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Small but mighty, the 2021 MINI Hardtop can surprisingly fit more people and cargo than you might assume. Whether you get the 2- or 4-door, you can easily fit four occupants plus some cargo. And you do not have to compromise power for fuel efficiency, as the Hardtop's engine options all strike a solid balance between these two factors.
There are many things that buyers will love about the 2021 Hardtop. Not everyone is in the market for a SUV, and even a sedan might feel a bit bulky. If you want to kick it European-style, then the MINI Hardtop might just pique your interest. Its handling capabilities are delightfully light and nimble while still keeping the Hardtop's wheels glued to the road.
There are a few pitfalls, too, so don't be surprised if you find a few things that bother you about the Hardtop. This vehicle gets pricey compared to some of its rivals, and for the price, you might find the ride quality to be a bit too firm. The larger the wheels you get, the stiffer and bumpier the ride quality becomes. Some people might not mind it, but it is rougher than what you normally get in this segment.
Want to personalize your new vehicle? On the Hardtop, that is not a problem. There are a number of different configurations to choose from. You can select between the base Cooper trim, the mid-tier Cooper S, or the line-topping John Cooper Works. There are also four sub-trims you can choose from: the Classic, Oxford Edition, Signature, and Iconic.
Since we are all about being thorough in our reviews, this trim level comparison will pit the three main trims against one another, then the four sub-trims since we simply cannot leave them out! Knowing what you want is important when nabbing your new vehicle, and the Hardtop's configurations do have a little something for everyone. Hang around until the end, where we'll announce which of the Hardtop's trim and sub-trim configurations we think we appeal the most to the average buyer in this segment.
Compare the 2021 MINI Hardtop Cooper vs Cooper S - What is the Difference?
The Cooper trim is up first, pitted against the Cooper S. The Cooper receives its ample power from a standard 1.5-L twin-turbocharged inline-3 cylinder direct-inject engine that has double VANOS. It generates a power output of 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque and can get from 0 to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds.
The Cooper S has an even stronger engine - a twin-turbo 2.0-L inline-4 cylinder. This engine puts forth 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque and sprints to 60 mph in a swifter 6.5 seconds. Additionally, the curb weight goes up from the Cooper's svelte 2,767 pounds to 2,862 pounds on the Cooper S.
Compare the 2021 MINI Hardtop Cooper S vs John Cooper Works. - What is the Difference?
Now, if you really want a serious power upgrade, the John Cooper Works has it. This trim comes with the Cooper S's engine but is tweaked to put out even more power. Its hp gets boosted to 228 while torque goes up to 236 lb-ft. For a vehicle of this size, this gives a nice punch upon start, getting up to 60 mph in a speedy 5.9 seconds. Of course, it does gain more weight, with a curb weight that comes in at 2,932 pounds.
Compare the 2021 MINI Hardtop Classic vs Oxford Edition. - What is the Difference?
Here is where things really differ. The three main trims are basically just different powertrain options. The four sub-trims are where all of the standard and optional features come into play. So, what you get is really going to hinge on which sub-trim has the features you most require/desire.
The Classic starts this line off. The Classic comes in your choice of four exterior paint colors: a dark Midnight Black, a creamy Pepper White, hot Chili Red, or Moonwalk Gray. The roof and the mirror caps are all painted to match the body color. 15-inch Heli Spoke Silver wheels are accompanied by all-season tires. Additionally, you can pick from a standard 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission if you are not interested in driving a stick.
Some of the more convenience-oriented features include heating for both of the side mirrors, heated front seats done in Carbon Black simulated leather, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob to match, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen display that accompanies the MINI's infotainment system. The steering wheel has multiple functions (for both the cruise control system and the audio system) mounted on top of it, and the interior surfaces are done in a Hazy Gray with Carbon Black Color Line for trim.
The touchscreen itself houses controls for many of the Classic's features. You get forward collision warning (which will issue a warning and apply the brakes when the system detects an imminent frontal crash), rear parking distance control, and an active driving assistant.
Options are left for things like white bonnet stripes, black bonnet stripes, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, ambient interior lighting, prep on the rear for a mount-able bike rack, and roof rails.
The Oxford Edition takes things up a notch, of course. Available on the 2-door Hardtop, the Oxford Edition is a budget-friendly bundle that offers heated seats, 17-inch wheels, and a panoramic sunroof.
Compare the 2021 MINI Hardtop Oxford Edition vs Signature Trim Level. What is the Difference?
