Are MINI Coopers Good First Cars? (9 Factors + Best MINI)

A small hatchback like the Mini Cooper is an excellent choice for a well-rounded first car because it is easy to drive, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive to insure for teenagers.

However, while the positives outweigh the negatives, several drawbacks may dissuade some new drivers.

mini cooper good first car

The 9 Considerations for Getting the MINI for a First Car

The first seven are good reasons to get a Mini Cooper.

The remaining two are crucial considerations to factor into your overall cost of owning a Mini.

#1 Multiple-Time Winner of the IIHS Top Safety Pick

Safety is a crucial factor in choosing your first car, and the Mini Cooper performs remarkably well in this aspect.

MINI, as a brand, has won several Top Safety Pick awards by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS):

  • Mini Cooper 2dr Hatchback – 2016, 2017, and 2019.
  • Mini Countryman – 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

The safety tests include the front, side, and rear crashes and roof crush.

It is one of the safest small cars you can buy.

#2 One of the Cheapest to Insure for Teenagers

According to ValuePenguin, the Mini Countryman is among the cheapest to insure for teens, behind only the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Subaru Outback, and Volkswagen Golf GTI.

However, note that insurance premiums vary depending on the driver’s age, driving history, credit score, location, gender, and vehicle age, among others.

For example, a Mini Cooper costs close to $5,000 a year to insure an 18-year-old.

Insuring the car in bigger cities typically costs more, and the difference in premiums can be 2x or more between the cheapest and the most expensive locations.

So, it pays to shop around before deciding.

#3 Competitive Pricing

For such an iconic car with an immense brand appeal, the Mini Cooper is a relatively inexpensive purchase.

A brand-new Mini Cooper four-door hardtop retails for around $24,700.

Contrast that to the latest Honda Civic hatchback that sells for $24,300, and your decision on the initial outlay becomes easier.

Buying a used Mini may cost you less than a similar-age Civic hatchback, partly because the car’s value retention comes into play (discussed later in the post).

#4 Perfect Size for City Driving

The diminutive dimensions of a Mini Cooper make it an effortless car to maneuver in tight urban settings.

Parking the largest Mini – the Mini Countryman – remains relatively easy compared to, say, the compact Toyota Corolla.

SMALL CARSLengthWidth (w/o mirrors)
Cooper Hardtop 4dr159.1 in / 4.04 m68.0 in / 1.72 m
Cooper Countryman169.7 in / 4.31 m71.7 in / 1.82 m
Toyota Corolla182.3 in / 4.63 m70.1 in / 1.78 m
Mini Cooper vs. Toyota Corolla in size.

The driver’s visibility from inside any Mini is fairly average.

The windshield is wide but not very tall, which means you may need to crane your neck to peer under the top of the windscreen to see overhead traffic lights.

#5 Vastly-Improved Reliability

Mini Coopers used to fare poorly in reliability, consistently ranking near the bottom of most automotive surveys.

But judging by Consumer Report’s 2021 reliability survey, MINI ranks #10 out of 28 automakers, beating the likes of Porsche, Audi, and its parent company, BMW.

The position is a massive improvement of thirteen spots from the year before.

Mini’s ratings on JD Power underline this progress.

Table Guide:

  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems.
Model YearReliability
2022 MINI Cooper83/100
2021 MINI Cooper83/100
2020 MINI CooperNA
2019 MINI Cooper83/100
2018 MINI Cooper82/100
2017 MINI Cooper82/100
2016 MINI Cooper84/100
2015 MINI Cooper76/100
2014 MINI CooperNA
2013 MINI Cooper75/100
2012 MINI Cooper74/100
2011 MINI Cooper75/100
2010 MINI Cooper78/100
2009 MINI Cooper79/100
2008 MINI Cooper76/100
2007 MINI CooperNA
Mini Cooper reliability.

#6 Reasonable Value Retention

Once a car drives off the lot with the title registered and loan approved, the buyer officially owns the vehicle, and the car loses its new-car value.

A new vehicle typically depreciates 50% to 60% after the first five years.

A brand-new Mini Countryman loses 49% of its value after five years.

Compare that to BMW’s very own 5 Series and 7 Series, and you have one less concern when re-selling your first car – although a Mini cannot beat a Toyota compact on that front.

 5-Yr Value Depreciation
Mini Countryman49%
BMW 5 Series57%
BMW 7 Series61%
Toyota Corolla38%
Depreciation rate for brand-new vehicles.

Still, it’s best to avoid buying a one-year-old Mini when the decline is at its sharpest.

#7 Relatively Fuel-Thrifty

Fuel efficiency is essential for a first car, and the Mini excels in this department.

The Mini hardtop’s 31 to 32 mpg in combined driving is ideal for a first car and one of the thriftiest Mini models – the larger Mini Countryman average 29 mpg.

Note that the extra horsepower a Mini Cooper S provides comes at the expense of approx. four mpg.

 Fuel Economy (base trim)
MINI Cooper Hardtop27/37/31
Toyota Corolla30/38/33
Honda Civic30/38/33
MINI Cooper vs. excellent first cars in fuel economy.

The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are some of the best first cars with class-leading fuel economy, and the Mini Cooper doesn’t lag far behind.

#8 Premium Fuel Required

Unfortunately, all Minis must run on premium unleaded fuel.

