2013 MINI Cooper Review

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown?

8.0
on a scale of 1 to 10
Styling
10
Expert Rating
Performance
9.0
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
6.0
Expert Rating
Safety
7.0
Expert Rating
Features
8.0
Expert Rating
Fuel Economy
8.0
Expert Rating
Consumer Reviews
1 Review
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
July 3, 2013

The 2013 MINI Cooper models are small-car standouts in style and driving fun, and with several body styles and three different levels of performance you can pick your level of potency and practicality.

If you're looking for the best possible combination of performance, hatchback practicality and style, in a zippy, city-friendly small-car package, the MINI Cooper lineup pretty much has the market cornered--and that's not at all a bad thing.

Ranging from the pint-sized Cooper hatchback and convertible, to the closely related Clubman and now, the Coupe and Roadster too, MINI's range still packs plenty of personality. That holds true whether you choose the base model, the turbocharged S, or the most aggressive, performance-oriented John Cooper Works (JCW) model.

Few if any cars on the market do modern-classic styling quite like the Mini Cooper, and the entire family of retro-styled small cars it's spawned each have their own special appeal. The big-eyed, somewhat smiling front end, the short nose, the low hood, and the classy wrap-around beltline, with blacked out pillars and a 'floating' roof, are all distinctive design elements that make this modern MINI a standout. Inside, the quirky, occasionally funky design is undeniably racy, and while its retro rocker switches feel somewhat at the expense of practicality (so might the somewhat gimmicky, plate-size speedometer in the middle of the dash), and there's an element of busyness in the details, it's a cohesive look, and the color options introduced last year spruced it up.

Review continues below

MINI Coupe models (and the MINI Roadster) have essentially the same packaging from the front seats ahead, but with their lower roofline (MINI proudly calls the roof a 'helmet') there's less usable headroom; there's no rear seat in these models either--just a small cargo shelf. MINI Clubman models, on the other hand, offer a bit more headroom in back, making a somewhat more spacious four-seater, with a funky center-opening, side-hinged hatch arrangement.

At the core of the MINI Cooper is its driving experience, which is far more satisfying and responsive than most other small cars or sporty hatchbacks. From the base 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder to the 181-hp turbocharged Cooper S to the 208-hp John Cooper Works, the whole Cooper range is nimble, light, balanced, and entertaining to drive--and gas mileage ranges up to 29 mpg city, 37 highway for the base model. Steering feel is very good for a front-driver, with minimal torque steer even in the more powerful models. Simply put, there aren't many cars in the Cooper's class that offer this much fun, and the excitement just grows as you add more power and move up the range. For 2013 the John Cooper Works models can be had with an automatic transmission--meaning the entire lineup is now offered with a six-speed manual or six-speed auto.

Ride quality for the entire lineup is quite good, although road noise tends to be more present than other small-car models, and the JCW models add a touch of harshness, a trade-off most will find acceptable for the enhanced performance. Rearward visibility is an issue for all Cooper models, however, as the low seating position and high beltline block sightlines. Otherwise the interior is a comfortable place to be--for front seat passengers--with soft seats and plenty of headroom in Cooper and Clubman models. Materials are not as nice as you might expect given the MINI's price range, with hard plastics dominating the dash and control surfaces.

These models pack six standard airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, hill-start assist, and safety-enhancing options like Xenon headlamps, run-flat tires, and parking sensors. But the Cooper and Cooper S earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating of "good" in front-impact crash testing, but only "acceptable" in side impacts; roof strength likewise receives an "acceptable" score.

The 2013 MINI Cooper lineup is presented as a canvas of sorts; base equipment is ample but rather spartan, and it leaves plenty of space for equipment upgrades and personalization. Optional upgrades include MINI Connected with Apps capability, a 10-speaker audio system, and navigation. The Bluetooth and USB/iPod interfaces have been made standard for 2013.

10

2013 MINI Cooper

Styling

With just the right mix of modern and retro, the 2013 MINI Cooper has a style that's unique...but perhaps a little too cute for some tastes.

There are few, if any, other new cars that do modern-classic styling quite like the Mini Cooper, and the entire family of retro-styled small cars it's spawned.