The Signature is where things really start to heat up though. It gives you everything you get with the Classic but builds on it, starting with the addition of more exterior paint colors. Take your pick from additions like White Silver, Starlight Blue, the ever-popular British Racing Green IV done in metallic, and Solaris Orange. You can get the side mirrors' caps and the roof done in your color choice or opt for a white or black paint on them. This vehicle rides atop 16-inch silver alloy wheels with the Loop Spoke design but can also come with a Victory spoke design. Regardless, all-season tires are standard issue for the Signature trim.
Inside, the Signature Upholstery Package is pretty expansive and chic. You can choose between color lines done in Malt Brown, Satellite Gray, Glowing Red, or Carbon Black. Surface colors to select from include Piano Black, the MINI Yours Surface done in Piano Black Illuminated or Fiber Alloy, or in Hazy Gray. An anthracite headliner is standard, as are a multi-function sport steering wheel wrapped in leather and heated front seats.
Keyless entry and ignition get added to the list of standard features, as to an array of LED headlights on the front fascia. You can also upgrade to the infotainment system with built-in navigation if you prefer to use that over smartphone app integration (which is reserved for the line-topping Iconic sub-trim and is only available for Apple iPhone users). An alarm system also gets included with the vehicle for safe keeping.
On the Signature, a few more optional features open up. These include the Premium Package (which equips the seats with premium leather upholstery), a universal transceiver known as HomeLink (in other words, it functions as a garage door opener and control system for your home when you are away from home) and a compass built into the rear-view mirror, and white turn signals.
Compare the 2021 MINI Hardtop Signature vs Iconic - What is the Difference?
So, how exactly does the Iconic differ from the three other sub-trims belonging to the 2021 MINI Hardtop? Well, for starters, there is one more MINI Yours body color that you can select from: Enigmatic Black Metallic. Again, the mirrors' caps and the roof are done in the body color but can come as either white or black if that is what you prefer. Also, you get a ton of wheels to choose from. Pick between the 16-inch wheel options that come on the lower sub-trims or from 17-inch versions: the Rail Spoke 2-tone alloy wheels, Propeller Spoke 2-tone alloys, Roulette Spoke 2-tone alloys, Tentacle Spoke silver alloys, Cosmos Spoke Black alloy wheels, or the Cosmos Spoke Silver alloy wheels. Again, all-season tires are standard issue regardless of wheel selection.
Along with the Signature Upholstery Package, the Iconic comes with interior features that are all geared toward making your life easier and more comfortable inside of the cockpit. There are sport seats in this trim level, and they have standard heating up front. You get the option of having Black Pearl leatherette and cloth upholstery or Carbon Black leatherette upholstery. You can also ditch those and choose from cross punch leather done in a super cool Carbon Black, lounge leather in beautiful Satellite Grey, Chesterfield leather in a warm Malt Brown, or Carbon Black (a MINI Yours leather design).
There is also a MINI Yours sport leather steering wheel or a multi-function JCW leather steering wheel. You can go for chrome line trim inside the cabin or opt for none at all. The anthracite headliner still comes standard, and you can still take your pick of any of the interior surface options that come on the Signature sub-trim level.
On this trim, you get a bigger 8.8-inch touchscreen display with the built-in navigation system. Again, sorry Android phone owners, but the only smartphone app connectivity you get on the Hardtop is on the Iconic, and it is exclusively reserved for iPhone users. Yeah, we don't get it either.
Also, the Premium Package now comes as standard issue. This means that you get treated to the premium leather options as well as a premium Harman Kardon sound system, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and mirrors that have an auto-dimming function.
Any of the sub-trim levels can be optionally equipped with the Driver Assistance Package, which is a bundle of handy driver aids that we wish came standard at some point in the line-up. However, they are at least available. This suite gives you access to parking sensors for both the front and rear of the vehicle, adaptive cruise control, and the automated parking assistant feature.
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Which Trim to Choose?
Overall, the 2021 MINI Hardtop might not be as big as a SUV, but it packs a powerful punch and is definitely fuel efficient regardless of which engine you opt to equip. Personally, we like the mid-tier Cooper S main trim level the best. You get a decent boost in power without having to watch the price tag take a steep hike. The upgraded sport seats feel nice and cozy for longer journeys, and the 2.0-L twin-turbo really hits the spot with its balance of power and fuel economy.
As far as the sub-trims go, we would slap the Signature onto the Cooper S. The LED headlights are a winning feature for sure, and the bevvy of helpful infotainment and safety features is what will really sell this vehicle. There are still so many different ways to customize a Cooper S with the Signature that the possibilities feel absolutely endless. But we highly recommend this particular combo for anyone with their heart set on buying the 2021 MINI Hardtop.
• Compare the 2020 MINI Hardtop Trim Levels