Used 2015 MINI Cooper Review

Edmunds expert review

Although the 2015 Mini Cooper isn't very practical, it's a sophisticated little car that's fuel-efficient and great fun to drive.




What's new for 2015

The 2015 Mini Cooper hatchback is now available as both the traditional two-door as well as a new four-door. The John Cooper Works trim level has returned for the hatchback as well. All 2015 Mini Cooper models come standard with heated mirrors and automatic climate control. The Cooper convertible once again carries over with previous-generation hardware.

Vehicle overview

The 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop (Mini's moniker for the two- and four-door Cooper hatchbacks) marks the second year for the third-generation Mini Cooper. Last year's full redesign brought with it a pair of new turbocharged engines, a much-improved automatic transmission, bigger dimensions, an overhauled interior with upgraded materials and a host of fresh features. The big additions this year are a four-door Cooper hatchback with more cargo room and enough space for five passengers and a new, more powerful John Cooper Works hardtop.

The theme for the 2015 Mini Cooper, if there is one, seems to be an increase in space, while retaining all the fun. The two-door hatchback is larger than its predecessor, but it remains an unusually small car that fully warrants the Mini name. The newly introduced four-door hatchback is only 6.3 inches longer than the two-door, so it'll still fit in some pretty tight parking spaces. Interior space bridges the gap between the smaller two-door Cooper and the larger Countryman. The backseat of the two-door provides more room than the previous-generation car, and the four-door hatchback gets a fifth seat, but both places will still be uncomfortably tight for adult passengers. Similarly, maximum cargo capacity for the two-door is up more than 50 percent at 38 cubic feet, and the four-door gets a little bit more room with 40.7 cubes, but both of those measurements are considerably less than what you get in a comparable VW Golf, for example. If practicality is a priority, this isn't the car for you.

On the flip side, the Mini's a cinch to park just about anywhere, and the competition generally can't match its nimble, champing-at-the-bit driving character. Under the hood, the hatchback's base turbocharged three-cylinder engine or upgraded four-cylinder in the S version are both quite likable thanks to strong power and fuel efficiency. Even more power is available in the form of the new John Cooper Works hatchback version with an impressive 228-horsepower turbocharged engine. As for the convertible (which still features Mini's old 1.6-liter four-cylinder), the base engine is lackluster, but as long as you step up to the Cooper S or John Cooper Works version you're in for a treat every time you run through the gears.

If you're shopping for a stylish subcompact, one of our favorites is the aforementioned 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the high-performance version, the GTI. Both offer comparable refinement, excellent driving dynamics and more space in a reasonably compact wrapper. The cheaper 2015 Fiat 500 is an adorable European charmer, but it lacks the Cooper's sophistication, rich feature set and dynamic excellence. The relatively versatile 2015 Hyundai Veloster is also worth considering, particularly with the optional turbocharged engine. As far as convertibles go, the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata is arguably a more rewarding drive, but you'll be giving up a backseat. Overall, though, the Edmunds.com "B" rated 2015 Mini Cooper is one of the most entertaining small cars you can buy and is the only car to make it as a recommended subcompact in our 2015 Coupe Buying Guide.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Mini Cooper is available as a two- or four-door hatchback (hardtop) and a two-door convertible. The two-door hatchbacks and the convertible are both available in base Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW) trims. The four-door hatchback is available in base Cooper and Cooper S trims. The convertible features a power soft top with a glass rear window and a partial-open "sunroof" function.

Both the two- and four-door Cooper hatchback models come standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, adjustable driving modes, full power accessories, automatic climate control, a refrigerated glovebox, cruise control, a trip computer, height-adjustable front seats, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, color-adjustable ambient lighting, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with HD radio, an USB/iPod adapter and an auxiliary input jack.

The Cooper S hatchback adds a more powerful engine, a hood scoop, a black mesh grille, dual center-mounted exhaust tips, a "torque-vectoring" electronic limited-slip differential,  16-inch wheels with run-flat tires (regular tires are optional), LED foglights and sport seats. Additional equipment for the John Cooper Works hatchback includes 17-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes, an even more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, an aerodynamic body kit, a sport steering wheel and special cloth upholstery. The standard suspension is available as a no-cost option.

The base Cooper convertible is equipped similarly to the base hatchback aside from its previous-generation hardware, but it doesn't get the adjustable driving modes, and it comes standard with 16-inch wheels. The Cooper S and Cooper JCW convertible likewise receive performance-themed perks similar to those of the Cooper S and JCW hatchbacks.

The LED foglights and sport seats are offered as options on base Cooper models. Other available features, many of which are grouped into various packages with fun names (Flash, Wired, Loaded, Fully Loaded, etc.), include LED and xenon headlights, an array of 17- and 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adjustable suspension dampers, chrome exterior trim, a dual-pane sunroof, a roof spoiler, power-folding mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a head-up display and an automated parking system, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system, smartphone app integration, heated front seats, satellite radio and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Even more personalization is available through a large selection of custom details such as hood stripes, contrasting hardtop roof colors and special interior trim pieces.



Performance & mpg

The base Mini Cooper hatchback comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 134 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission (with hill-start assist and a rev-matching feature for smooth downshifts) is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional.

