Full 2013 MINI Cooper Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, Bluetooth is now standard on all Mini Coopers, while satellite radio is now an option instead of standard equipment. A USB/iPod adapter is now standard, and John Cooper Works models are now available with an automatic transmission.
When it comes to small cars, the 2013 Mini Cooper excels at appealing to a wide range of drivers. For the aesthetically inclined, the Cooper is easy on the eyes; both its cute sheet metal and stylized cabin exude retro chic. Yet if driving is more your thing, the Cooper's still got you covered with quick acceleration and handling sharp enough to make J.A. Henckels jealous. It's no wonder the Mini has been such an enduring favorite with us.
There isn't a loser in the Mini Cooper family, since even base models boast reasonably crisp acceleration. A turbocharged Cooper S is available and is our favored choice, but if you've got an insatiable need for speed, then we suggest the top-level John Cooper Works edition. Furthermore, all Minis can be customized to a level unmatched by any other car in this price range thanks to factory personalization options and dealer-installed accessories.
The Mini also satisfies in more mundane ways, as even the most potent version offers very good fuel economy. Its petite dimensions make the 2013 Mini Cooper an ideal companion for drivers who frequently park on congested urban streets. And despite its small footprint, the car offers comfortable and spacious accommodations for two.
That's not to say this effervescent little Brit is without flaw. The downside to its sharp handling is a firm ride that can be jarring on rough pavement. And you can forget about trying to squeeze adults into that cramped backseat; for four-seat capacity, you'll need to take a look at the long-wheelbase Cooper Clubman or four-door Countryman.
Drivers looking for a similarly adorable European charmer with a more forgiving ride (though less sporty handling) will want to check out the 2013 Fiat 500 and 2013 Volvo C30. The relatively spacious 2013 Hyundai Veloster is also worth considering. As far as convertibles go, the BMW 1 Series delivers impressive refinement, while you'll get outstanding feature content with the Volkswagen Eos and ample style with the Fiat 500 convertible.
Overall, though, the Mini Cooper is one of the most well-rounded small cars in this group, and it easily wins our affection with its charm, performance and fuel efficiency.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mini Cooper is available in two-door hatchback and convertible body styles. Each is available in three trim levels: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
The base Cooper comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, floor mats, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, multicolor ambient lighting, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, HD radio, a USB/iPod adapter and an auxiliary audio jack. The Cooper convertible model adds 16-inch alloy wheels and a full power convertible top that includes a sunroof feature. The Cooper's Sport package adds 16-inch wheels on the hatchback and 17-inch wheels on the convertible, foglamps, traction control, a rear spoiler, sport seats and hood stripes.
The Cooper S adds 16-inch wheels, a turbocharged engine, firmer suspension tuning, foglamps, sport seats and alloy pedals. The Cooper S Sport package adds 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, traction control and hood stripes. The John Cooper Works includes a more powerful turbo engine, upgraded Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit and cloth upholstery. A limited-slip differential and a firmer suspension can be fitted to both the S and the John Cooper Works.
Major optional features (some of which are grouped in packages) include adaptive xenon headlights, a dual-pane sunroof, automatic climate control, heated front seats, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Others include different wheels, parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system, smartphone app integration and a multitude of different interior trims and materials. Furthermore, many dealer-installed features are available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Mini Cooper comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped hatchback will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds (9.5 seconds with the automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy is 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined with the manual (27/35/31 convertible) and 28/36/31 with the automatic.
The Cooper S has a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration in 6.5 seconds for the manual and 6.7 seconds for the automatic. EPA estimated fuel economy is 26/35/29 with the manual and 26/34/29 with the auto.
The John Cooper Works cranks up the turbo boost to produce 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic are again available, with the latter being a new option for the JCW this year. Mini estimates a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds for the hatchback and 6.6 for the convertible. Fuel economy is 26/35/29 for the manual and 26/34/29 for the automatic.
The list of standard safety features on the 2013 Mini Cooper includes antilock disc brakes, stability control and front-seat side airbags. The hatchback comes with side curtain airbags as standard equipment, while the convertible features pop-up rollover bars and larger front side airbags that extend to head height. Traction control is optional. In Edmunds braking, various Mini Cooper S models with 17-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph between 112 and 115 feet -- excellent results.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the hatchback its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test, and its second-best score of "Average" in the side-impact and roof-crush tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The aesthetic within the Mini's cabin brims with a sense of playfulness and fun. The gigantic center-mounted speedometer is a reference to the Mini of old, but the design isn't entirely intuitive and is probably too cutesy for some tastes. The Mini is up to date in terms of electronics, though. Mini's optional Mini Connected infotainment feature offers smartphone integration using a 6.5-inch display located in the center of the car's speedometer. Downloading a free app onto your smartphone allows easy access to Facebook, Twitter and a slew of Internet radio stations, including Pandora. Additionally, Mini Connected includes Google search and send-to-car functionality.
The car's front seats are swimming in legroom, and ample headroom helps lend the cabin an open, airy feel. In back, however, things are considerably more claustrophobic, with a lack of legroom that makes seating adult passengers in comfort a virtual impossibility. With just 5.7 cubic feet on tap, there's also a dearth of cargo space, but folding the rear seats flat increases that to a very usable 24 cubes.
With the convertible, you get a sunroof function that allows you to retract the forward portion of the soft top as opposed to lowering it completely. Its tailgate-style trunk opening features an upper package tray that can be raised to allow larger items to fit in the tiny 6-cubic-foot trunk. Unlike with most convertibles, the Mini's rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate larger items, but the rollover hoops and soft-top mechanism prevent the loading of bulkier objects. Rear visibility for the convertible is poor with the top down (as it stacks rather high) and even worse with the top up.
All three trims of the 2013 Mini Cooper share an engaging personality thank to eager response to driver inputs. The trade-off is a ride that can be noticeably stiff-legged and somewhat raucous as well. Ride quality gets even firmer with the Cooper S and John Cooper Works models. For comfort's sake, our recommendation is that mainstream buyers skip the sport suspension options and the larger wheels.
Most drivers will likely be plenty happy with the base Cooper, but the thrills increase with the S, while the JCW pumps up the fun quotient to full blast. With the six-speed manual transmission, you get a remarkably precise shifter and an acquiescent clutch. Shifts in the automatic aren't especially smooth, but put it in Manual mode and you're rewarded with quick responses to inputs made via the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.