There is an oft-mentioned quote that “size means everything”, insinuating that bigger is better. Sometimes that’s true (elephants, the size of Texas and bank accounts). Yet, the opposite is deliciously valid as well, when surprising yields emit from small packages.
Such is the case for MINI and its 2020 Mini Cooper S two-door hardtop. The F56 chassis (launched in 2014), carries forth the iconic exterior styling, delightfully quirky displays and punchy performance that regularly attract smiles and curiosity in the driveway or parking lots. Think Austin Powers cool and kitschy with new tech and throwback instrumentation. Older baby boomers will fondly harken back to falling in love with 60s-like styling.
The 2-door Cooper S is slightly less practical than its 4-door siblings but delivers miles of smiles barreling into turns with more interior space than you’d expect. And with a base price of only $27,000, it’s a terrific option for young and mature drivers alike. It was so much fun that I shed a tear returning the test car after a week of giddiness.
The Mini Cooper S 2-door hardtop is an eye-catching array of sporty styling with a multitude of unique paint options. The tester (provided by Mini of Plano) is adorned in Solaris Orange with just enough black trim to bring the eye candy. In fact, dozens of customizable visual options are available to individualize your model.
The squarish roofline adds to the mystique. It allows for large windows that provide maybe the best visibility of any hardtop ride I’ve experienced and surprising headroom. Happily, the roof rails are gone adding to the cool silhouette. You can add a multitude of appearance options including racing stripes.
Standard rounded LED headlights and its illuminated lighted rings are excellent, and the LED taillights depict the British flag. Everyone got a kick out of that. Centered dual chrome exhausts providing sporty exhaust notes finish the cool appearance.
The Cooper S Hardtop 2-door is a blast to drive–like an upscale go-cart. A spirited 2.0 litre TwinPower Turbo 4-banger pumps out 189 hp and 207 lb-ft is quick enough (0-60 in 6.2 seconds) and the paddle shifters provide seamless changes through the seven gears. The stiffer body, suspension, lower center of gravity and lighter curb weight provides a sharp athletic driving experience. It doesn’t feel jumpy and the diminutive size allows for easy parking. It’s really an exhilarating ride when pushed and the sporty exhaust note pleased me. There’s not much front-wheel torque steering as well (all-wheel drive isn’t available in this model). Active Driving Assistant with front and rear collision warnings are welcome safety features.
You can choose Green, Mid or Sport. Sport brings noticeable changes in steering feel and throttle response. Run flat rubber with 17” Cosmos Spoke Silver rims are grippy too and hitting the curves in exuberant fashion is consistently rewarded. Me likee.
Fuel efficiency is good at 26/35. I squeezed about 30-mpg in decidedly sporty driving and the range is a surprising 400 miles for an 11.6 gallon tank. Premium fuel is recommended.
While the driving dynamics are highly engaging, the interior is equally delightful, roomier and more upscale than you’d assume (MINI is owned by BMW). Fit and finish are excellent. Front seat room is ample enough for this size vehicle. The eye-catching double-contrasted stitching Chesterfield Leather Malt Brown seats (similar in quality as in a BMW 7 and X7-Series!) are beautiful, comfortable and supportive. The quirkiness continues with 8-way manual adjusted front seats. However, the interior provides little space for knickknacks—especially if you use the wireless charger in the center armrest.
The heated seats and adjustments make for a comfy ride no matter the distance. A meaty leather-wrapped steering wheel is excellent and manually tilts. The squarish shape allows for relatively easy entry and exits from the front seats.
The higher roofline provides generous headroom in front and surprisingly in the rear once you squeeze yourself inside. Seriously, rear passengers could endure a long trip with little bother. The double-pane panoramic roof illuminates the entire cabin and has manual sun blinds when desiring a darker atmosphere. Opening up the sunroof and both windows delivers a refreshing convertible feel as well.
The BMW-inspired infotainment controls are easy to use. A 6.5” touchscreen (upgradable to 8.8”) is exceptionally clear and easy to read. I love their crisp fonts. Old-school levers and switches and ambient lighting in the console are a delightful touch. The RearView camera is HD quality and the Head-Up display rises from the dash shows the speed and speed limits. An illuminated British flag motif is displayed above the glove compartment.
As mentioned, the sight lines are incredible and large (heated) side view mirrors virtually eliminate blind spots. Cargo room is a bit challenged (8.7 cu.ft.) with the rear seats up but expands to a workable 34 cu.ft. with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down. You can fit four golf bags inside that arrangement. There is a clever extra cargo hatch underneath the rear floor.
A standard six-speaker audio system is pretty good and Bluetooth streaming is superb. Apps like Spotify are easy to use. The MINI Remote Services app allows you check on car stats. It’s the wave of the future and works impeccably.
The 2020 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2-door is a compelling package for young and old alike. The delightful iconic exterior, old-school instrumentation and edgy performance brings grins a plenty. The price is attractive too with the tester at $36,275. Add in the zero maintenance costs for oil and brake fluid and perfect predicted reliability ratings make it a must drive when contemplating your next sporty sub-compact. Yes, the MINI is a terrific reminder that MAXI fun is indeed available in small packages.
Golf bags: 4(!) with rear seats down
Curbside appeal: Deliciously unique and eye-catching presence
0-60: 6.3 seconds
Ponies/torque: 189 hp/207 lb.-ft.
Gas mileage: 26/35 Observed 30 overall
Must-haves: Iconic trim
Warranty: 4-year/50,000 miles, complimentary maintenance 3yr/36k miles
Base price: $27,400
Price as tested: $36,275
Who buys it? Those desiring a uniquely styled ride with giddy performance
Finish line: A great treat in the subcompact category
Test-drive the MINI Cooper S Hardtop 2-door at MINI of Plano.