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2021 MINI Cooper Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.4/10

The 2021 Mini Hardtop and Mini Convertible have potent powertrains and engaging handling, making them among the most fun-to-drive subcompact cars. Their firm suspensions lead to a stiff ride, however, which not everyone will appreciate. Fuel economy ratings are below average for the class.

  • "These Minis have responsive handling and feel quick regardless of engine choice, but we like the S models that come with a turbocharged 189-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder." -- Car and Driver
  • "But, with the Mini Cooper, size isn't everything. Even with the small, entry-level turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, it's a blast to drive. It's like piloting a go-cart. As you move up the engine choices, it gets even better." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "Whichever Mini you choose, 2-door, 4-door or Convertible, the car feels almost as wide as it is long, with suspension tuned for sporty driving. While the 2019 Mini is fun on sinewy back roads, long stints on the highway are not the car’s forte, due in part to a fair amount of road noise." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 134-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder (Cooper)
  • Available engines:
    • 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (Cooper S)
    • 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (John Cooper Works)
    • 301-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (JCW GP)
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual; available seven-speed automatic (Cooper and Cooper S); available eight-speed automatic in JCW (standard in JCW GP)

The three-cylinder base engine may not seem impressive on paper, but it has plenty of juice to propel this Mini around. Still, acceleration is quicker with the turbo-four engines, and they feel stronger on the highway. The top dog is the new-for-2021 John Cooper Works GP model, which is significantly more powerful than any other variant. The downside is that it's also the only version that doesn't offer a manual transmission.

There's an EV version of this Mini – the Mini Electric Hardtop – which we cover in a separate review.

  • "Even the base 2021 Cooper Hardtop 2 Door feels sufficiently zippy with its turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, running from standstill to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. Naturally, the Cooper S is quicker, but the John Cooper Works models are quickest, thanks to 228 horsepower and now 301 horsepower in the new John Cooper Works GP edition." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Don't be too 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 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 (2020)
  • "Even the Hardtop's standard turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes it quicker than almost any other car in its class. Step up to the turbo four-cylinders in the Cooper S and the John Cooper Works trims, and you've got enough pace to pull off a good, old-fashioned heist." -- Edmunds (2019)

MPG Estimates

Even in its most fuel-efficient setup, this Mini gets worse gas mileage than most of its competitors. Though this Mini's ratings are below average for the class, it's worth noting that all subcompact cars are pretty fuel-efficient compared to the automotive marketplace as a whole.

The ratings below are for the specified models when paired with an automatic transmission. Ratings are marginally worse with a manual transmission.

  • Cooper: 28/37 mpg city/highway
  • Cooper S: 26/35 mpg
  • JCW: 26/34 mpg
  • JCW GP: 24/30 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Mini Cooper may not be a sports car, but it offers plenty of driving enjoyment. It has sharp steering and agile handling, and there's little body lean around curves. That makes it a delight to drive on winding roads, and it's highly maneuverable on crowded streets. The ride can get a bit bumpy over rough pavement, owing to the firm suspension.

  • "The firm suspension lends itself to enthusiast-oriented driving, which can make the Mini Cooper exciting, but it can be unforgiving on rough roads." -- Car and Driver
  • "All Mini suspensions enjoy tuning for driving thrills rather than sedate suppleness, willing to change direction with quick flicks of the steering wheel. When the front wheels start to understeer, the Mini can be coaxed around corners by tweaking the amount of throttle. It's a blast. The JCW treatment means an extra-firm suspension, though." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The steering feel is sharp and direct, great for drivers with a penchant for curvy roads. For the typical commuter, it could feel a bit too busy or quick, particularly on the highway, as it reacts to small or unintentional inputs." -- Edmunds (2019)
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2021 MINI Cooper

MSRP: $22,400 - $44,900

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