Mini is entering a changeover year in 2014, which will see the first of the next-generation cars debut. The new hardtop is out first, on sale in early 2014 as a '14 model. The current-generation convertible (and all other body styles) will continue to be sold alongside the new hardtop as Mini takes its time rolling out the new versions over a period of a couple years...
The standard Mini Cooper body style is known as the hardtop. This is the version from which all other Mini variants flow. The hardtop and its softtop sibling, the convertible, can be had in standard Cooper, Cooper S, or JCW (John Cooper Works) form. Note that some of the JCW bits can be had with an interior or an exterior JCW package, which includes some of the JCW visuals without the high-performance gear. The hardtop is also the model that has been the basis for more special editions than any other. Current special editions for the hardtop are the Baker Street, the Bayswater, the Hyde Park, and the Green Park; there is also a special version of the convertible called the Highgate. For the most part, these are option and appearance packages.
Everyone knows about the Mini Cooper, the extroverted little hatchback that made small cars fun again. The Mini is indeed small, which is great for racing around urban environs and, of course, for parking. At the same time, it has a decent amount of room inside -- at least up front. In back it's a different story; whoever sits back there will need to be either quite short or sitting behind pals up front who are willing to slide their seats a good ways forward. Everyone will need to pack light, as the cargo hold is really tiny unless you fold at least one of the rear seatbacks down.
Mini talks endlessly about its go-kart handling, and that really is true. Turn-in is immediate and the car corners flatly. The steering is quick, precise, and well weighted, particularly for a system with electric assist. All is great, really, until you hit a bump in the road. At that jarring moment, you realize the price one pays for the Mini's ultra-stiff chassis. It's even more jarring in Minis equipped with the (totally unnecessary) sport suspension or with larger wheels.
Performance-wise, the Cooper S and the John Cooper Works both easily live up to the Mini's zippy image; the base Cooper, not so much. The standard car's 1.6-liter four has only 121 hp and buzzes from 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, or a languid 9.6 seconds with the automatic. It does, however, return the best fuel economy, at 29/37 mpg (city/highway) with the manual and 28/36 mpg with the automatic. Neither of these figures is tops in its class. The much better choice is the Cooper S, whose turbocharged 1.6-liter pushes out 181 hp and is much more fun to drive, dropping the 0-to-60-mph time to 6.6 seconds (or 6.8 with the automatic). The John Cooper Works version, with 208 hp from the same engine, is an even better performer, but it's not that much better. It is, however, considerably more expensive, with a starting price on the high side of $30,000.
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