Mini John Cooper Works

The Mini Cooper range explained

Wondering what a Mini Cooper is and how it fits into the wider Mini range? Our guide explains.

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By Cazoo editorial team

If you’re interested in buying a Mini, you may be wondering exactly what a Mini Cooper is. After all, many Mini models have ‘Cooper’ in their name. Is it a model in its own right? Or is it a trim level? And what makes a Cooper a Cooper? You’re in the right place to find out – here’s everything you need to know about the Mini Cooper.

What is a Mini Cooper?

You might think that the Mini Cooper is a model in its own right, like the Ford Fiesta. But instead, it’s a trim level that’s available on most of the models that Mini makes, specifically these: the 3-Door Hatch, 5-Door Hatch, Convertible, Clubman and Countryman. 

But here’s where it can get a bit confusing. Mini uses ‘Cooper’ in different ways – sometimes you see it after a car model name (as in the Mini Countryman Cooper) and sometimes before it (Mini Cooper Convertible). It varies depending on where you’re looking but the fact is that Cooper is only ever a trim level and not a model in itself.

What does a Mini Cooper look like?

In general, the Cooper trim gives each Mini model more equipment as standard, more power and a slightly sportier look than Mini’s less-expensive trim levels.

You can also identify Cooper trim by looking at the car’s technical details. Since 2013, all petrol Coopers have a 1.5-litre engine with 134bhp. Diesel Hatch and Convertible Coopers have a 1.5-litre engine with 114bhp; Clubman and Countryman Cooper diesels have a 2.0-litre engine with 148bhp.

You do need to bear in mind, however, that if you buy a new Mini there are literally hundreds of options for you to personalise it through different wheels, colour combinations, stripes and stickers. So if you’re looking at a used Mini there are a huge number of variations in how the car looks. If in doubt, look for the Cooper badge in the bottom right corner of the boot lid. 

What is the Mini Cooper S?

The Cooper S is, in essence, a sportier version of the already-quite-sporty Cooper trim. You can easily identify one by the slot in the bonnet above the Mini logo and the ‘S’ badge on the front grille. All Cooper S models sold since 2013 have a 189bhp petrol engine, or a 168bhp diesel, both 2.0-litres in size.

The Cooper S isn’t the sportiest Mini, though. The high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) versions have more than 200bhp as well as upgraded suspension and brakes, for a driving experience that can be a lot of fun. The John Cooper Works badge on the front grille is the main visual marker to look for.    

Where does the Cooper name come from?

Cooper Cars was a successful motor racing team during the 1950s. When the classic Mini was launched in 1959, company founder John Cooper recognised its potential and began  selling upgraded engine, brake and suspension parts to Mini owners who wanted to go faster and have more fun.

Cooper’s upgrades turned the Mini into a winning race car and were also very popular with the buying public. British Motor Corporation (BMC), which made the Mini at the time, took notice and made a deal to sell Cooper-upgraded Minis through its official dealers. And so the Mini Cooper was born.

BMW, which bought the Mini brand in 1994, introduced an all-new Mini in 2000 and that car has evolved into the ones on sale today.   

What are the other Mini trim levels?

Here’s the Mini trim level hierarchy in full: One, Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works. As you go up the range, you get more equipment and quicker acceleration.

Cooper and Cooper S models sold new since 2019 are available with Classic, Sport and Exclusive packages, each of which adds a different set of equipment and styling details.

There are also special-edition models sold in limited numbers, including the Challenge 210, 1499GT and Seven, with unique colour combinations, styling details and equipment packages.

What are the different Mini cars?

There are five cars in the Mini range, as of early 2022. Perhaps the best known is the 3-Door Hatch, with a single door on each side, plus the boot lid. The 5-Door Hatch is a bit longer to accommodate an extra pair of back doors. It also has more space for back-seat passengers. Both Hatch cars are about the same size as a Ford Fiesta.

There are two more variations on the 3-Door – the Mini Convertible and the Mini Electric. The Convertible is the open-top model, featuring an electrically operated fabric roof that folds down behind the back seats. 

The Mini Electric was launched in 2020. It has an electric motor, some different styling and a maximum official battery range of 145 miles. It’s the only Mini not available as a Cooper – instead, its trim levels are named Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.

Moving up a size, there’s the Clubman estate. It’s about the same size inside and out as a Ford Focus.

Lastly, there’s the Countryman SUV. It’s only slightly longer than the Clubman but is considerably taller. It feels more spacious as a result and has a bit more boot space. The Cooper SE model has plug-in hybrid power with a zero-emissions electric-only range of up to 26 miles.

You also might come across other, older Mini models in Cooper trim, like the sporty, two-seat Coupe and Roadster soft-top; and the Paceman, a three-door coupe SUV.

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