review: '16 Mini Cooper S hatch

Joined
Nov 9, 2004
Messages
432
Location
central Georgia
Hi All, I'm approaching 5 months and almost 6,000 miles on my Cooper S hatchback (3 door) stick shift , so I figured I'd post a review of sorts in case anyone was wondering about the current generation (2014 - ) of these cars. My perspective comes from driving this car, test driving the 4 door version of the same car with more options, and twice renting a base model 2016 Cooper automatic for several days. After having no interest in renting one (my wife wanted to), we were fighting over the keys by the end of the first day, because it was so much fun to drive. Options: mildly equipped to keep the price down - only panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon stereo, "comfort access" keyless entry, enhanced color display/connectivity (but not the nav system), storage package. Car is pepper white with a black roof/mirrors, and black hood stripes. Just standard all-season 16" all-season runflats on alloy wheels. Since I plan to keep the car, I didn't want possible future maintenance headaches like adaptive suspension, LED headlights, the HUD that moves every time you turn it on/off. How I use it: daily commuter (10 miles each way, country roads, then finding parking at a college campus), 200 mile highway roundtrips for freelance/side work a couple times a month, flog it occasionally on the back roads, annual 1000 mile roundtrip to see family over the holidays. Sees all weather conditions except snow. Will probably keep for 8 years/100,000 miles, at least. Once it's fully warmed up, I don't drive it gently... Exterior: Subjective, of course. Yes, the front grille of the S is a little "busier" than the more classically styled base-model Cooper. It's easy to clean because you can reach everything, and the standard 16" "loop spoke" alloys on the S model are a cinch to keep clean, unlike a lot of other wheel designs. The standard halogen headlights and fog lights are solid performers. LED puddle lamps, door pull lamps, and license plate lights look neat. Interior: Generally good visibility. The height of the windshield is a little short (if you're pointed downhill at a stoplight, you have to crane your neck a bit), and the only noticeable blind spot is the rear corner pillar at the hatch - if you're backing out of a parking space into traffic. Sunroof adds a nice sense of airiness to the cabin, though the shade isn't a total "blackout" affair. Interior lighting in the Mini is gimmicky and fun, with lots of color options and indirect light being cast in different places. Switchgear feels solid, finishes look/feel sort of upscale, and ergonomics don't bother me except finding the foglight button. Passenger sun visor is pointless from the side position, while the driver gets a useful second sun visor for the side only. Storage is adequate. The fake leather seating surfaces look fine, and are really easy to clean. Seats are supportive enough for moderately long rides, though be sure to try the standard sport seat on the S model if you're a bigger person to see if it's comfortable for you (side/leg bolsters). Stereo (no CD player) is good but not amazing for the "premium audio" option, as the speaker sizes and enclosures are somewhat limited by the car's small size; should be noted that AM radio sound quality is rather lousy, if you listen to that band at all. Dual zone climate control works fine and is relatively intuitive. Storage is meager in the hatch, but you can adjust the back seats totally vertical or fold them completely down for more or much more room. Hidden compartment below the hatch on the S model is useful. Only one recurring rattle is the "sport mode" trim ring around the shifter, which I'll have the dealer take a look at the first service. Front seats are roomy for a wide variety of people, while smaller adults and kids are the only ones who should have to sit in the back for more than a short trip in-town (the biggest problem is just getting in through the doors). Rear sunroof helps once you're back there... Ride/handling/braking: Ride is firm, but not punishing with the 16" wheels/tires. Road noise is prominent at higher speeds and on certain surfaces - I don't know if that's a lack of sound insulation, or the run-flat tires, but we noticed it on the base model Cooper as well (which doesn't come standard with runflats). It handles really well for a front wheel drive car, and is actually fun to drive in the corners and near the limit. The limits of grip are pretty predictable and I find the car fairly forgiving of "hoonish" behavior; the electronic nannies (traction/stability control and ABS) are unobtrusive and don't kick in early enough to spoil your fun. Electric power steering firms up in sport mode, and there's not a lot of feedback nor torque steer to speak of. Turning circle is fine, and it's a cinch to park because of the small size. Braking performance (4-wheel disc) is progressive and predictable, though nothing exotic. OEM brake pads don't dust the wheels too badly. The all-season Pirelli runflats are not