2019 MINI Cooper Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

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March 5, 2019

Buying tip

It’s tempting to pay more for the hotter S trim, but though base Mini Coopers are lighter, cheaper, and arguably more fun to drive.

The 2019 Mini Cooper makes no apologies for its heritage, packing charm and fun into a pint-size package.

The 2019 Mini Cooper is a two- or four-door hatchback with heaps of British-themed style for a premium price. A small stature, peppy engines, and well-sorted suspension make for a fun driving experience, but as its name suggests, practicality is an issue.

We give it 5.5 out of 10 overall for its commitment to style and fun at the expense of usability and value. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2019, the Cooper gets a handful of changes to keep it fresh, including nifty Union Jack taillights among other visual updates. New wheels, leather upholstery, upgraded interior surfaces, and customization options are available, and a new 6.5-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth integration comes standard this year.

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Mini has slapped its “Cooper” name on every trim of every model it offers, but the brand’s lineup isn’t so hard to understand after all. Mini offers Hardtop hatchbacks, their Convertible counterparts, and the Clubman wagon (plus the Countryman crossover covered separately), all of which are available in base Cooper, sportier Cooper S, and sportiest John Cooper Works trims.

The Hardtop hatchback is available in classic 2-door or awkwardly practical 4-door guise, but both are heavily imbued with that classic British style, almost to a cartoonish extent. The addition of Union Jack taillights for 2019 turn up the Anglicism to 11, but Mini buyers aren’t in it for the subtlety. Clubman models add length and barn doors at the rear, as well as unique taillights, but all Coopers still look as fun and eager as when the reborn version was introduced almost two decades ago.

The interior is all circles—literally, there are circles everywhere—but material and build quality are high thanks to Mini’s BMW parent. Quality comes at a cost, and while base Cooper models can be relatively inexpensive, top-tier versions quickly push $40,000 or more.

Cooper models are powered by a rev-happy turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that makes 124 horsepower, while Cooper S variants get an extra cylinder and 189 hp. Those looking for the most raucous Mini experience should opt for the John Cooper Works model, which burbles and pops out 228 horsepower from an upgraded version of the Cooper S’s turbo-4.

With either a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission on each model, the Cooper is fun and frugal, and still boasts “go-kart-like” handling despite its hefty curb weight. Front-wheel-drive is standard on every model, while the Clubman is the only model besides the Countryman that gets all-wheel drive as an option.

In terms of practicality, there’s not much to speak of. Clubman models have enough cargo and passenger space to compete with other hatchbacks on the market, but the Hardtop and Convertible models are starved for space as the brand’s name would imply.

While not every Cooper has been crash tested, the standard 2-door Hardtop receives 4 stars overall from the federal government and a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and active safety features like automatic emergency braking are available across the range at an extra cost.

A wide variety of engines, transmissions, and drivetrains yield varying fuel economy numbers, but all are relatively efficient, averaging from 24 mpg combined for the hottest models to 32 mpg combined for the most frugal using costly premium fuel.

 
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2019 MINI Cooper

Styling

The 2019 Mini Cooper is unmistakable though more cartoonish, and endless customization options set it apart from other subcompacts.

The Mini brand is built on nostalgia and British idolism, and from a design standpoint, the 2019 Mini Cooper knocks it out of the park. We give it 8 out of 10 overall for its commitment to retro design and fun, high-quality interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Though its design has gotten more exaggerated with each generation, there’s no mistaking the Mini Cooper for anything else on the road. Big, round headlights, those iconic proportions, and just the right amount of contrasting colors and details are what set Minis apart among other small cars, but with each generation the Cooper has gotten more cartoonish. While the first-generation Cooper from the early 2000s was an exercise in retro realism, the 2019 version looks a bit like a caricature, especially with the ridiculously overwrought new Union Jack taillights.

We miss the split doors of the old Clubman, too, but the longer wagon version looks svelte and keeps the barn doors at the rear, to boot.

Inside, the Cooper takes its circular theme to the extreme, replacing the old center-mounted speedometer with a light ring that surrounds the now-standard infotainment screen. Toggle switches for various accessories as well as the ignition are a cool touch, and thanks to parent company BMW, everything you can feel is high-quality and buttoned-down, especially with optional fine leather equipped.

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2019 MINI Cooper

Performance

Though a pair of potent turbo-fours do the trick, the most fun 2019 Mini Cooper is the base model.

The 2019 Mini Cooper is as fun to drive as it looks, just not necessarily in a straight line. We give it 7 out of 10 for its turbo-aided power and go-kart handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Unchanged despite a visual refresh this year, all base Cooper models have a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder that makes 124 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for 60 mph in about 7.4 seconds, which isn’t bad. Opting for the Cooper S nets a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 189 hp and 206 lb-ft that shaves a second off the 0-60 time. The costly John Cooper Works trim available on all but the four-door hatchback ups the ante to 228 hp and 236 lb-ft from turbo-4 engine.

All Coopers are available with 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmissions, though we’d suggest opting for a Cooper S if you choose the former as the three-cylinder is best paired with the manual. Every Cooper also comes with customizable drive modes such as Sport and Green, which perform their intended functions by tensing everything up or slowing it down, respectively.

Ride quality is predictably firm due to its small stature, but the Cooper handles road imperfections well even on larger 18-inch wheels. We recommend 17-inchers, though, as they look better and improve the ride noticeably.

