2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper Buyer's Guide

2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper Buyer's Guide

2007-2013 (R56 Generation) Mini Cooper Buyer's Guide

Are you interested in purchasing a 2nd generation Mini Cooper or just want to learn more about the platform? We have written our comprehensive Mini Cooper Buyers Guide to help you learn more about the model's features, options, chassis codes, and what to look out for when making your purchase decision!

Model Info

      The 2nd Generation (modern-era) Mini Cooper was introduced for the 2007 model year in Hatchback form, with various body styles being released in the following years. We've named this guide a "2007-2013 Mini Buyer's Guide", focusing on the years that the most popular Hatchback model was offered, even though some variations of this chassis were offered in later years (more details on that below). Also, if you're looking for a Mini from the years 2007-2008, be aware that the Convertible models sold during these years still use the 1st generation chassis and engine, the revised Convertible wasn't made available until 2010. The 2nd Generation Mini Coopers came equipped with revised styling, added features, and an all new 1.6l engine equipped with a turbocharger.


      The first major change to the model is the introduction of a turbocharged engine. The Cooper S models received a turbocharged 1.6l putting out 175hp.The base model also received a new engine, a naturally aspirated “Prince” 1.6l engine, with 118hp. Mini also made noticeable improvements to the model during the 2011 life cycle update with increased horsepower and response in both Base and 'S" models. 


      Mini continued to offer each model with a manual or automatic transmission option.  If the Getrag 6 speed manual transmission isn’t your cup of tea, the Aisin 6 speed automatic with manual shifting modes might be a good option for you. Transmissions also received slight revisions for the 2011 life cycle update. Mini continued to offer an optional limited slip differential. However in our experience finding a used Mini with this option is not common. Refer to our options code list below to see how your can verify if your potential Mini is equipped with the LSD.

Cosmetic Improvements

      The improvements to the second generation didn’t stop at the drivetrain. The exterior and interior both received noticeable improvements, while the general styling cues remained the same, keeping the iconic shape and features. With a quick glance the 1st and 2nd generation models look very similar. However the front and rear bumpers, front grille, headlights, taillights, side skirts, flares, hood, and fenders all received some minor changes to help refine the body styling.

      The interior received some refinements as well, with better ergonomics. While still retaining the center mounted tachometer, the switches and control stack was redesigned for better usability. 2nd generation Mini Coopers were still available with a plethora of optional interior features, color schemes, and materials for the trim and seats.

Chassis Codes

For some, the chassis naming of the Mini Cooper can be confusing at first. We did our best to organize each of the unique chassis codes with their defining features below.


  • The R56 is better known as the hatchback or “hardtop” model. Available from 2006-2013 in either Cooper or Cooper S variants. A John Cooper Works model was available as well. This model is easily identifiable with the two side doors, hardtop, and rear hatchback associated with the traditional Mini marque.


  • The R55 was a new model for this generation, the Clubman. This model has a unique, longer 3 door body, with an extra half door located behind the passenger side door. This uniqueness is complimented with hinged barn doors in the rear. This model was available from 2007-2014 in Cooper, Cooper S, and JCW variants.


  • The R57 was the updated Convertible model available from 2009-2015. These models have the same two side doors as the hatchback, four seats, rear tailgate trunk, and power operated convertible soft top. The Convertible was also available in either Cooper, Cooper S, or JCW trims.


  • In 2012 Mini expanded their lineup with the addition of the R58 Coupe model. This model was unique with a helmet shaped roof featuring two side doors, two seats, and rear hatch door. Available in either Cooper, Cooper S, or JCW trims from 2012-2015.


  • Offered alongside the R58 Coupe, the R59 shared the same styling characteristics, but with a new convertible soft top. It featured two doors, two seats, and a unique silhouette compared to the traditional Convertible (R57) model. Again, it was offered in Cooper, Cooper S, and JCW trims from 2012-2015.