particularly grippy, and I'll probably opt for something different when they wear out. Engine/transmission performance: The base Cooper 1.5 turbo 3 cylinder is more fun than you'd expect. Little turbo lag (boost comes on low) and good midrange punch...and then it runs out of breath at 4500 rpm. The automatic transmission is a traditional auto, not a DSG, but it shifts quickly in manual mode and usually makes good decisions in automatic mode. It's far better than I expected and without the weirdness I feel driving a DSG (especially stop and go). The manual recommends at least 89 octane for both engines, and I run E10 premium in my S. The S model's 2.0 turbo 4 cylinder doesn't really run out of breath until 5500 rpm, which is more useful when wringing it out via the manual transmission. Even with 2 overdrive gears (5th and 6th), I never need to downshift when cruising, since the engine makes full boost at 1250 rpm. The 6 speed Getrag manual transmission is easy to use for even a stick shift novice, because it has both "hill hold" and downshift rev-matching features integrated. The rev-matching is particularly nice in harder driving, though every once in a blue moon it doesn't engage, making the car lurch because you didn't "blip" the throttle before letting the clutch out. Shift throws are normal, the clutch is light, though the clutch throw is long for those with very short legs. In 35-40 mph mixed commute driving, I'm averaging 31 mpg (calculated), and getting 33-35 mpg on the highway, with the cruise control at 75 mph. Haven't done a strictly city mileage run yet, sorry. The 1.5 engine gets a couple more mpg all around, and the auto yields maybe 1 mpg more all around. There is a defeatable start-stop system on this car, which kicks back on when you press in the clutch or it senses additional A/C is needed or sharp steering input. I like it, my wife turns it off. It remembers your choice, so you don't have to keep switching it off or on each time you drive. Service/reliability/warranty: 3 Included maintenance services are roughly annual/10k-12k mile (electronically determined) visits to the dealer which include just about everything except (inexplicably) tire rotations. I will do intermediate oil changes between services because I'm keeping the car, and they're pretty easy to do (access panels for oil drain and filter, so you don't remove the belly pan, the only special tool you need is a 32mm socket). Oil filter is a cartridge type that you drain first before removing. Bumper to bumper warranty is 4/50 including roadside assistance. You have to remove a few pieces to get to the battery, which is a small AGM type and probably gets a lot of stress. Because it's a Mini made by BMW, I am concerned for the long-term running costs, but the reliability index for these cars has improved to average by the 3rd model year (2016). The first year reliability ratings for the model were certainly not great. I haven't had to take it to the dealer for anything in the first 5 months of ownership, but there have been occasional/random "Is there something wrong with..." moments that happened once and seem not to have happened again. There's a good amount of aftermarket parts and forum support online, which is reassuring. Tip: try to find a junkyard spare tire that fits and a floor jack adapter pad, otherwise doing tire rotations yourself will be difficult because of the runflats and no spare. I don't know that it has any effect on the reliability, but my Mini wasn't actually assembled in the Oxford, UK plant, rather it was put together in the VDL Nedcar plant in the Netherlands, where they have additional capacity to build a few Mini models. Note: included maintenance items on 2017 cars (including parent company BMW) is not as comprehensive as earlier years. Body style considerations: You can choose between the 5-door F55 and 3-door F56 now. The 5-door car is just slightly heavier (didn't notice at all on the test drive), has a longer wheelbase (might be better on the highway but less sharp of a "point and shoot" car around town), and will accommodate 4 average sized adults more comfortably than the 3 door (the limiting factor in the rear is headroom) ever could. Rear cargo room is a little larger, too, though the car is only 6" longer. This would be my only doubt about my choice - although 60% of the time, it's just me and 30% of the time, me + a passenger, the remaining 10% of the time with 3-4 people on board would be nicer with the extra doors. Instead, I opted for the shortest possible, more "classic" 3-door version which is super easy to park in tight spaces, even without cameras and park assists. If I happen to remember, I'll update the thread from time to time with notes related to service/reliability/operation, and answer whatever questions you might have. Hope this is useful.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2011
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New Mexico
This sounds like it came from Mini, not you. In the beginning you say it's a stick then further down talk about the auto and different engines.
 

