Mini Cooper review - Retro hot hatch is as fun as ever

evo staff
13 Mar 2017

Bigger and better, the Mini’s still fun. With the option of five doors, more practical too.

Evo Rating: 
£15,775 (Cooper 3 door)
Charming looks, retro interior, premium build, fun to drive
Cramped in the 3-door, bewildering option choices, small boot

Now in its third generation, the Mini has matured into a more comprehensive range. The three-door hatchbacks are now joined by a bigger, slightly more family-friendly five-door model that gains a bit of practicality for those needing it, without losing any of the unique Mini charm. Those have since been joined by a mainstay of the Mini range, the Convertible, which is something of a practicality compromise but does add an extra dimension of open-topped fun to the Mini recipe.

All Mini hatchbacks are fun to drive though; even the entry-level models are agile enough to raise a smile, while the Coopers - either petrol or D - add to that with even greater performance. Real thrill seekers are offered the Cooper S and Works models.

A broader range, but no less brilliant, Mini has found a winning formula and stuck with it. It's just a shame the styling is becoming ever more compromised by packaging and safety requirements - BMW's Minis have never been truly small vehicles, but the latest models are less successful at hiding their ever-increasing bulk.

> Click here to read our review of the Mini JCW Challenge

Mini hatchback in detail

> Performance and 0-60 time - Basic models don't look great on paper but feel peppy enough on the road. Coopers have the measure of their closest rivals, while the Cooper S is a near-150mph car. Read about the Mini Cooper performance and 0-60 time here

> Engine and gearbox - There's a wide range on offer, from a naturally-aspirated three-cylinder petrol and three-pot turbodiesel, through turbocharged threes and fours. Six-speed manual more fun than the auto. Read about the Mini Cooper engine here

> Ride and handling - Ride has improved over the previous Mini, but it's still as nimble on a twisty road. The five door only trades a little of the three-door's precision. Read about the Mini Cooper ride and handling here

> MPG and running costs - As a modern supermini, the Mini is predictably frugal on paper. MPG in the 60s isn't bad at all for the Cooper; S is quoted nearly 50mpg. Read about the Mini Cooper MPG and running costs here

> Interior and tech - Retro interior styling remains love and hate, but quality better than before. There's more space than before too. Read about the Mini Cooper interior and tech here

> Design - It's a Mini - which means it looks like a car from the 1950s inflated to 2015 proportions. Customisation options are endless. Read about the Mini Cooper design here

Prices, Specs and Rivals

The Mini Cooper three-door starts at £15,775, which seems relatively good value when the Cooper S begins at £19,130, though the three-cylinder Cooper can't quite compete on the same performance level and sits a layer below Fiesta STs, 208 GTIs and the like.

Instead, the Cooper's closest rivals are cars like the evergreen Suzuki Swift Sport (£13,999, and identical power at 134bhp) and lower-output versions of the Abarth 500, which start at £14,610. Pickings are slim in this class - most manufacturers seem to focus on either eco-friendly models or proper hot hatchbacks in this class - but the Cooper is a fine pick, with a satisfying balance between grip and power.

Above this you'll find the aforementioned Cooper S, the Cooper S Works 210 (£20,445), and the Mini John Cooper Works (£23,305) in the petrol range, while sporty diesel options include the Cooper D at £16,925, and the Cooper SD at £19,925.

Those prices are all for the three-door variants. Five-door models cost £600 more respectively, and automatic models are a further £1270, which does mean a basic £15,775 Cooper can start to look quite expensive if you need more doors and want to dispense with the left-hand pedal. More still if you want to drop the roof - the Mini Cooper Convertible begins at £18,765, or £2990 more than the three-door hatch and £270 more than a basic Mazda MX-5 1.5...

There are more affordable ways into the Mini range of course, if you're less concerned by performance than you are the car's image. A basic Mini One, powered by a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, starts at £14,225, and the 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel One D is £15,365. They don't have the performance of their sportier counterparts but they do have the quirky retro styling and the same fun handling. That's more money than many basic supermini rivals, but equivalent to a basic Audi A1 (£14,870) or DS3 (£14,735)

All Minis come with keyless, push-button start, climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connection, though you'll need to option alloy wheels for the One. The Cooper gets these as standard, and the choices for personalisation are nearly endless on any Mini.

> Watch our video review of the 5-door Mini Cooper S here

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