The 2018 Mini Cooper is an icon made better by nimble handling and infinite customization.
The 2018 Mini Cooper is a two- or four-door hatchback that prioritizes style and customization first. Its relatively small shape and perky powertrains make it unexpectedly quick, but its hatchback practicality is what makes a lasting impression.
We give the 2018 Mini Cooper a 6.3 out of 10 for that iconic style and some modicum of comfort. There are better hatchbacks out there, but do any of them have a British flag painted on the roof? Thought so. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Little on the Mini Cooper has changed from last year. This year the small car gets a standard rearview camera (ahead of a federal mandate for the safety equipment) and some package reshuffling. The fuel gauge will be slightly different and the turning indicator will stay in the same position—in other words, it’s kind of the same.
The Mini Cooper is offered as a two- or four-door hatchback, a soft-top convertible, or as an awkwardly cool four-door wagon with swinging doors at its tail called the Clubman. Regardless of body style, any Mini is instantly recognizable on the road. Mini is far removed from its days as a diminutive British automaker, it’s owned by BMW and shares some of the Bavarian behemoth’s engines and architecture.
The Cooper is powered by a chunky turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that makes just 124 horsepower. Those cars rely on eager steering and the Cooper’s relative light weight to supplement shortcomings of that engine.
Cooper S cars are powered by a turbo-4 that makes 189 hp that outkicks its own coverage. It’s uproariously fun and nimble, but also overpowered—Coopers are fun in the corners, not necessarily straight-line speed.
At the top of the heap is a John Cooper Works edition that’s available on two-door hardtop, convertible, and Clubman models. It uses an uprated turbo-4 to make 228 hp that’s delivered in a savage, hugely entertaining way.
Those engines can be mated to a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, with standard front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, which is optional on Clubman models.
Beyond power, the Mini’s practicality comes into view. The two-door hardtop models do their best impression as versatile hatchbacks with a split-folding rear seat that transforms 8.7 cubic feet of cargo space into 37 cubes. Four-door versions are more capacious: 13.1 cubic feet with second row in place, or 40.7 with the seats folded. Clubman models do the best: 17.5 cubic feet and 47.9 cubic feet respectively. That’s usable space, but when considered against the Mini’s price, which starts at $22,450 and can into the high-$30,000s, practicality takes on a new meaning.
The 2018 Mini Cooper looks the part, made better by an endless supply of customization options.
Style is in the 2018 Mini Cooper’s wheelhouse. Just the name alone evokes images of the small hatchback—that’s recall that money just can’t buy.
Available as a two- or four-door hatchback, two-door convertible, or four-door wagon-ish model, the Mini Cooper looks better than good, it looks great. We give another point for its fun—but somewhat quirky—interior. Overall, it earns an 8 out of 10 for style.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking this car from the same version released 15 years ago. Although its roots trace back to the retro-modern fad that’s now faded, the Mini Cooper manages to look fresh thanks to its high degree of customization. Owners can mix and match paint schemes and unique features to ensure that no two Minis leaving the factory will look alike. The Mini Cooper was most recently redesigned three years ago, with the most noticeable change being a longer nose. The taillights are a little more squared, but the traditional Mini cues are still in place: oval lights on the front fenders, upright windshield, and an oblong grille. Convertible and Clubman models are nearly identical from the front fenders forward, but the two diverge in wheelbases, cargo space, and obviously their roofs.
They converge in interior presentation, which is mostly universal across the Mini lineup. The Mini is less “alien techno” this time around, and focused more on comfort—with flourishes. Instruments are where you’d expect them, and for the most part, the switches are easy to understand. (The optional head-up display switch has been mercifully moved to the other side of the steering wheel, out of the center stack.) Round, eyeball vents build toward a large round center display that houses the infotainment screen and kitschy “mood ring” that changes color depending on drive mode—or something. It’s a lot to take in initially, but deeper analysis reveals that all of those shiny buttons and switches help distract from a lot of black trim and upholstery pieces. For the most part, it’s a welcome distraction.
Straight-line speed isn’t the 2018 Mini Cooper’s best attribute. Find a corner and you’ll see what we mean.
The 2018 Mini Cooper hasn’t changed from last year—that’s a good thing.
The base engine is a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that makes 124 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It’s responsible for coaxing the Cooper up to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, but in reality it feels faster thanks to its cornering speed and tossability.
That’s due to its braking and handling, and those reasons are enough to give it a 7 out of 10 on our scale. Cooper S models boast a bigger 2.0-liter turbo-4, but also boast a heftier price tag.
Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Mini Cooper is offered in three different sizes, but the longest will be the only practical family version for most people.
The Mini Cooper has grown over time—that much is clear. Depending on configuration, it can be more than a foot longer than the car it replaced in 2014, and that car was a giant compared to traditional Minis that you might remember from the 1969 movie “The Italian Job.”
The Mini Cooper is comfortable for driver and front-seat passenger, but not great for rear passengers. Four-door and Clubman models add a few more inches for leg room, but they’re not exactly spacious; the Clubman model is the only one we’d recommend for four adults. The Mini gets a 5 out of 10 for comfort on our scale.
The front seats are where we’d spend most of our time. Despite the car’s relatively short stature, our 6-foot-3 editor had plenty of leg room and head room behind the wheel, even without hitting the posts.
The back seats are relative to the model you’ve picked. The Clubman is sized similarly to a Volkswagen Golf, which can seat four adults—or five in a pinch. The four-door Mini Cooper is fine for four adults or children during short trips, but the two-door hardtop will require some horsetrading with front passengers. We consider the convertible to be a two-seater, and we hope you do too.
All Mini Coopers have a firm ride, but road noise is kept at a minimum. Turbo-4 models pipe in some of their engine noises, but the turbo-3 was strangely endearing to us with it’s chunky note.
Base two-door hardtop models boast 8.7 cubic feet of space with the seats up, which isn’t much. That improves to 37 cubic feet with the seats folded, but gets much better with longer models. The Clubman will be the choice for cargo-carrying capacity; it boasts 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space and 47.9 cubes with the seats down. On paper, that rivals much bigger sedans, but some of that is vertical space, which isn’t used as often.
Convertible models have a flip-down tailgate that opens for 5.7 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk. Perhaps 90,000 feet of sky can be considered “usable space” too?