2021 MINI Cooper

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
March 4, 2021

Buying tip

Upgrading to the stronger Cooper S and the larger four-door model maximizes the fun and practicality without overinflating the price.

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No small city car has as much charm or is as much fun to drive as the 2021 Mini Cooper.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Mini Cooper? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Mini Cooper small hatchback can be had as a two- or four-door hardtop, or in two-door form as a convertible, electric SE, or performance-oriented John Cooper Works (JCW). It doesn’t have many natural competitors left, but parent company BMW offers an X1 small crossover without the charm of the Mini Cooper.

Is the 2021 Mini Cooper a good car?

Review continues below

The 2021 Mini Cooper is a stylish, fun-to-drive small hatchback that makes up for its cramped space and middling safety ratings with oodles of charm. It earns a TCC Rating of 6.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Mini Cooper?

The welcome return of a 6-speed manual transmission across most of the lineup headlines the biggest developments for the smallest Mini for 2021. The Sidewalk Edition returns exclusively to the Cooper S convertible, the Oxford Edition can now be had with any hardtop, and the SE electric model is available to order.   

The 2021 Mini Cooper effuses charm and personality, with available British heritage elements backed by BMW quality. Everything from rounded door handles to round headlights and, on the inside, circular vents and a circular head unit, make the urban runabout as cute—and as circular—as a button.

Three turbocharged engines and three transmission choices include a 184-hp battery electric vehicle with only 110 miles of range. Weighing under 3,000 pounds, the Mini Cooper and its turbo engines return fuel economy of 30 mpg combined, on average. The turbo-3 base model hustles to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, while at the other end of the spectrum, the 228-hp turbo-4 in the JCW does it under six seconds. The Cooper S stitches together fun and value the best, and the standard 6-speed manual transmission conspires with direct steering and superb if not stiff handling for a hoot every time you get behind the wheel. 

Convertible and two-door models allegedly seat four people but we wouldn’t. The longer, roomier four-door models seat five and have more cargo room, but the Cooper in either size is really meant for two, and a fun-loving mutt. 

Synthetic leather upholstery graces base models while heated leather seats can be optioned, but Mini skimps on tech features that should be available if not standard on all three trims. Apple CarPlay comes standard only on the top Iconic trim, and Android Auto isn’t even available, for example. 

Mini’s mixed safety scorecard is buoyed by standard automatic emergency braking, but Mini could offer more driver assist systems to improve small car safety in an SUV world. 

How much does the 2021 Mini Cooper cost?

Available in three trims and four powertrains, the 2021 Mini Cooper starts reasonably enough at $23,250 but jumps to the ridiculous with the JCW convertible in top Iconic trim for $45,750.

Where is the 2021 Mini Cooper made?

It’s made in England and the Netherlands.


2021 MINI Cooper


The many styles of the 2021 Mini Cooper hatchback reflect its cosmopolitan appeal.

Is the 2021 Mini Cooper a good-looking car?

Offered in two- and four-door styles, hardtop and convertible, gas or electric, and as many special editions as model years since the brand launched in 1959, there’s a Mini for every taste. And they all look at home in capital cities across the world, as they have for decades. Its urban chic style, quirky interior, and undeniable charm earn it a point each to an 8. 

The convertible, John Cooper Works, and SE electric only come with two doors, whereas a larger four-door variant can be had with base Cooper or uprated Cooper S models. 

It wears its British heritage on its sleeve—on its taillights and mirror caps—with optional Union Jack designs, and available racing stripes fuel autocross dreams. 

Round, Porsche-like headlights, round fog lights, round wheel arches, rounded side mirrors, a round fuel door, and round door handle housings—even a rounded grille—give it that circular appeal that some may find too cutesy. So much so you may want to pinch the convertible’s cheeks. 

The round theme carries over inside with an LED-ringed center stack, round gauges, dials, vents, and even door handles.

Review continues below


2021 MINI Cooper


You don’t need to be a racecar driver to have fun in the 2021 Mini Cooper.

Three turbocharged engines and three transmission choices present a range from the punchy to the powerful. A short wheelbase, precise steering, stiff ride, and athletic suspension make every front-wheel-drive Cooper fun, by incremental degrees. It’s a 7. 

Is the Mini Cooper 4WD?

No, it’s front-wheel drive only.

How fast is the Mini Cooper?

It’s quick, with a 134-hp 1.5-liter turbo-3 base model hitting 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, according to Mini. A lovely 6-speed manual lets you mash the clutch and flick through gears for a visceral experience perfectly matched for the go-kart-like thrills of the hatchback; the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is no slouch either, but adds $1,250 to the price.