The real party piece of the Cooper, however, is still its steering and handling. While the steering wheel provides less resistance and feedback than in years past, a short wheelbase and tight suspension make the Cooper a delight to drive, and surprisingly, the base model with a manual transmission might be the most fun. Thanks to less weight and a rev-happy power plant, the 3-cylinder Cooper may be down on power, but it’s a joy to toss around.

Front-wheel drive is standard across the range and all-wheel drive is available on the Clubman, but unless you choose one of the two four-cylinder engines, the additional weight of two more driven wheels can be a burden.

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2019 MINI Cooper

Comfort & Quality

The 2019 Mini Cooper comes in three sizes, but only the biggest is suitable for more than two people.

The 2019 Mini Cooper is just that: mini. Though the iconic microcar has grown tremendously over the years, only the biggest version is suitable for family use. We give it 4 out of 10 for comfort and quality as a result. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As a two-person vehicle, the Mini Cooper is plenty comfortable with supportive front seats and a tall greenhouse. Rear-seat passengers will not fare well on anything longer than a jaunt around town, however, even in the four-door hardtop version.

The longer Clubman provides similar interior space to a Volkswagen Golf, and is therefore suitable for four adults in a pinch. Its long roof also adds cargo space, and though the barn doors can be a pain if backed into a parking spot against another vehicle, the 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space (47.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded) dwarfs the 8.7 cubes (37 maximum) of the hatchback.

Predictably, convertible models take a cargo space hit because the soft top negates the hatchback design, and only 5.7 cubic feet is available in the tiny trunk.

Material quality is good for the price, especially if you shell out for some of the optional fine leather available through Mini’s customization program. The brand has clearly borrowed from its Bavarian parent, as all soft-touch materials look and feel the part, though the piano-black trim is prone to fingerprints.

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2019 MINI Cooper

Safety

The 2019 Mini Cooper gets mixes crash test scores, and active safety equipment is almost prohibitively expensive.

Crash-testing authorities can’t seem to agree on the 2019 Mini Cooper’s scores, and while available, active safety equipment is seriously expensive. Therefore, we give the Mini Cooper 2 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2019 Cooper hatchback gets four stars overall from the NHTSA, receiving only four stars for the front driver’s side and just three stars for rear seat side impact. We dial back two points from average due to the government’s concerns.

However, the independent IIHS saw differently and awarded the 2019 Cooper with “Good” ratings all around, though the headlights only received an “Acceptable” rating and the child seat anchors were “Marginal” in terms of ease-of-use.

All Coopers are fitted with eight standard airbags, a surprisingly high number for such a small car, but despite its tall, boxy greenhouse, outward visibility is impaired by thick pillars.

A rearview camera is standard, but to get active safety features like forward collision warning with automatic braking and lane departure warning requires selecting the top-tier Iconic trim and a $1,000 package, adding several thousand dollars to the overall price for tech that’s increasingly standard on rivals.

With another point lost for the high cost of active safety gear, the Mini lands at an unimpressive 3 out of 10.

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2019 MINI Cooper

Features

The good news is that it’s possible to have the 2019 Mini Cooper any way you want. The bad news is that it can get very, very expensive.

Though the trims and options have been simplified, the hallmark of the 2019 Mini Cooper is customization, but individuality comes at a cost. We give the Cooper 6 out of 10 for features, with a point above average for its customizability. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2019 Cooper starts at $22,750 (including a $850 destination charge) for the base, 3-cylinder, manual-transmission, 3-door Cooper hatchback, but good luck finding one. Customization options get very expensive, very fast. Touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth compatibility and a USB port is standard as well as 15-inch alloy wheels and Union Jack LED taillights, but beyond that, almost everything comes at an extra cost. Each Mini comes in three trims, Classic, Signature, and Iconic, with each level adding more features and the option for even more customization.

Fine perforated leather upholstery is available on upper trims, as well as real metal interior trim and LED headlights, Harman Kardon audio, adaptive dampers, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with navigation, a head-up display, and more.

Strangely, the $5,000 Fully Loaded package doesn’t actually add every option in the book but is required to get automatic emergency braking for another $1,000 on top of that.

You can easily spec a base Cooper hardtop close to $40,000, and a fully-loaded John Cooper Works Clubman with all-wheel-drive rings in at more than $50,000. Shop carefully.

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2019 MINI Cooper

Fuel Economy

Extra weight and power come with a penalty, but the 2019 Mini Cooper is relatively fuel efficient in the right guise.

The 2019 Mini Cooper is thrifty in most configurations, but more powerful models use a fair amount of gas. We give it 6 out of 10 for fuel economy based on the mainstream models. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Because the Mini Cooper comes in so many forms, its fuel economy varies. We’ll break it down by looking at some of the more common configurations.

The base, 3-cylinder 2019 Cooper hardtop is rated at 28 mpg city, 38 highway, and 32 combined pg with the manual transmission and 27/35/30 mpg with the automatic. Four-door models with the same engine are rated at 28/37/31 mpg with the manual and 27/35/30 mpg and the convertible manages identical figures for either transmission.

The Cooper S includes a turbo-4 and is  rated at 26 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 28 combined with the automatic.

The long-roof Clubman is heavier and thus thirstier, coming in at 26 to 28 mpg with the base 3-cylinder engine and just 26 to 27 mpg with the turbo-4.

Finally, John Cooper Works models predictably manage worse, as low as 24 mpg combined.

All Minis run on premium unleaded fuel, which makes them more expensive to fill up at every stop.

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5.5
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety 2
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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