The big-eyed front end, the short nose, the low hood, and the classy wrap-around beltline, with blacked out pillars and a 'floating' roof, are all distinctive design elements that make this modern MINI a standout.

Inside, the quirky, occasionally funky design is undeniably racy, and while its retro rocker switches feel somewhat at the expense of practicality (so might the somewhat gimmicky, plate-size speedometer in the middle of the dash), and there's an element of busyness in the details, it's a cohesive look, and the color options introduced last year spruced it up.

Cross-check cloth and leather upholstery was subbed in last year, as were new seven-hole wheels. Sportier Cooper S models feature functional brake ducts, less chrome, 17-inch alloys, striping, foglamps, and aero bodywork, as well as sport seats and alloy pedals inside. 

MINI Coupe models (and the MINI Roadster) have essentially the same packaging from the front seats ahead, but with their lower roofline (MINI proudly calls the roof a 'helmet') there's less usable headroom; there's no rear seat in these models either--just a small cargo shelf. MINI Clubman models, on the other hand, offer a bit more headroom in back, making a somewhat more spacious four-seater, with a funky center-opening, side-hinged hatch arrangement.

With a long list of accessories and add-ons, the MINI Cooper models remains among the most customizable models on the market. Through a huge array of color combinations, interior choices, and graphics packages, and a MINI Yours customization program, with things like a two-tone leather dash and steering wheel, custom alloy wheels, special mirror caps, and unique upholstery patterns, if you have some extra budget, you can pretty much create your own look.

9

2013 MINI Cooper

Performance

The 2013 MINI Cooper is one of the sportiest front-drive cars on the market, and you don't have to get the top Cooper S or JCW versions to find it engaging.

Between the base versions of the 2013 MINI Cooper lineup, the higher-performance Cooper S, and the top John Cooper Works (JCW) versions, there's a wide span of performance to suit nearly all small-car shopper tastes. 

Even the base versions of the MINI Cooper can be called 'zippy.' Even though their 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is only rated at 121 horsepower, but that's for just over 2,500 pounds for the manual car. Stick with the manual version, not the automatic, and it has satisfying pep and good gas mileage. But the Cooper S and its 181-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four is the way to go for anyone who likes speed. You only drop about 2 mpg in having 60 more horses, with the manual transmission, and what you get in return is hot-hatch verve.

The John Cooper Works model takes things up another notch, deliver 208 horsepower from more turbo boost, while livening up the suspension as well. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in the JCW version, as it is across the model line, and for the first time for 2013 the six-speed automatic is available on the JCW as well as the rest of the lineup. Steering-wheel paddle shifters are included in all the automatic versions. JCW versions of the MINI Coupe are the fastest in the brand's range, with a 0-60-mph time of just 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph. They also feature an active spoiler that will raise once you've passed 50 mph and recede again below 37 mph.

Move up the line from the base Cooper, to the Cooper S, and to the JCW, and you get a somewhat stiffer suspension and larger alloy wheels. All the MINI Cooper models are light and nimble, and eager companions whether on tight city streets or twisty roads. The run-flat tires in the Cooper S do hurt ride quality a bit--and the John Cooper Works is rougher still--yet Each step up the Cooper line brings with it crisper suspension tuning and larger alloy wheels as standard equipment, but all Coopers are light, nimble, and ready companions on twisty roads.

6

2013 MINI Cooper

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Cooper models may charm, but they don't have a backseat that's up for adult duty; ride comfort isn't great; and Coupes and Roadsters have precious little cargo space.

True to its name, the MINI Cooper models, as well as the related MINI Coupe and MINI Roadster, are small. Despite that, they make the most of their interior space, at least for those in front.

No matter which model you choose, there's enough space for even tall drivers in front, with plenty of legroom. Coupe and Roadster models do give up some headroom in the name of a different roofline, but they're still adequate unless you're well over six feet tall. The back seats are marginally useful at best, however.

Materials in the MINI Cooper range are generally good, and can be upgraded to near-luxury levels, but fit and finish occasionally leave a bit to be desired, with squeaks and rattles becoming prominent even during the first year of ownership. Likewise, wind and road noise are above the norm.

