Used 2016 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Review
Edmunds expert review
Who says you can't have it your way? It's a question asked by the 2016 Mini Cooper, a sporty compact that allows for a seemingly endless degree of customization. It's also stylish and a blast to drive. Let's find out what else makes the Mini Cooper so special.
What's new for 2016
The subcompact class is populated by vehicles that are easy to drive in congested city centers, earn great fuel economy and do little damage to the pocketbook. Fun, however, is often in short supply. The 2016 Mini Cooper Hardtop is designed to rewrite that story. While it's more expensive than most rivals, this BMW-built runabout adds lots of value with its energizing driving experience and premium character.
Electric Blue is one of 14 exterior colors available on the 2016 Mini Cooper. The roof and mirrors can be white, black or body-colored.
Picking a Cooper means choosing among one of three available engines. In prior years, the base engine was pretty weak-kneed, but the latest turbocharged three-cylinder is surprisingly peppy, frugal with gas and a fine choice for most shoppers. For more of a hot-blooded experience, Mini also offers the hopped-up S and JCW, which boast turbocharged four-cylinder engines with considerably more punch. Of course, nimble handling is another Cooper hallmark, while its list of available features and personalization options is unrivaled.
There are naturally some reasons why shoppers may want to consider something else. The Mini Cooper's sporty handling comes at the expense of ride comfort, particularly with larger wheels and tires installed. As noted, the Cooper is also more expensive than other subcompact cars, and it only gets worse as you add all of those cool options you found on the Mini configurator website.
If you're looking for a less expensive subcompact that still has some pizazz, check out the regular Ford Fiesta or the high-powered ST version. The Fiesta is slightly larger than the Mini, and the ST develops similar horsepower to the Cooper S, although the Ford can't match the Mini's upscale vibe. Fiat's personable 500 is worth a look, too, as it's available with a range of engines and individualized options, much like the Mini. Moving up a size, the Ford Focus/Focus ST, Scion FR-S and Volkswagen Golf/GTI come highly recommended. But overall, the Mini Cooper is a great choice for shoppers wanting a subcompact that rises well above the mundane.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Mini Cooper is available as a two- or four-door hatchback and a convertible. All body styles are available in base Cooper and Cooper S versions, while the high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) trim is reserved for the two-door hatch (a JCW version of the convertible is slated for next year).
Both two- and four-door Cooper models come standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, adjustable driving modes, full power accessories, automatic climate control, a cooled glovebox, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks and color-adjustable ambient lighting. Technology highlights include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system (six speakers for the four-door model) with HD radio, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack.
The Cooper S adds a more powerful engine, a hood scoop, dual center-mounted exhaust tips, 16-inch wheels with run-flat tires (regular tires are optional), LED foglights, sport seats and, for the two-door model, a six-speaker sound system. Additional equipment for the John Cooper Works variant includes 17-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlights, an even more powerful engine, an aerodynamic body kit, a sport steering wheel and special seats with cloth upholstery. The standard suspension is available as a no-cost option for the JCW.
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, include LED headlights, an array of 17- and 18-inch wheels, adjustable suspension dampers, a dual-pane sunroof, a roof spoiler, power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a head-up display, an automated parking system, a 6.5- or 8.8-inch central display screen, a navigation system, smartphone app integration, heated front seats, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and cloth or leather upholstery. 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.
Standard features and equipment packages for the convertible are generally the same as the hatchback, with a few notable exceptions. The base Cooper convertible comes with the 6.5-inch display screen and center armrest, which cost extra on the hatchback. Packages are also slightly different: the hatchback's Wired and Wired Upgrade packages are bundled together and called Technology on the convertible. The Premium package includes additional items in the convertible, including heated front seats and auto-dimming mirrors.
The cabin of the 2016 Mini Cooper is full of high-quality materials that easily surpass those in most competitors.
Performance & mpg
Regardless of engine or number of doors, the 2016 Mini Cooper comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission (with hill-start assist and automatic rev-matching for smooth and simple downshifts), while a six-speed automatic (also with rev-matching) is optional. For extra fuel savings, an automatic stop-start feature shuts off the engine while the car is stopped.
The base engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that develops 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds testing, a two-door with the automatic transmission recorded a 0-60-mph time of 7.4 seconds. That's a quick time and second only to the Ford Fiesta ST in the subcompact class. Fuel economy is also impressive, especially considering the available performance -- the EPA estimates 32 mpg combined (28 city/39 highway) for the two-door with the manual, while the manual four-door earns 33 mpg combined (29 city/39 highway). Both automatic versions return about 1 mpg less.
