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The MINI has spent nearly the past two decades competing on the US market with the unique and distinctly European Cooper. Now known as the MINI Hardtop, the Cooper can be bought as a hatchback, John Cooper Works, John Cooper Works GP, or an all-electric variant. That probably sounds like a good array of choices, and for the most part, it is.
The MINI Hardtop is all about being fun to drive; it has a nimble character and, for the price, is a good bargain overall. And the new John Cooper Works GP is slated to be the most powerful variant of them all. This model will only be a limited production addition, and a lot of buyers will be interested in its high-powered engine. A lot of other good things are happening this model year, including the return of the manual transmission (which was missing from the 2020 line-up) and the expanded Oxford Edition.
There are plenty of things that will attract buyers to the 2021 MINI Hardtop. Every one of its engine choices delivers a smart balance between power output and fuel economy. The Hardtop also handles turns like a pro, remaining grounded while rounding through corners. Also, it is one of those vehicles that is easy to customize with a lengthy list of optional features. And, of course, you get a chic looking interior no matter how you personalize the Hardtop.
There are some drawbacks to owning one though. The larger the wheels you get, the choppier and stiffer the ride quality becomes.Also, the gas-powered variants are pretty expensive compared to their top rivals. So plan on spending a pretty penny if you are dead-set on getting the Hardtop.
Is the 2021 MINI Hardtop a good option to go with, or might one of its competitors do even better at meeting your needs? This review will help you make the decision by going over what is new for 2021, what we like about the Hardtop, what we would like to see be improved, and how the Hardtop stacks up against the competition. Read through until the very end, since that is where we will give you our final verdict on the 2021 MINI Hardtop line-up.
What's New for 2021?
New for the 2021 MINI Hardtop line is the limited production John Cooper Works GP (JCW GP). This trim level comes with an engine that generates 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. This means that you get 73 hp more than you do on the regular JCW trim. This powertrain will get the Hardtop from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds and comes with standard front-wheel drive. Also, the manual transmission makes its return, and the Oxford Edition has been expanded from its previous iteration.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 MINI Hardtop – The Pros
1. The John Cooper Works GP
One of the best things about the 2021 MINI Hardtop line is the limited edition John Cooper Works GP trim level. The JCW GP is the most powerful Hardtop on the market in the line-up's history with its turbo engine that produces 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. This little front-wheel drive model can zip from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, which is downright speedy for a vehicle in its segment. There is also a lowered sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, additional reinforcements on the chassis, and an engine oiling system which acts against the high-g cornering you will do in the JCW GP. A rear wing lets you know from the exterior alone that the JCW GP is a totally unique trim level. The wheel arches have been shaped in a totally oddball yet distinguishing way, and within them are 18-inch wheels. There are no rear seats in the GP, so you will only be able to seat yourself and one passenger.
2. Many Available Features for Customization
No matter which main trim you go for, you can customize it until you are absolutely content. This is achieved by pairing a main trim (essentially containing the mechanical specs) with a sub-trim (which gives you all the nifty creature comforts, infotainment features, and safety features). You can adds or subtract details at your whim, even electing whether your want to add white or black bonnet stripes, a roof, and mirror caps.
3. A High-end Interior Design
You get what you pay for inside of the 2021 MINI Hardtop. Little in the way of hard plastics gets used inside of the cabin, so you will see and feel a lot of soft touch surfaces. The leather upholstery feels nice, and the design speaks to the Hardtop being imbued with personality.
4. Swift Acceleration
The Hardtop exists in a segment where acceleration tends to be kind of boring. The Hardtop, however, is anything but dull. In fact, the 5.1 seconds that it takes for the JCW GP to get to 60 mph in is incredibly swift. The other engines are none too shabby either, and the base engine is able to get from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. While that isn't a record-breaking number, for a base trim in this class, it is still a good showing.
5. Precision Steering
The 2021 MINI Hardtop has steering that feels precise and that provides a lot of feedback to the driver. The driver's inputs are always quickly interpreted, and if you love winding around on curvy roads, then the Hardtop will probably feel pretty comfortable to steer. It might not just be as thrilling in everyday commutes.
