2018 MINI Cooper

Performance


$21,600 MSRP
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2018 MINI Cooper Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.4

The 2018 Mini Cooper might as well be synonymous with agile performance. Its sharp steering, excellent body control, and high grip beg to be tested out properly on a twisty road. All three engines are eager to please, though you certainly get zestier power with the 2.0-liter engines. Some drivers may find the Cooper too stiff and jumpy for their taste.

  • "The 2017 Mini Hardtop's small footprint, low center of gravity and light weight give it excellent handling characteristics. This is a fun car to drive no matter which engine powers it. Even just zipping around town, it feels playful and engaging, and parking in tight spots is a cinch. Along curvy roads, the Hardtop feels taut and tenacious, clawing for grip with rare enthusiasm." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Unlike with past MINI Coopers, don't be so quick in selecting one of the more powerful engines. Even though the base-level Cooper's has only three cylinders, we thought the little turbocharged engine was 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." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "No matter what's under the hood, Minis make the most of it with a chassis that enables corner-carving ability that has to be experienced to be believed. They're not kidding with the whole go-kart analogy. On the highway or on rough pavement the ride can be rough, it's definitely loud inside, and the quick steering can make the car feel nervous." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)

Acceleration and Power

There are three engines available for the 2018 Cooper, each paired with a different trim. The base model comes with a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. While its 134-horsepower rating may seem low, this engine is energetic and more than adequate as a daily driver. As you step up to a higher trim level, acceleration gets brisker and power delivery heartier. Powering the Cooper S is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 189-horsepower rating. The same size engine powers the John Cooper Works trim, but this version has a 228-horsepower rating. A six-speed manual transmission is standard in all Cooper trims. A six-speed automatic is available.

The base engine gets 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which is about average for a subcompact car. Fuel economy drops to 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway for models with the 2.0-liter engine.

  • "Even the base Mini Cooper Hardtop 2 Door with its turbocharged 3-cylinder engine is enjoyable to drive. Granted, by today's standards 7.3 seconds to 60 mph isn't exactly fast, but it's quick enough, and the turbocharged 4-cylinders in the Cooper S or, even better, the John Cooper Works edition are even quicker, whether you choose the automatic or the short-throw 6-speed manual transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base engine provides impressive power considering its diminutive size. It loses some steam at higher rpm, but for most drivers it's a very solid pick. Both turbocharged four-cylinder engines have the Mini punching above its class, allowing it to keep up with larger cars such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The automatic transmission is smooth and shifts quickly, while the manual can be a bit difficult to drive because of its vague clutch action, long throws and imprecise gates." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "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 in routine driving. Three-cylinder or 4-cylinder, base-level Cooper models have always needed a little coaxing to get them going quickly. Meanwhile, 4-cylinder Cooper S and John Cooper Works models are zippier and more eager to go fast, thanks to a broader power band and a smooth, quick-shifting 6-speed automatic." -- Autotrader (2016)

Handling and Braking

The Cooper is a front-wheel-drive car with responsive steering and brakes and a well-controlled suspension system. It has agile handling and feels composed when cornering, making it a blast to drive. It's not for everyone, however. Its firm suspension excels at combatting body roll, but it creates a stiff ride. The sharp steering can also feel too sensitive at highway speeds.

  • "All Minis benefit from a suspension that's set up for fun driving, with quick steering and a tossable chassis that makes carving back roads genuinely enjoyable. Of course, getting to those back roads means driving down the highway, and here the Mini falters a bit. That quick steering that's so fun on a mountain road makes the Mini feel twitchy and nervous on the highway. The sporty suspension results in a rough ride. And there's no avoiding the road noise at speed." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The trade-off for its sharp handling, however, is a firm ride quality that borders on harsh, especially with the JCW version or larger wheels specified. Ordering the adaptive suspension dampers for the JCW is highly recommended, as we've found them to noticeably smooth out the ride. We've also noticed that the four-door Hardtop, with its longer wheelbase, is a bit more comfortable than the two-door and sacrifices little in the way of performance." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Just like the 2 Door Hardtop, the 4 Door exhibits impressive body control, with little lean in corners. Despite the fact that this is still a relatively short car with wheels positioned at the four corners of its body, the suspension absorbs road imperfections well, especially given the larger wheels of the S model. For a front-wheel drive car, the overall chassis feel is neutral -- there's not much in the way of unwanted side effects to irk fans of the original Mini, or modern BMWs, to which the Mini Cooper is closely related to in terms of technology." -- Autoweek (2015)
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