The Cooper S is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Ordering the automatic transmission adds steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. In our testing, a four-door S with the automatic sprinted from zero to 60 in 6.3 seconds (just a tick slower than a VW Golf GTI). A manual-equipped convertible was slightly slower at 6.8 seconds. Fuel economy for both body styles is estimated at 29 mpg combined (26/33) with the automatic, while the manual is rated at 27 mpg combined (23/33).
Solely available as a two-door, the John Cooper Works variant ups the output of the turbocharged 2.0-liter to 228 hp and 236 lb-ft. We tested a JCW Cooper with a manual transmission and achieved a 0-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds; Mini says an automatic-equipped JCW is a few tenths of a second faster. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25/31) with the automatic and 26 mpg combined (23/31) with the manual.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Mini Cooper include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. 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 overall protection, with four stars for total front crash protection and four stars for overall side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Cooper hatchback its top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset crash tests, as well as a "Good" score in the side-impact, roof-strength and head restraints/seats (whiplash protection) tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, several Mini Coopers with summer tires have come to a halt from 60 mph between 113 and 116 feet. These stopping distances are good for the class but a little underwhelming given the summer-rated tires. A Cooper S convertible with Pirelli PZero summer tires came to a stop in an astounding 101 feet. Although we haven't tested a Cooper with all-season tires, we expect them to come to a stop about 15 feet longer than those equipped with summer tires.
The 2016 Mini Cooper's small footprint, low center of gravity and light weight give it excellent handling characteristics, making this car fun to drive no matter which engine powers it. Even just zipping around town, it feels playful and engaging, and parking in tight spots is a cinch. Along curvy roads, the Cooper feels taut and tenacious, clawing for grip with rare enthusiasm. It's not as communicative or balanced as the rear-drive Scion FR-S, but otherwise this is one of the best-handling cars for the money.
The trade-off for its exhilarating driving dynamics is a firm ride that borders on harsh when ordered with larger wheels. This is particularly true for the JCW and its standard sport-tuned suspension. Ordering the adaptive suspension dampers for the JCW is highly recommended, as we've found them to noticeably smooth out the ride. We've also noticed that the four-door Cooper, with its longer wheelbase, is a bit more comfortable than the two-door and sacrifices little in the way of performance. All body styles are relatively quiet at highway speeds, although we've heard interior panels squeak and creak over hard bumps, especially in the convertible.
The base engine provides impressive power considering its diminutive size. It loses some steam at higher rpm, but for most drivers it's a very solid pick. Both turbocharged four-cylinder engines have the Mini punching above its class, allowing it to keep up with larger cars like the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. We're fond of either transmission option, but the automatic engine stop-start function can be distractingly rough as it brings the engine back to life after a stop. Fortunately, it's easy to disable via a toggle switch, and the car remembers your preference between drives.
Step into the 2016 Mini Cooper and you'll find a cabin with materials of a higher quality than those in other subcompact cars. Soft-touch plastics coat the doors and dashboard, which can be customized with several different trim coverings. Ambient lighting on the doors changes color depending on which driving mode is selected.
The Mini's controls are easy to reach and the toggle switches on the lower part of the center stack are a cool touch. There are a still a few ergonomic issues, though (yep, still a Mini!), such as interference from the center armrest when it's lowered and lack of visibility out the windshield for taller drivers. The convertible's thick pillars and small rear window inhibit rear visibility as well, so we recommend removing the back seat headrests if you're just carrying one passenger.
As for the convertible's top, press and hold the unlock button on your key fob or use the toggle switch inside the car to operate the soft top. Hold once to open the area above the front seat occupants' heads for a sunroof effect, and release and hold again for the full open-air experience. The top folds down on top of the trunk rather than into it, so there's a little bit of a hump that impedes your view when looking straight back.
We do like the Cooper's easy-to-read gauges, and the available 8.8-inch central display screen is notable for its sophisticated feature set and exceptionally crisp graphics. Similar to BMW's iDrive, the display is operated by a controller knob on the center console. It takes some time to learn how to use, and the knob's location is a bit awkward, but overall it's a comprehensive and very useful system.
Cargo room is at a premium in the 2016 Mini Cooper. For more rear space, consider the four-door configuration.
The Cooper's front seats offer firm support and an ideal driving position. Whether you choose the two- or the four-door, though, rear passenger space is pretty tight. Cargo capacity for the two-door measures a puny 8.7 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks, expanding to 34 cubes with those seatbacks folded down. The four-door expands to 13.1 and 40.7, respectively. Even the two-door's numbers actually aren't terrible for the subcompact class, and as we learned from a year-long test of a 2014 Mini Cooper, the car's boxy shape makes it more versatile than you might think. The convertible's trunk space is even tighter, measuring just 7.6 cubic feet. The cargo opening is fairly small, although interior release handles allow the bottom of the soft top to be folded up, increasing the opening for larger items.
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.