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Car trim reviews

MINI Cooper review

The MINI Cooper brings a welcome dose of extra performance and equipment to the MINI, without adversely affecting insurance premiums too much

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The MINI Cooper badge is an iconic one, but the Cooper name is only a small part of the MINI hatchback line-up. It sits above the entry-level MINI One, and below the fast MINI Cooper S and flagship MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) model. For many buyers, the Cooper will be the sweet spot of the range, featuring good performance, an array of standard equipment and affordable running costs.

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MINI facelifted its hatchback and convertible range in April 2021, to mark 20 years since the launch of the ‘new’ MINI. Cars produced since then get a different front-end look, with a bigger grille and vertical air vents in place of fog lights, plus more technology inside. Bright LED headlights and a large infotainment touchscreen are now standard across the range.

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The MINI Cooper comes with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 134bhp. This may not sound hugely potent, but the MINI Cooper feels noticeably quicker and punchier to drive than the less powerful MINI One, and the overall driving experience is more exciting too. It’s still quite a light car so doesn’t need a lot of power, and it’s worth noting that the Cooper is more powerful than the 123bhp Ford Fiesta ST-Line or 108bhp SEAT Ibiza FR.

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Acceleration from 0-62mph takes around eight seconds, which is more than enough to make the car feel sprightly. It’ll feel much more enthusiastic when accelerating than the 101bhp MINI One, and many buyers will be perfectly happy with the Cooper’s performance. Economy is fantastic, too, with up to 51.4mpg possible and reasonably low CO2 emissions.

If you’re more concerned about fuel economy than performance the car’s standard ‘Green’ driving mode will appeal, as this maximises the car’s efficiency.

Used MINI hatchback: 2014 to present (Mk3) - facelift model interior

While the Cooper package is a great place to start the MINI ordering process, be aware it’s just that: a start. MINI offers a myriad of options and packs for its cars, which can be great if you want a bespoke-feeling hatchback, but frustrating if you’re not that fussed about personalisation.

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The Cooper badge signifies the engine under the bonnet, but there are three trim levels to choose from. Classic is the first, with Sport and Exclusive costing more and adding a racier or more luxurious feel respectively. We explain in further detail what each one gets further down the page.

You can also add a range of optional extras, many of which are bundled into packs. Standalone options include a heated steering wheel and a Harman Kardon stereo system. Sat nav costs £900 so we’d recommend using your phone’s apps instead.

MINI Cooper - good points

The standard MINI is a great car to drive, and the Cooper option makes it even more so. The extra power means Cooper models are noticeably peppier, but the performance improvements aren’t dramatic enough to adversely affect insurance premiums too much. Choosing a MINI Cooper over a MINI One should also make it easier to sell on or trade in when it’s time to get a new car, as they’re more sought after models on the used market.

MINI Cooper - bad points

Ordering a MINI is an involved process, and the numerous options mean cars are built to order, so discounts are rare. With so many different configurations available, it’s also easy to rack up a big bill at the ordering stage, or specify a car that’ll be so personalised it's tricky to sell on. We’d avoid the larger alloy wheel options as these make the MINI ride very firmly, and advise going for the five-door model if you plan on carrying more than one passenger regularly. The five-door still isn’t as spacious as many rival superminis, with cramped rear seats and a compact boot.

What you get

MINI Cooper Classic

  • Alloy wheels
  • LED headlights and tail-lights
  • Ambient lighting
  • Folding rear seats
  • Alarm
  • Tyre pressure sensors
  • ISOFIX child-seat mounting points
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Bluetooth
  • DAB Radio
  • Keyless go
  • Start/stop

MINI Cooper Sport

In addition to Classic:

  • JCW badging and body styling kit
  • Sports seats
  • Driving modes
  • Rear parking sensors

MINI Cooper Exclusive

In addition to Classic:

  • Silver roof and mirror caps
  • Exclusive badging
  • Driving modes
  • Rear parking sensors

Our choice

The 1.5-litre petrol engine in the Cooper just feels more MINI than the One. It's barely any heavier on fuel and we feel it suits the car's character better. We’d choose the Cooper Classic and perhaps a couple of optional extras.

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