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.