We continue to find ergonomics puzzling in the Cooper and Coupe lineups, and they're clearly cases of fashion over function. Some common-use items are located out of reach, or in odd locations; seat adjusters are on the inboard sides, for instance, and infotainment controls are placed low on the center tunnel. But once you're used to it, these models are quite functional.

MINI Cooper models are as useful as you might expect for a small, three-door hatchback. Cargo space is fair in the hatch, at 23.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Coupe models have no rear seat, but they have a small cargo shelf just behind occupants' heads, as well as a small trunk good for 9.8 cubic feet of gear--that's barely enough space for a couple of carry-ons. MINI Clubman models offer a higher-utility package, on the other hand, with four usable seats and a unique dual-door, center-opening hatch arrangement that's hinged at the sides.

Across the model line, the MINI Cooper, Coupe, and Clubman models aren't particularly soft-riding or all that well-isolated from road noise. The ride quality in the Cooper S is hurt somewhat by its standard run-flat tires, while the John Cooper Works model is a bit rougher still.

7

2013 MINI Cooper

Safety

The MINI Cooper models have excellent handling and a strong list of safety features, but their safety scores aren't so impressive.

The 2013 MINI Cooper family hasn't earned safety ratings that are all that impressive. But with a reasonably good set of safety equipment and excellent handling--with which you might avoid accidents--you shouldn't disqualify these models on safety alone.

The Cooper and Cooper S earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating of "good" in front-impact crash testing, but only "acceptable" in side impacts. Roof strength likewise receives an "acceptable" score. The MINI Cooper hasn't been tested by the federal government, but it does earn a five-star rollover resistance rating.

But what makes the MINI Cooper a safer bet than it might sound, given its diminutive size and ratings, is a good set of features. Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and hill-start assist are all standard, and options that may aid safety include xenon headlamps and parking sensors.

8

2013 MINI Cooper

Features

Watch the bottom line; the 2013 MINI Cooper offers plenty of customization potential, but it can add up quickly.

The 2013 MINI Cooper lineup is presented as a canvas of sorts; base equipment is ample but rather spartan, and it leaves plenty of space for equipment upgrades and personalization.

In its base configuration, the Cooper is simple, and some may think that it's a little short on value compared to other small cars. Standard equipment includes: power windows, locks and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary input; ambient lighting; and keyless ignition.

Options on the Cooper lineup include a ten-speaker stereo and a joystick-controlled navigation/infotainment system. The USB/iPod interface and Bluetooth phone connectivity, both features that used to be optional, are now standard for 2013.

The interior and exterior likewise can be highly personalized to suit the driver's tastes, from custom roof decals to contrasting body/mirror paint and a wide range of vinyl decals. Performance and handling packages are also available to further enhance your MINI Cooper.

8

2013 MINI Cooper

Fuel Economy

The 2013 MINI Cooper is even more fuel-efficient than it looks--although green shoppers will probably want to skip the JCW.

The 2013 MINI Coupe S or MINI Cooper John Cooper Works are among several models in this lineup that can be seen as bona fide performance cars; but it's easy to forget that the Cooper family is mostly a family of light, compact, economical four-cylinder hatchbacks.

On that matter, the MINI Cooper models are surprisingly efficient, scoring 29/37 mpg city/highway in base form with the manual transmission. Opt for the automatic and you'll only lose 1 mpg in both city and highway numbers.

The John Cooper Works is the most powerful model in the range, but it still earns 25/33 mpg. Cooper S may be the best compromise from a gas mileage versus performance standpoint, as they get 27/35 mpg with the manual and 26/34 mpg with the automatic.

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

1 Review
5 star
100%
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
May 28, 2015
2013 MINI Cooper 2-Door Coupe John Cooper Works

JCW: Great & Fun Mini to Drive

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
The JCW is a great car, is a Reachable option of a sports car is agile and fun on winding roads. Will make you always wear a smile on your face
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Compare the 2013 MINI Cooper against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the MINI Cooper?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used