It is an unnecessary extra cost for new drivers when a regular gas vehicle will suffice for a first car.

#9 Costly Repairs Out of Warranty

Mini models cost approx. $854 per year to repair and maintain, according to RepairPal – the Mini Cooper hardtop averages $846 and the Mini Countryman $880.

It is substantially more than subcompact cars’ average of $456 per year.

A 4-year or 50,000-mile manufacturer warranty is standard across all new Mini models.

But if you’re getting a used Mini, purchasing an extended warranty is crucial to avoid expensive repairs.

What About the Specific MINI Models?

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests averaged.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
 Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. Costs
Cooper Hardtop4/44/5Good27/37/3183/100$846
Cooper Countryman4/4NAGood26/33/2983/100$880
Cooper ClubmanNANAAverage26/34/2984/100NA
Cooper ConvertibleNANA27/37/31NANA
MINI models comparison.

The repair and maintenance cost for all Mini models average $854 annually, so any Mini will be costly to upkeep compared to other compact first cars (see first cars comparison in the final section).

The Mini Cooper S is the Best Mini for a first car as the punchy 2.0L turbocharged engine is a blast to drive without being dangerously potent and remains fuel-efficient.

If you need more room for your first car, the Mini Countryman will appeal with its higher-quality interior than competitors. However, the passenger and cargo space is far from making the Countryman a class leader.

Between the 2-door and 4-door hardtop, the latter is the better choice for new drivers as its longer wheelbase provides more interior room aside from the added practicality of a four-door design.

Before BMW acquired MINI in 2000, the Rover Group owned MINI, and the Classic Mini was available up to that point.

The Classic Mini is a bad first car as it’s now ancient, with reliability and upkeep cost being major concerns.

Best MINI Cooper Year for Your First Car

Let’s look at the Cooper hardtop model as it is the most popular.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base; manual).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.Reliability
2022 MINI Cooper4/44/527/37/3183/100
2021 MINI Cooper4/44/526/37/3083/100
2020 MINI Cooper4/44/528/36/31NA
2019 MINI Cooper4/44/528/37/3183/100
2018 MINI Cooper4/44/528/37/3282/100
2017 MINI Cooper4/44/528/37/3282/100
2016 MINI Cooper4/44/528/38/3284/100
2015 MINI Cooper4/44/528/38/3276/100
2014 MINI Cooper4/44/5NANA
2013 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA29/36/3275/100
2012 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA29/36/3274/100
2011 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA29/36/3275/100
2010 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA28/37/3278/100
2009 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA28/37/3279/100
2008 MINI Cooper3.3/4NA28/37/3276/100
2007 MINI Cooper3.5/4NA27/36/31NA
Mini Cooper model years comparison.

2016 Mini Cooper and newer are more reliable and the better Mini for your first car – both the hardtops and the Countryman showed a similar trend.

Plus, they have relatively stronger crash safety.

If you want the safest Mini for your first car with official recognition to back it up, opt for 2016, 2017, or 2019 Mini Cooper two-door, or the 2017 Mini Countryman – IIHS awarded them the Top Safety Pick.

Mini’s overall value retention should also factor in your decision.

Mini Coopers’ ability to hold value aligns with the industry average (49% to 55% after five years for brand-new MINIs).

Still, brand-new ones depreciate the most after one year (approx. 23%).

For example, a new Mini Countryman that retails for $30,000 only re-sells for approximately $23,100 after the first year of ownership.

The depreciation rate tends to slow after the fifth year when you can buy a used Mini for around 50% of its original selling price.

If you intend to buy a five-year-old Mini Cooper or older, make sure you purchase an extended warranty, either from the manufacturer or a third-party provider.

Repairing a Mini out of warranty will cost you dearly.

Alternatively, opt for a Mini that’s less than four years old when it still enjoys the manufacturer’s warranty coverage.

MINIs depreciate the most within the first year, so year 2 to year 4 MINIs should give you the best overall value.

Alternatives to the MINI for a First Car

Mini Cooper’s brand appeal is undeniable.

However, other cheaper-to-own hatchbacks and small cars are equally attractive options for their first-car qualities.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests averaged.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
 Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. Costs
MINI Cooper Hardtop4/44/5Good27/37/3183/100$846
Toyota Corolla Hatchback4/45/5Good32/41/3583/100$362
Honda Civic Hatchback4/45/5Good31/40/3482/100$368
Kia Rio3.8/4NAExcellent33/41/3683/100$434
Toyota Corolla4/45/5Good30/38/3383/100$362
Honda Civic4/45/5Good30/38/3382/100$368
Hyundai Elantra4/45/5Average33/43/3781/100$452
MINI Cooper vs. Better First Cars

The Kia Rio hatchback is one of the best first cars for price-conscious buyers with impressive fuel economy, solid build quality, and long warranty coverage.

Plus, a new Kia Rio costs several thousand dollars cheaper than the MINI, Corolla hatchback, or Civic hatchback.

That said, the Corolla and Civic hatchbacks are compelling choices for a first car if you want to remain with the hatchback body style.

Compact sedans, such as the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra, are the ideal first car with extra room for practicality yet are fuel-efficient and inexpensive to operate.

The Elantra’s impressive fuel economy is hard to beat for small cars.