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In-depth reviews

MINI Cooper review – cheeky and fun as ever, but a harsh ride

“The MINI Cooper offers the same charm and fun as before, but feels even more special despite a higher price and sharp ride”

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£23,110 - £42,500

Pros

  • Well put together
  • EV is fun and agile
  • Retro charm

Cons

  • Small boot and rear space
  • Harsh ride
  • Can get expensive

Verdict – is the MINI Cooper a good car?

As always, the latest MINI Cooper offers charming, cheeky fun in a polished, desirable and well-refined package. The MINI Cooper Electric gets dedicated EV underpinnings for the first time, too, and boasts more driving range than the outgoing model, although it’s still not a class leader in this respect. The car’s ride can be a little harsh and the MINI Cooper is not very practical, but those aspects have never really been the point and MINI now offers the larger Aceman. We think the MINI Cooper will prove as popular as ever, we just wish there was a manual version for added driver involvement.

MINI Cooper models, specs and alternatives

The MINI hatchback is back for an all-new generation and the first thing to point out is that, rather than being officially named simply the MINI, or MINI Hatch, it’s now called the MINI Cooper, adopting what was previously a trim level. While they may look very similar, the petrol-powered MINI Cooper and the MINI Cooper Electric are now based on two separate platforms underneath. The petrol model is based on the same underpinnings as the outgoing car, while the MINI Cooper Electric is designed to be an EV from the ground up.

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The latest model is immediately recognisable as a MINI Cooper, with the brand’s evolutionary retro-inspired styling tweaked for a more modern look, along with a smoother shape. You can tell apart the electric and petrol models by the flush body-coloured door handles on the Electric, and wider use of black cladding around the wheel arches on the petrol version, but both have been designed to look very similar. The biggest departure from the previous car is at the rear, where you’ll find triangular Union Jack tail-light clusters.

On the inside the MINI Cooper has been completely redesigned with a very minimalist look and quirky fabric-upholstered dashboard. Sitting in the centre of the dash is a unique circular OLED infotainment display inspired by the original classic MINI’s central speedometer. We think the whole cabin is innovative in its approach to creating a premium feel, and it really is something special.

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As before, the petrol MINI Cooper gets a choice between two familiar engines carried over from the last car. There’s a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit with 154bhp and a larger 2.0-litre version with 201bhp for a little extra punch, badged Cooper C and Cooper S respectively. Unlike before, however, the MINI Cooper isn’t offered with a manual gearbox, with the entire range automatic-only, which could be a disappointment for driving enthusiasts who like to shift gears themselves.

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The MINI Cooper Electric also comes with a choice of two power outputs. The Cooper E comes with 181bhp from its front-mounted electric motor, while the Cooper SE gets 215bhp. 

The MINI Cooper Electric has an improved range compared to that of the outgoing car, and can go for up to 250 miles thanks to a 49.2kWh battery in SE guise, although entry-level E cars get a smaller battery capable of up to 190 miles to a charge. While this is likely to be enough for most buyers, especially those planning to use the MINI Electric mostly for trips around town, a real-world range of around 200 miles may be a bit off-putting for some.
 

Trim levels

Power options

  • Classic
  • Exclusive
  • Sport
  • Cooper C 1.5-litre petrol engine (154bhp)
  • Cooper S 2.0-litre petrol engine (201bhp)
  • Cooper E 181bhp front-mounted electric motor
  • Cooper SE 215bhp front-mounted electric motor

MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions

The MINI Cooper should be a cheap car to run on the whole. The petrol engines carried over from the last model are economical, while the electric models boast more range than before thanks to larger batteries built into a separate EV-dedicated platform. Insurance can be more expensive than for supermini rivals, however. Read more about the MINI Cooper's MPG, running costs and CO2 emissions...

Engines, drive & performance

The MINI Cooper comes with a choice of petrol or electric power, but this time around the cars are quite different underneath. The tried-and-tested petrol engines should be punchy enough for most drivers, and while the electric models are more powerful, the added weight should make them comparable in terms of performance. The MINI Cooper is fun to drive, but the caveat is that many rivals are more comfortable to live with. Read more about the MINI Cooper's engines, drive and performance...

Interior & comfort 

MINI’s cars might be small in size, but they’ve never felt cheap, and the MINI Cooper has a standout interior. More daring use of materials means it feels more upmarket than ever inside, and a lot more special than most rivals. The circular OLED display is also a unique feature that not only plays into the MINI’s sense of fun, but looks beautiful and has snappy responses too. Read more about the MINI Cooper's interior and comfort...

Boot space, practicality & dimensions 

The smallest MINI’s boot has long been arguably its biggest compromise, and that hasn’t really changed for this generation. There’s a bit more room for back seat passengers, and we appreciate the inclusion of ISOFIX for the front passenger seat, but it still has a tiny boot. Even dropping the back seats results in a smaller load space than that offered by most rivals. Read more about the MINI Cooper's practicality and boot space...

Reliability & safety

We’ll have a better idea of reliability when the MINI Cooper has been in the hands of owners for longer and its Euro NCAP rating arrives, but there’s plenty to be positive about already. MINI has fitted more safety kit than in any other generation, and according to our latest Driver Power survey, just 15% of MINI owners reported a fault within the first year. Read more about the MINI Cooper's reliability and safety...

MINI Cooper alternatives

The MINI Cooper goes up against a range of rivals in petrol and electric form, including many modern superminis and other retro-inspired models that aim to deliver that extra dose of charm and desirability.

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Should you buy a MINI Cooper?

The MINI Cooper retains the same charm that gives it so much appeal, but the brand has injected an extra playful edge by way of its quirky minimalist interior and MINI ‘Experiences’ to add a whole new dimension to its core product.

The all-new MINI Cooper Electric does a great job of providing the fun driving feel you’d expect from the brand despite the added weight of its batteries. In fact, it’s one of the nimblest EVs we’ve ever driven, and the fake engine noises add a touch of involvement to the experience, so should provide many buyers with a satisfying drive.

The petrol-powered MINI Coopers are similarly fun to drive, and their lower weight means they feel even nimbler along a twisting road.

There are some drawbacks, though, and one of the most notable is the MINI Cooper Electric’s unforgiving ride, which might put off some buyers. In addition, some buyers might miss the option of a manual gearbox on this generation of MINI Cooper – a paddle-operated transmission is only available as an option with the Sport styling pack.

What is the best MINI Cooper for low running costs?

For the utmost in low running costs, your best bet would be the electric MINI Cooper E or SE models. If you keep them charged at home and have a competitive electric energy tariff, you could save money on running your MINI Cooper Electric, and free road tax until 2025, with cheap annual tax thereafter will make for extra savings. A low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate thanks to its zero-emissions status will make the MINI Cooper Electric the best choice as a company car, too.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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