People consider a compact car for many reasons, mostly practicality and value. After all, a compact vehicle has a low entry-level price point, is easy to park no matter where you go, and fuel-efficient enough to get you there without blowing next month's budget. Although many compacts are appealing on a logical level, they are often missing elements that prevent a truly emotional connection. If you buy a 2017 Mini Cooper Hardtop, though, those elements are fully intact.
The 2017 Mini Hardtop is not like other compact cars. It packages the intrinsic strengths of a compact and injects them with a healthy shot of excitement, a rare combination in this price class. Much of the excitement comes from the three available turbocharged engines. The base Cooper's 134-horsepower three-cylinder is surprisingly peppy, while the Cooper JCW pumps out nearly 100 more hp.
The key for us, though, is the customization factor. The Hardtop's affordable base price is really just a jumping-off point for a seemingly endless options list, which really allows you to make the Convertible your own. If you want snazzy 18-inch wheels to replace the standard 15-inch rims, you can have that. If you want full leather upholstery, side mirrors painted like the British flag or adaptive suspension dampers to tailor your driving style, you can have all that, too. Just be prepared to pay a little bit extra. Or maybe a big bit extra, depending on how far you go.
The Mini Hardtop is tops for customization and style, but a few other subcompacts might be worth your while to check out. The Ford Fiesta is plenty practical but still reasonably fun to drive, especially if you get the high-octane ST variant. The Italian flair of the Fiat 500 can't be ignored, and the energetic Abarth version is sure to put a smile on your face. If you don't mind going slightly bigger, the Volkswagen Golf and Golf GTI, Ford Focus and Focus ST, and Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins will all fuel your desire for a sporty car with a manageable size. Even with all these strong choices, though, it's hard to ignore the charm and fun offered by the 2017 Mini Hardtop. It is really that good.
Standard safety features on the 2017 Mini Hardtop 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 Hardtop 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 Hardtop hatchback its top score of Good in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap front-impact crash tests, as well as a Good score in the side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, several Mini Hardtops 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. However, a Convertible Cooper S with Pirelli P Zero summer tires came to a stop in an astounding 101 feet. Although we haven't tested a Hardtop with all-season tires, we expect them to come to a stop about 15 feet longer than those equipped with summer tires.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Mini Hardtop is available as a two- or four-door hatchback. Both 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.
All Cooper models come standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, remote locking/unlocking, keyless ignition, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, a cooled glovebox, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats, a center armrest, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. Technology highlights include Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone app integration, a 6.5-inch display screen, and a six-speaker sound system 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 adjustable driving modes.
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 rear spoiler, a sport steering wheel and special seats with cloth upholstery. The standard suspension is available as a no-cost option for the JCW.
Although there are many standalone options, most are bundled into packages. The Premium package consists of keyless entry, a dual-pane sunroof and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. The Sport package includes adjustable dampers, 16-inch wheels (17-inch wheels on the Cooper S), sport seats, adjustable driving modes and LED headlights. The Technology package bundles a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a navigation system and an 8.8-inch display screen. The Fully Loaded package combines all three packages, while a separate Cold Weather package adds auto-dimming mirrors, power-folding exterior mirrors and heated front seats.
Other available features include a head-up display, an automated parking 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.
Regardless of engine or number of doors, the 2017 Mini Hardtop 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 you'll get 32 mpg combined (28 city/38 highway) for the two-door model with the manual, while the manual four-door earns 32 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway). Both automatic versions return estimates of 30 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway).
The Cooper S is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are available for automatic-equipped models. 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). Fuel economy for the two- and four-door Cooper S is estimated at 28 mpg combined (25 city/32 highway) with the automatic, while the manual is rated at 26 mpg combined (23 city/32 highway).
The John Cooper Works variant (solely available on the two-door) ups the output of the turbocharged 2.0-liter to 228 hp and 236 lb-ft. We tested a JCW 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 quicker. EPA-estimated fuel economy is the same as the Cooper S.
The 2017 Mini Hardtop's small footprint, low center of gravity and light weight give it excellent handling characteristics. This is a fun car 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 Hardtop feels taut and tenacious, clawing for grip with rare enthusiasm.
The trade-off for its sharp handling, however, is a firm ride quality that borders on harsh, especially with the JCW version or larger wheels specified. 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 Hardtop, with its longer wheelbase, is a bit more comfortable than the two-door and sacrifices little in the way of performance. Both body styles are relatively quiet at highway speeds, although we've heard interior panels squeak and creak over hard bumps.
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 such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The automatic transmission is smooth and shifts quickly, while the manual can be a bit difficult to drive because of its vague clutch action, long throws and imprecise gates. 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 2017 Mini Hardtop and you'll find a cabin with materials of a higher quality than those in other small 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. We like the Hardtop'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, but overall it's a comprehensive and very useful system. One downside is that when you lower the center armrest, it's nearly impossible to reach the low-mounted infotainment controller.
The Hardtop's front seats offer firm support and an ideal driving position. Whether you choose the two-door 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 cubic feet, respectively. Even the two-door's numbers actually aren't terrible for the subcompact class, and as we learned from a yearlong test of a 2014 Mini Cooper hatchback, the car's boxy shape makes it more versatile than you might think.
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.