At the Edmunds.com test track, a base two-door hatchback with the automatic sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. This is a very impressive time relative to other base-model compact hatchbacks. Mini estimates that the four-door will get to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds with the automatic and 7.7 with the manual. EPA-estimated fuel economy is similarly impressive, and whether you get the two- or the four-door Cooper, estimates clock in at 31 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway) with the automatic and 33 mpg combined (29 city/40 highway) with the manual.

The Cooper S hatchback packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It also offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, the latter featuring steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. For the two-door hatchback, Mini estimates its 0-60 performance at 6.5 seconds (manual) and 6.4 seconds (automatic). At the Edmunds.com test track, the four-door hatchback proved even quicker than Mini's estimate for the automatic, posting a quick 6.3-second sprint to 60 mph. Fuel economy (for both the two- and four-door models) is 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway) with the automatic and 27 mpg combined (24 city/34 highway) with the manual.

The John Cooper Works hatchback comes with a higher-performance version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that cranks out 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. It is also offered with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Mini claims that the JCW hardtop will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds with the automatic and 6.1 seconds with the manual. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25/31) with the automatic and 26 mpg combined (31/23) with the manual.

All hatchbacks come with an automatic stop-start feature that shuts off the engine when you're stopped to save fuel.

The base Cooper convertible is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 121 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped drop top will go from zero to 60 mph in an unhurried 8.9 seconds, which is nonetheless considerably quicker than the automatic's 10.2 seconds. Fuel economy for the base convertible is 30 mpg combined (27 city/34 highway) with the manual transmission and 29 mpg combined (26/34) with the automatic.

The Cooper S convertible has a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It also offers a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic (with optional paddle shifters). Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration at 6.8 seconds for the manual and 7.2 seconds for the automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg combined (25 city/34 highway) with the automatic and 29 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway) with the manual.

The John Cooper Works convertible has a higher-performance version of the turbo 1.6-liter rated at 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual and six-speed automatic (with optional paddle shifters) are again available. Acceleration to 60 mph is estimated at 6.6 seconds with the manual and 6.8 seconds with the automatic. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined (25/34) for the automatic and 29 mpg combined (26/35) for the manual.

Safety

Standard safety features on the 2015 Mini Cooper include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control and front-seat side airbags. The Cooper hatchback also comes with front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags as standard equipment, while the convertible features pop-up rollover bars and (in lieu of curtains) larger front side airbags that extend higher up for added protection. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional.

In government crash tests, the two-door Cooper received four out of five possible stars for front crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Cooper hatchback its top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test.

In Edmunds brake testing, a base two-door Cooper hatchback (with the optional Sport package's 17-inch wheels and run-flat summer tires) required just 114 feet to come to a halt from 60 mph, which is very good for its class.

Driving

All versions of the 2015 Mini Cooper have an engaging personality thanks to their eager responses to driver inputs. The trade-off is a firm ride and a sometimes raucous cabin, especially when you're driving on concrete or broken pavement. The ride quality is even edgier with the optional sport-tuned suspension. For comfort's sake, our recommendation is to skip the sporty suspension and keep the wheels as small as possible. The hatchback does have a more solid, forgiving feel on the highway than the convertible, and it's quieter than previous models. Even more comfortable, though, is the four-door Cooper, with a longer wheelbase that makes for a much more compliant ride whether you get the base or S version.

Most drivers should be plenty happy with the base Cooper hatchback's energetic turbocharged engine, though the convertible's base engine is distinctly underwhelming. Either way, the thrills increase in Cooper S trim, with the John Cooper Works offering an extra dose of fun. The six-speed manual transmission includes a remarkably precise shifter and an easy clutch, while the hatchback's automatic transmission is both responsive and smooth-shifting. The convertible's older automatic isn't as refined.

Interior

All Mini cabins brim with a sense of playfulness and fun. The convertible retains the traditional, oversized center-mounted speedometer. Although the hardtop features a similar design cue, this circular element now houses the radio controls and an optional (via the Wired package) 8.8-inch high-resolution display screen, with the speedometer relocated to a free-standing cluster atop the steering column. The hatchback also has redesigned controls, including a simplified climate control interface and power window and door lock switches on the door panels (in the convertible, these switches remain at the bottom of the center stack behind the shifter). Materials quality is significantly better in the hatchback, with upgraded finishes and extensive soft-touch surfaces.

Both body styles have up-to-date electronics, highlighted by the hatchback's improved infotainment controller (similar to BMW's iDrive) on the center console and available fan-cooled phone docking station. The optional Mini Connected infotainment interface offers extensive smartphone app integration.

The Cooper's front seats offer firm support and an ideal driving position. Whether you choose the two- or the four-door hatchback, though, rear passenger space is pretty tight. Cargo capacity for the two-door hatchback measures a puny 8.7 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks, expanding to 34 cubes with those seatbacks folded down. The four-door is better behind the rear seats, with 13.1 cubic feet of space and 40.7 cubes when the seats are folded flat. The convertible provides 6 cubic feet in its trunk and 23.3 cubes with the rear seatbacks folded flat.

A neat feature on the Mini Cooper convertible is the soft top's sunroof function, which allows you to retract the forward portion of the top on days when you don't feel like lowering the top completely. On the downside, the top simply stacks up on itself when folded (as opposed to folding neatly under a cover), resulting in exceptionally poor rear visibility for a convertible.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.