6. Secure Handling
Handling also feels impressively secure in the Hardtop. Even the base Cooper trim level is able to get through some hard cornering with ease. Handling feels well controlled and is easy to predict once you've been in the vehicle for a little bit. Since it is such a lightweight vehicle, the Hardtop has a nimble nature to it that drivers should appreciate.
7. Comfortable Seats
Of course, we cannot miss the fact that the 2021 MINI Hardtop comes with some cozy seats. If you opt for the sport seats, you will get treated to a ton of bolstering, which should feel fine for average sized adults. (Those with wider hips might wish the bolsters were a little less intrusive.) The cushioning feels nice on longer car rides. The standard seats also come with a good amount of comfort built into them, even though the Hardtop is built more for performance than for comfort.
8. Clear Outward Visibility
The Hardtop is a vehicle that offers a lot of visibility all around. The side windows are tall, and the windshield sits upright for a nice, clear view. The side mirrors are not too bulky or too small, and they give you a good view of the sides of the vehicle. A rear-view camera comes standard across the line-up, offering some extra visibility to the rear.
9. A Decent Max Cargo Space
The max cargo capacity is actually decent for this segment. While the 8.7 cubic feet of cargo space is a little bit small, the maximum of 38 cubes feels quite generous. The load surface is nice and flat, and there is a bin located underneath it for some extra space should you need it.
10. Easy to Get In and Out
The MINI Hardtop is designed so that people of all sizes will be able to get in and out with ease. The openings are tall while the doors themselves are short in terms of length, so you can get in and out even when you are stuck in a tight parking spot. Of course, accessing the rear seat might be a challenge since the openings are on the smaller side. But, for accessing the front seats, the door openings do just fine.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 MINI Hardtop – The Cons
1. Braking Feels Somewhat Unstable
The one drawback to the 2021 MINI Hardtop's driving performance is the brakes. The Hardtop comes to a stop from 60 mph in about 114 feet, which, for a tiny vehicle equipped with summer tires, is longer than it should be. While the vehicle rolls to a stop in regular braking scenarios, the automatic transmission will cause a lot of lurching.
2. A Stiff Ride Quality
The Hardtop's ride quality can come off as being overly stiff. The run-flat tires and the larger wheels that can be opted for might be somewhat to blame for the stiffer ride quality, so you might want to stick with the smaller wheels. Otherwise, plan on feeling a lot of initial harshness upon impact with road surface flaws.
3. It Gets Noisy
The ride in the Hardtop is not exactly a quiet one. In fact, it is pretty far from it. The 3-cylinder base engine clangs a lot while idling, and there is a lot of road noise that makes its way it. Wind noise seeps in at highway speeds but is otherwise well-muted.
4. Not As Spacious As Some of Its Rivals
Sure, the Hardtop is a small vehicle, but it isn't even as spacious as some rivals. The amount of cabin space feels restricted, and if you do get the new JCW GP, space is definitely at a minimum with just the two front seats.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 MINI Hardtop vs. 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI might not have the distinctive style that the MINI does, but it holds its own in terms of design. It is a vehicle that is both sporty and fun to drive, and the interior materials look and feel high-end. However, the all-season tires detract from the vehicle's performance, and the higher trims get pricey without offering boosts in performance.
2021 MINI Hardtop vs. 2021 Hyundai Veloster
The 2021 Hyundai Veloster has a sleek, three-door design that echoes the sporty handling and steering performances. The turbo engine also delivers a lot of power. On the downside, the Veloster's base engine is bland, and a lot of road noise enters the cabin.
Overall, the 2021 MINI Hardtop is a spunky little vehicle with a distinctively British vibe. While it is certainly small and has some braking issues, the Hardtop is a vehicle that you can enjoy customizing and then driving on regular commutes and long roadtrips.
• Why buy a 2020 MINI Hardtop? w/ pros vs cons