  • The R60 marked yet another new body style for Mini. The Countryman takes a drastic leap with a completely new chassis and body. Entering the small SUV range, The Countryman features four doors, four seats, a raised ride height, with a raked hatchback rear end. It was introduced in 2010 and offered until 2016 when the model was updated.


  • Complimenting the Countryman, the R61 Paceman model was introduced in 2013. With a similar size to the R60, the Paceman is a sleeker two door design that features a steeply raked roof and rear hatchback.

      Mini offered a wide range of models that all followed the same basic design strategy. With small changes and styling differences to help suit the needs of a larger customer base.

Cooper or Cooper S

      When searching for a used Mini, you’ll see a range of base Cooper and Cooper S models. So what’s actually different between the two? Is the Cooper S actually worth the price difference?

…. Yes, absolutely!

      The Cooper S is basically a performance tuned version of the Cooper. While the base Cooper has a naturally aspirated 1.6l N12 power plant, the Cooper S gets a sporty turbocharged N14 1.6l engine. It also received a host of improved suspension and chassis improvements to enhance the driving experience. The Cooper S also received various cosmetic additions and improved styling to help it stand out from the base model, such as the recognizable hood scoop.

John Cooper Works

      If you're new to the Mini brand and community, you may be confused by the John Cooper Works badging on some vehicles. Vehicles with the John Cooper Works badging, JCW for short, feature even more sport tuned improvements over the Cooper S models. Originally an aftermarket tuning company with lineage dating back to the original Mini Cooper founder, John Cooper. On the previous generation Mini, this was a dealership installed package, however for the 2nd Generation, Mini opted to produce these as standalone sub-models at the factory.

      Finding a used John Cooper Works can be a bit more difficult than finding base or S models, as they were produced in much smaller numbers. The JCW vehicles came equipped with an upgraded turbocharger, ECU tune, exhaust system, and transmission enhancements that increase the performance and capability of the vehicle. The tune was quite popular among enthusiasts for its sporty punch and exhaust tone with pops and crackles on deceleration. The JCW models also received a stiffer suspension, Brembo calipers, and more aggressive wheels for a sportier driving experience. The package is completed with more aggressive aerodynamic styling in the front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, and exterior decals.

Key upgrades on John Cooper Works models

  • Upgraded Turbocharger
  • ECU tune
  • Exhaust system
  • Suspension
  • Red Brembo Calipers
  • 17” Challenge Spoke wheels
  • Front Grille
  • Front Bumper styling
  • Rear Bumper styling
  • Red shift knob pattern
  • JCW badging ( front grille, rear tailgate, fenders )

Mid-Cycle Update

      Like most vehicles, Mini implemented a life cycle update midway through the models lifespan. In 2011 Mini rolled out a series of updates to resolve some of the problem areas on the vehicle. The first major change was an update to the engines across the board. The previous naturally aspirated N12 in the base model was updated to an N16. Same with the turbocharged engines, the N14 would become the N18, receiving small improvements and performance increases. Introducing features like Dual Vanos, updated pistons, camshafts, and improved ECU tuning. Alongside these changes came welcomed interior styling updates to the dashboard and control stack. With new black trim and improved ergonomics, the interior would feel more refined than the earlier models. The exterior received some love as well with minor updates to the lighting and bumpers.

Options Galore!

      Mini continued to please the die hard Mini fans with a wide range of options available for the 2nd Generation Mini’s. Like the previous generation, options can be easily decoded using the vehicles VIN and an online decoder. We suggest using to find the options equipped on your potential car. Each Mini will be unique with the wide range of wheels, colors, decals, and interior trim available. Here’s some of the key options and their codes we think you should keep an eye out for when looking for your future Mini:

  • Hifi Audio ( S6FDA ) or Harmon Kardon audio if available
  • Sports Seats ( S481A )
  • Aerodynamics package ( S7ARA )
  • Xenon lights ( S522A )
  • Automatic Climate Control ( S534A )
  • Roof Railing ( S386E )
  • Differential Lock ( S2TAA )
  • Dynamic Stability Control ( S210A )
  • Sports Leather Steering Wheel ( S255A )
  • Heated Seats ( S494A )
  • Navigation ( S609A )
  • Folding Side Mirrors ( S313A )
  • Parking Sensors ( S507A )
  • Sports Suspension ( S266A )

