatch models, or the costlier convertible." -- Car and Driver
  • "But, don't lose sight of the fact that Mini models are pricey, particularly for their segment. Yes, they are also upscale for their segment, but add a couple of options and the price really escalates. But, hey, remember the fun-to-drive part." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "Now, 16 years on, it’s clear Mini is not a passing fad. … From base car to feisty John Cooper Works editions, all 2019 Minis are a delight to drive, and they compete with cars such as the Honda Fit. … Although these competitors cost thousands less, they don’t come close to matching the charm or premium retro appeal of the 2019 Mini Cooper." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 8, 2020

Plunging Sales: Sales of the Mini Cooper place in the lower half of the subcompact car class; they’re down 18.2 percent in 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Additionally, less-expensive options like the class sales-leading Nissan Versa outsold the Mini by more than 2 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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