Mini Cooper buying guide

It's the Mini that everyone wants: read our full guide to every Mini Cooper on sale

BuyaCar team
Jan 24, 2017

The Mini brand has been around since 1959. And for almost as long, there has been a sporty Cooper version. 

It’s named after John Cooper, a racing car designer and engineer who, in 1961, persuaded the manufacturer of Minis to create a performance version with his help. An even sportier Cooper S version followed soon after.

Today, you can buy a standard Minis but it’s the Cooper models people want, in petrol, diesel, and now hybrid forms. 

These cars are faster than the standard Mini - called One - because they have more powerful engines, and also come with more equipment as standard. Every car in the Mini range is available as a Cooper model or an even faster Cooper S version.

Get up to top speed with our guide to Mini Coopers below


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Best Mini Cooper for the classic experience

Mini Cooper 3-door

The current Mini hatchback, in three and five-door body styles, is bigger than ever before, but still compact enough to feel small and manoeuvrable in town. It's nippy and agile - darting from one direction to the next as you turn the steering wheel - while giving the driver a feel for how much the wheels are turning and the amount of grip that they have. This makes it an ideal car for the extra power that comes with the Cooper treatment.

At 7.9 seconds from 0 to 62mph, the Cooper is brisk enough and its 1.5-litre engine sounds sporty, with a burble from the exhaust as you accelerate. Nudge the accelerator and it revs quickly, giving it an energetic feel. The Cooper S is faster still to accelerate (0-62mph in 6.8sec) but its engine has less of the Cooper's character. There is a Cooper D option, but this is relatively slow, accelerating to 62mph in 9.2sec.

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Best Mini Cooper for top-down thrills

Mini Convertible Cooper

The Mini Convertible is based on the Hatchback, which means that it's more spacious inside than previous models. With the roof chopped off and replaced with a foldable fabric one, the car needs extra reinforcing to ensure that the metal doesn't flex and wobble when you drive over bumps. As a result, it’s around 100kg heavier than the hatchback. This blunts performance with the result that the Cooper version of the convertible does 0-62mph in 8.8sec - almost a second slower than the Hatchback.

But if you buy a convertible, you're unlikely to be focused on getting the maximum performance out of your car: this Mini is more about leisurely open-air driving, with the occasional blast down country roads. For that, the Cooper - and its lively 1.5-litre engine - is ideal, even though the Cooper S does bring more power and performance.

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Best Mini Cooper for the family

Mini Clubman Cooper D

The Mini Clubman has become a proper family car, with as much boot space as hatchbacks such as the Audi A3 and VW Golf, but without losing its Mini character. It might not be quite as light and nimble as the smaller Hatchback but the Clubman still has a sense of what Mini calls go-kart handling, thanks to the quick responses when you turn the steering wheel and the lack of leaning in corners.

But because it is more practical, the diesel-powered Cooper D may make more sense thanks to its improved fuel economy and strong performance that comes without having to rev the engine - making it easier to overtake at higher speeds.

The petrol-powered Cooper might be more fun, but it takes 9.1sec to accelerate from 0-62mph. The Cooper D takes 8.6sec and feels quicker. The Cooper SD Clubman is more than a second faster than that, but you'll really have to want that performance to pay a £2,000 premium for that car.

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Best Mini Cooper for big days out

Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

As the largest and heaviest Mini available, it's no surprise that the brand new Mini Countryman feels less sporty when fitted with the same engines as the rest of the Mini range.

Although the petrol engines offer reasonable performance, you do have to rev them to really get the car moving. This badly affects fuel economy.

We've only tested the petrol cars so far, but the diesel engines are likely to make a lot of sense because they are likely to produce their power without the need to rev the engine hard, giving you a better mix of performance and fuel economy.

However, the pick of the range may be the Cooper S E All4. This is the first hybrid Mini, combining a battery, motor and petrol engine. It can be charged up to power the car for around 20 miles on electric power alone before the engine is needed, and can also recover energy that's normally lost during braking. For maximum performance and acceleration that's close to the sportiest John Cooper Works model, the engine and motor can work together.

We don't yet know whether the extra weight of the battery will make the Countryman feel heavier and less fun to drive, so it's worth waiting until the verdict is in later this year.
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Best Mini Cooper for sporty looks but lots of space

Mini Paceman Cooper S

The Paceman is not long for this world: poor sales mean that it's due to end production soon and won't be replaced. This means there should be some good deals on the final models so again, more powerful versions may be cheaper than you think.

Think of the Paceman as a reasonably roomy and practical coupe and you won’t be far wrong. It's designed to be a sportier version of the Countryman, and so suits the performance of the Cooper S, with a petrol engine that accelerates from 0-62mph in 7.4sec - considerably faster than the diesel options.

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Best Mini Cooper for performance

Mini John Cooper Works (JCW)

If Mini Cooper models are laugh-out-loud fun to drive, then the John Cooper Works (JCW) versions add several squeals for good measure.

Most Minis come with a JCW option, but the classic choice is the three-door hatchback. Its 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.3sec is better than another 'hot hatchback', the Ford Fiesta ST, and the car has been upgraded and tweaked to make it grippier in corners.

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