Cooper S models upgrade to a 189-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that hits 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. It’s about $4,000 more, and hits the sweet spot for everyday driving, whereas the JCW for $6,000 more than the Cooper S removes the value proposition from Mini’s equation. It uses a 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, and with the optional 8-speed automatic for another $1,500, it hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. It’s a hot hatch with upgrades meant for tracking, such as Brembo brakes, an electronic locking front differential, and a more aggressive suspension that can make for a jarring ride away from the track, especially with optional 18-inch wheels. 

The heaviest SE electric model has a 184-hp electric motor that’s quick off the line but plateaus with increasing demand, with a 60 mph time of 6.9 seconds.  

The punchy turbos mix with a go-kart like ride and road-hugging handling. The smallest Mini, with its short wheelbase and light weight, is a joy to drive, even though when cruising it rides firmly and the suspension tunes to the stiff side. It’s a worthy tradeoff once you leave the highway for tight urban turns or undulating twisties.

Review continues below


2021 MINI Cooper

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Mini Cooper is small but sophisticated.

If the name didn’t give it away, the Mini Cooper is small with limited rear seat space and cargo room. Its BMW-approved finish makes it more of a luxury car than a budget car, which restores it to a 4 here.

Two-door models seat four, and even though the JCW and Cooper S are about an inch longer, the interior dimensions remain the same, with a cramped 30.8 inches of rear leg room and only 8.7 cubic feet of hatch space. Fold down the rear seats and it balloons to crossover proportions with 34 cubic feet of space. 

Predictably, the convertible holds only 7.6 cubic feet of cargo, total. 

Four-door models are 6.3 inches longer, and have a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase for more interior room, including 1.5 inches more rear leg room. Mini wedged in a fifth seat, but it’s best left unoccupied. Unlike the two-door, the four-door’s hatch is functional for a vacation with 13.1 cubic feet that opens up to 40.7 cubic feet with the seats down. 

For two, the 2021 Mini Cooper is a posh place to be, with standard synthetic leather seats and a 6.5-inch display or touch screen ringed by LEDs. Available leather seats with 6-way adjustability and side bolsters that hug but don’t squeeze up the comfort level.

Review continues below

2021 MINI Cooper


Automatic emergency braking comes standard on the 2021 Mini Cooper.

How safe is the Mini Cooper?

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have completed a full run of crash tests on the Cooper in a while, so we leave it unrated.

Safety options include a $1,000 Driver Assistance Package that adds adaptive cruise control and parking sensors.

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2021 MINI Cooper


Impressive creature comforts confound the lack of standard tech conveniences in the 2021 Mini Cooper.

The various body styles and powertrain choices for the 2021 Mini Cooper can further be broken down by three trim levels, Classic, Signature, and Iconic, or in other words, basic, best value, and too expensive, respectively. 

For $23,250, the Classic rides on 15-inch wheels and comes with creature comforts such as synthetic leather seats. But it lacks technological conveniences such as a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility. Such features that come standard on competitors don’t come standard until the top Iconic trim that costs more than $30,000. Android Auto users should look elsewhere entirely.

That’s a money grab we don’t appreciate, so the point earned for the creature comforts gets subtracted for the lack of basic tech features. But the 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with an excellent 3 years or 36,000 miles of scheduled maintenance gives Mini owners peace of mind that’s worth a point. It’s a 6. 

Which Mini Cooper should I buy?

Even though it doesn’t look as good as the two-door, we prefer the convenience of the four-door hardtop Cooper S with the uprated turbo-4 in Signature trim for $32,750. It comes with LED headlights and fog lights, keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, head-up display, panoramic roof, but you’d still have to pay for the $1,000 Navigation Package to get Apple CarPlay. Adaptive cruise control is part of another $1,000 package. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Mini Cooper?

The top of the Mini Cooper performance and price line is the John Cooper Works two-door convertible in top Iconic trim for $45,750. It comes with a potent 228-hp turbo-4 with an 8-speed automatic, leather upholstery, Harman Kardon sound, power folding mirrors, and Apple CarPlay, bless their hearts.

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2021 MINI Cooper

Fuel Economy

The small 2021 Mini Cooper comes with several efficient powertrain choices.

Is the 2021 Mini Cooper good on gas?

Yes. Three turbocharged engines and the electric SE model let the small car go far with any powertrain choice, but the manual reduces efficiency by 1 mpg combined, on average. The most efficient and most popular base model uses a 1.5-liter turbo-3 that gets an EPA-rated 28 mpg city, 37 highway, 31 combined in convertible or either hardtop. That’s a 6. 

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 hardtops get 26/35/30 mpg combined, and the extra weight of the convertible trims another 1 mpg. The more potent turbo-4 in the JCW with the manual transmission rate at 23/33/27 mpg combined. 

The SE electric Cooper is the most efficient Mini, with a 110-mile range and an MPGe of 108 combined.

Review continues below

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on Cooper FWD
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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety N/A
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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