The first-ever four-door Hardtop features the traditional MINI compact hatchback shape. Details like the oval headlamps, the down-swept grille and the vertical tail lamps provide visual links to the original 1959 model produced by British Motor Corporation, and all Cooper models sport a power dome hood bulge.
A brand new BMW-developed platform crafted with high-strength steel helps the third-gen Hardtop shed a considerable amount of weight. In addition to increasing agility, the lower weight improves the Hardtop's acceleration and fuel economy.
The Cooper and the Cooper S look similar when viewed from the outside but the latter adopts a sportier appearance thanks to more aggressive bumpers on both ends and a mesh radiator grille. Both models stretch a little over six inches longer than their respective two-door counterpart.
Though one of the smaller vehicles currently on the market, the Hardtop is far larger than its truly miniature predecessors. Space is ample up front, while the rear seats are sufficient for small adults and children. The Hardtop offers 9.2 cubic feet of cargo space with five occupants on board, nearly a half a cubic foot more than the two-door model.
In a bid to make the Cooper more ergonomic, MINI moved the speedometer from the center of the dashboard to behind the steering wheel. The speedometer is equipped with an integrated thin-film transistor screen that can be configured to provide a wide array of information about the car, and it is flanked by a small tachometer.
A host of aircraft-inspired toggle switches on the dash enable the driver to turn on or off the parking sensors, the start/stop system, the traction control and the heads-up display (if equipped). A large, clearly visible toggle switch is used to start and stop the engine.
The real estate freed up by the speedometer has been replaced by a high-definition color touch screen that runs the automaker's infotainment system. Called MINI Connected, the software groups the car's entertainment, navigation and connectivity functions into a single unit controlled by the aforementioned touch screen or buttons located right below it. MINI Connected can run applications such as Pandora radio and it enables the driver to upload directions from a computer or a mobile device via Google Send-to-Car.
Under the Hood
Closely following the industry's downsizing trend, the entry-level Cooper is powered by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that generates 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque from just 1,250 rpms. An overboost function bumps torque up to 170 lb-ft. for short bursts of time.
The Cooper reaches 60 mph from a stop in 7.6 seconds when equipped with a manual transmission and goes on to a top speed of 129 mph
The more expensive Cooper S uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft. of torque, though the same overboost function found on the smaller engine briefly pushes that figure up to 221 lb-ft. in order to give the hatchback an acceleration boost.
The four-banger is equipped with direct fuel-injection and engineers have installed the turbocharger directly in the exhaust manifold in order to help eliminate turbo lag. The Cooper S sprints from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds when fitted with an automatic transmission and maxes out at 145 mph.
All engines send power to the front wheels via six-speed manual transmission developed by Getrag. A six-speed automatic unit is offered at an extra cost.
The MINI Hardtop offers three driving modes that can be engaged on-the-go. Called Sport Mode, the first holds gears longer and makes the suspension slightly stiffer in order to create a sportier driving experience. Green Mode lowers the shift points and disengages the transmission when the driver's foot is off the gas, while Mid-Mode blends attributes from Green and Sport to provide a well-balanced driving experience.
Trim Level Breakdown
The MINI Cooper comes standard with 15-inch five-spoke wheels, a three-spoke leather-upholstered multi-function steering wheel, Hazy Gray trim on the dash, heated mirrors and manual A/C.
Stepping up to the Cooper S model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, sport seats, black checkered trim on the dashboard, MINI's Performance Control system and front fog lights.
Highlights from the long list of options include premium paint colors, chrome trim on the bumper and door mirrors, stripes on the hood, clear turn signals, a dizzying array of upsized alloy wheels, a center armrest, heated seats, full leather upholstery, a sport steering wheel, auto dimming mirrors, a more dynamic sport suspension, LED headlights, rear fog lights, a heads-up display, an alarm, a rear-view camera, a roof-mounted spoiler (Cooper S models only) and a panoramic sunroof.
Buyers can also choose from several option packages including a Cold Weather Package, a Premium Package, a Wired Package, an upgrade for the Wired Package, a Sport Package and a Fully Loaded Package that bundles a heads-up display, a six-disc changer and a rear-view camera.
All MINI Hardtops regardless of trim level come standard with front and side airbags, side curtain airbags for the front and rear seats and electronic stability control.
While the two-door MINI has a few competitors on the market, the four-door model is a bit of an odd duck in its segment. However, buyers can cross-shop it against bigger cars like the Hyundai Veloster and the Volkswagen Golf.