terminaldegree

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Joined
Nov 9, 2004
Messages
432
Location
central Georgia
Hi Jetstar, If I get around to washing it after work today, I'll try and post up a picture or two. Forgot to mention in my original post (can't edit it now), that the dashboard MPG is about 2 mpg on the optimistic side, but I read somewhere that it can possibly be calibrated. Also, the fuel tank is little - 11ish gallons, so fillups are frequent, but inexpensive, unlike our F150!!
 

terminaldegree

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Joined
Nov 9, 2004
Messages
432
Location
central Georgia
Alright Jetstar, here's a few shots, though pardon if the image uploader doesn't work, as I've not uploaded pictures on BITOG before. To wrap up my initial comments so far-- pros: five months in it's still fun to drive, easy to park, good mpg, everyone wants a ride cons: no oil dipstick (electronic measurement!), center armrest (design flaw) requires adjustment after handbrake use
 

terminaldegree

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Joined
Nov 9, 2004
Messages
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Location
central Georgia
Yes. The oil must be up to temperature, you park on a flat surface, then you initiate the oil check. The idle speed changes slightly, you wait a minute or so, then it spits out the result on the dash. Talk about a solution to a problem the industry didn't seem to have in the first place!
 

terminaldegree

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Joined
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Update @ 25,000 miles: Things are still pretty good overall. Recently had my 2nd "complimentary" maintenance service, which was an oil and filter change, cabin filter, vehicle inspection, and new wiper blades all around. The one interior rattle went away, somehow. Since the last report, I added striping to the tailgate, and picked up a spare set of wheels and tires on eBay. Keeping in mind that I'm nearly BMW-enthusiast-picky about stuff, here are the issues and resolutions I've had so far: 1. I like to replace my tires at 4/32", if I can afford to. The OEM Pirelli P7 runflats aren't going to make it to 30,000 miles, though they wore evenly. 2. Front bumper's black insert and side trim pieces were fading. Replaced under warranty. 3. Control unit reprogrammed/updated twice, via service campaigns. I wasn't experiencing problems. 4. Door gaskets marring paint in door jambs. Considered normal wear by dealer. 5. Engine sometimes feels like it's misfiring on hot restart when auto stop/start engages at a traffic light. No problem found by dealer. 6. One jacking point was damaged by road debris. Was replaced by dealer inexpensively. I'm still enjoying the car. Mileage has gotten better as the car's accrued some miles; I get at least 30 in town and 35 on the highway. Have measured as high as 38 in back roads driving, when not in a hurry. If I remember, will update after the next dealer service, which will probably be around 34,000 miles.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2017
Messages
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CA
Update @ 25,000 miles: Things are still pretty good overall. Recently had my 2nd "complimentary" maintenance service, which was an oil and filter change, cabin filter, vehicle inspection, and new wiper blades all around. The one interior rattle went away, somehow. Since the last report, I added striping to the tailgate, and picked up a spare set of wheels and tires on eBay. Keeping in mind that I'm nearly BMW-enthusiast-picky about stuff, here are the issues and resolutions I've had so far: 1. I like to replace my tires at 4/32", if I can afford to. The OEM Pirelli P7 runflats aren't going to make it to 30,000 miles, though they wore evenly. 2. Front bumper's black insert and side trim pieces were fading. Replaced under warranty. 3. Control unit reprogrammed/updated twice, via service campaigns. I wasn't experiencing problems. 4. Door gaskets marring paint in door jambs. Considered normal wear by dealer. 5. Engine sometimes feels like it's misfiring on hot restart when auto stop/start engages at a traffic light. No problem found by dealer. 6. One jacking point was damaged by road debris. Was replaced by dealer inexpensively. I'm still enjoying the car. Mileage has gotten better as the car's accrued some miles; I get at least 30 in town and 35 on the highway. Have measured as high as 38 in back roads driving, when not in a hurry. If I remember, will update after the next dealer service, which will probably be around 34,000 miles.

Any updates on the Mini?
 
Joined
Nov 8, 2003
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Cedar City Utah
I had a 2006 silver with black top convertible. It was the base and had a five speed manual. Even with that it was a kick to drive. I put the Cooper black stripes on the hood.
 
Joined
May 17, 2021
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open range
The lack of a spare and the low HP numbers for a 2.0 turbo engine have kept me away from the Mini.

3-door JCW is 228 HP, JCW GP3 is 300 HP. Too weak?

I'm wondering at the OP's concerns on "future maintenance headaches like ....LED headlights", while he did spec the Panoramic Sunroof. It's the (Pandemic?) Sunroofs which they notoriously don't get right, while the LED headlights seem to work just as hassle-free as Xenons did before. Lighting is leagues ahead of the poor 1970s technology Halogens anyway.
For "the height of the windshield being a little short (if you're pointed downhill at a stoplight, you have to crane your neck a bit)" I'd suggest to take a look through the sunroof. To me this is its strongest point.
Last not least I got rid of the runflats after three weaks. Best decision ever. Went for Michelin PSS (17"), but I'm convinced any non-runflat UHP summer would have done better compared to the factory runflats.
 
Joined
Jul 27, 2004
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Frankfort, Kentucky
3-door JCW is 228 HP, JCW GP3 is 300 HP. Too weak?

The 2016 S lists at 189 and JCW 228. I don't see the GP3 listed as available from Mini in 2016.

GM had 260 in the 2.0 LNF in the Cobalt in 2008. The LSJ in the Ion Redline was 205 in 2005.

I guess the same would go for the TSI from VAG in most models as well.
 
Joined
Jul 21, 2002
Messages
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KY
My commuter is a base R55 Clubman. I love it. It’s not especially quick but it’s more than adequate for my daily drive- and it averages over 38 mpg- but I’ve seen as high as 49 mpg if I hit all the lights right.
1623023573521.jpg
 
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Joined
May 17, 2021
Messages
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open range
Nice one! Driving our "Justa" makes me smile. Had a brown R56 before my current Reef Blue
Cooper, Iced Chocolate Metallic not Hot Chocolate though.
Consider the OE Mini Xenon retrofit kit. Night and day difference in both visibility and looks!
 
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