Problem Areas

      No car is without its problems, and the 2nd Generation Mini Cooper is certainly no exception. The new Prince engine line had a few lingering problems throughout the lifespan that will be valuable to know when searching for used Mini. Here’s some of the major issues we feel should fully inspected and addressed when looking at a potential purchase. As always, we suggest having a professional perform a PPI ( pre-purchase inspection ) for a more in-depth used vehicle inspection. This relatively small investment will help ensure your purchase is free of any major issues than can come with any used vehicle purchase.

Timing Chain “death rattle”

  • The N14 engine was notorious for the timing chain rattle issues. Caused by a worn timing chain tensioner guide, this rattle could spell disaster for the engine if not addressed right away. The problem can be easily heard during a cold start. If heard it will require an expensive timing chain replacement performed. A vehicle with paperwork for any previous repairs done for this would be best. Mini recommends that this service be performed every 70k miles.

Cooling system leaks

  • The Prince engine line uses many cooling system components that are very similar to that of BMW engines. The thermostat housing and coolant ports are mostly made of plastic. This plastic can age and crack over time, causing leaks. These leaks can lead to overheating the engine itself. Be sure to check for any damaged components or signs of coolant leaking from the engine.

Premature Clutch wear

  • The clutch systems on many Mini Coopers equipped with manual transmissions experienced accelerated clutch wear even in normal driving conditions. If you are looking at a manual transmission equipped Mini Cooper, thoroughly test the clutch operation to check for any abnormal wear or slipping, regardless of vehicle mileage.

Oil level

  • The new Prince engine line also faced a suite of common oil problems that plagued the model. Many vehicles experienced oil consumption that needed to be closely watched and topped off every so often. Low oil levels can spell disaster for the turbocharger system. As the vehicles age various oil seals and gaskets will start to wear and slowly leak oil. Be sure to inspect the underside of the engine for any major leaks.

VANOS failure

  • The VANOS system was another adoption from the BMW engineering department. Infinitely variable valve timing allows for optimal engine timing for performance and efficiency. Earlier engines had single VANOS on the intake side, and dual Vanos on the later models. The system was operated through oil pressure, meaning low or old oil could cause the units to clog and fail. Replacement of the VANOS components can be expensive and labor intensive.

Scan for Codes

  • Bringing an OBD2 scanner, or a BMW specific scanner with you to inspect a vehicle is always a good idea. The Mini’s computer stores a lot of information so scanning for any problem is important. Especially if the dashboard has any warning lights. This will help find if the vehicle has any pesky electrical gremlins that can be a pain to find and solve.

Our Recommendation

      When searching for a used Mini Cooper it'll feel like every car will be slightly different due to the amount of options offered. While the optimal model will be determined by the individual buyer's personal taste, there are certain years/ packages we would recommend narrowing your search down to. To avoid most of the major headaches associated with this generation, we suggest looking for a 2011 or later Cooper S model, if budget allows. The N18 engine is proven to be more reliable than the earlier N14 unit. The later models also offer refined trim and materials for an improved driving experience. We believe the Cooper S models are worth the extra penny for the increased power and improved handling, even for everyday driving. Searching for a vehicle well equipped with amenities and optional cosmetic trim will enhance the experience and help retain resale value. If possible, avoid the 2007-2010 models with the earlier Prince engines, unless there is solid proof of up-to-date maintenance. If you want the exclusivity of the JCW model, search for a 2013+ model as they received the engine update later in the models life.

We hope this information helps you make the right purchasing decision when searching for a used 2nd Generation Mini Cooper. If you found this information helpful, feel free to share, and check back with if you need any quality used Mini Cooper Parts.

Interested in a 2002-2006 1st Generation (modern-era) Mini Cooper? We have a buyer's guide for those too! 

Apr 22nd 2019 Matt M.

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