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OK so there's lots of engines out there but which one is best? Well, I'm not going to stick my neck out and give a definitive answer. Instead I've provided the following table which lists all the relevant specs as accurately as I can. It's up to you to decide. If you have any data on other engines or corrections to the existing data, please let me know.

Note that the BHP quoted is in standard trim, the weight is without ancillaries, comments are mine and other peoples' opinions. All prices are for complete engines, with gearbox, injection system and loom where appropriate.

Note also that I've only listed engines from front wheel drive models. Although rear wheel drive is a possible option it doesn't really seem that popular on a Mini!

Power Conversion Formulae:

Horsepower to get Kilowatts    multiply by 7.457 x 10 -1
Kilowatts to get Horsepower    multiply by 1.341

Engine  cc Power Cost Weight Avail. Comments
Honda VTEC B16A 1595 160BHP
750   Average High tech engine, revs freely to 8,500rpm, high BHP but still delivers 
good MPG and tractable response. Two kits available, still relatively 
rare conversion. Offers excellent reliability and good tuning potential.
All alloy engine block and head. Parts can be expensive. Excellent
on motorways with 5 speed box.
Honda VTEC B16B 1595 185BHP
???   Poor Type R Variant of the B16 used in 98+ Civic Type-R. DOHC VTEC, 10.4:1 c.r. peak power at 8,200 rpm, peak torque at 7,600 rpm. 
Honda VTEC B18 1797 170BHP 800     1797cc
Vauxhall GTE 2000 180BHP 750   Good Free revving to around 6,500rpm. Good reliability and excellent tuning
potential. Lots of kits available and a fairly common conversion. Alloy
head but cast iron block. Reasonable MPG. Parts are very cheap.
Rumours of handling problems still abound but latest kits manage to
sort this now. Plenty of owners out there who are happy with their Vauxhall-engined Minis. Excellent on motorways with 5 speed box.
Vauxhall SXi 1800   150   Good Free-revving. Good reliability and tuning potential. Single cam but 
reduced head width gives more room for small reduction in power.
Vauxhall  1600   500     As for SXi 1800.
A Series 1380 120BHP 2000 160kg
Excellent Purists choice, doesn't require bodywork or suspension modification,
expensive, very bad MPG, lots of kits available, limit of tuning 
potential reached, considered by many to be unreliable. Parts are
relatively cheap. Torque steer and cammy engine result in difficult
handling and tiring to drive. No motorway potential. 5 speed gearbox
adds another 1,000 to the price.
MG Metro A+ 1275 73BHP 150 160kg
Excellent Good first engine swap. Cheap and easy to do with little or no real conversion work required.
MG Metro Turbo  1275 95BHP 250 160kg
Very good A bit more difficult than the normally aspirated MG Metro as it requires some bodywork modification (inset bulkhead box to take Garret T2 turbo) and careful attention to cooling both in terms of under-bonnet and engine - use plenty of heat insulation wrap. Again a good first engine swap because the engines are cheap and relatively easy to do. Power output is conservative due to low boost pressure. Tuning potential is quite good with just simple changes to increase boost pressure but note that even the Turbo version of the A series gearbox (the best to date) is probably at it's performance limit. Avonbar are specialists in the area of turbo conversions and performance tuning. 
Metro K Series 1400   800   Good Difficult to do in terms of conversion work but an excellent engine with reasonable tuning potential. It has been done but there are questions about suitability due to gearbox width. 16v version available.
Suzuki G13B Swift GTi 1300       Average High tech engine, good tuning potential - 150BHP from turbo-charged
version. Excellent on motorways with 5 speed box.
Toyota 4AGE  1600 134BHP
      16 valve, torque -  15.0 kg/m @ 6,000rpm
Toyota 4AGE 1600 165BHP
      20 valve, torque -  16.5 kg/m @ 5,600rpm
Toyota 4AGZE 1600 170BHP
      16 valve, super-charged, torque -  21kg/m @ 4,400rpm 
Mitsubishi 4G61 1595 97kW
      16 valve from Lancer Espanda 1990-1991
Mitsubishi 4G91 1595 128kW       Turbo-charged
Mitsubishi 4G92 1597 131kW
      MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic
Control system) variable valve (similar to VTEC). 
Peak power at 7,700rpm, redline at 8,500rpm! From Lancer Cyborg R 1992-1993
Mitsubishi 6A12G 1988 150kW
      MIVEC From
Mitsubishi 6G72 2972 208kW
      Twin turbo, 6 speed. From GTO (3000GT)
Isuzu 4XE1 1600 134kW       Turbo-charged
Golf GTi 1800         Mechanical fuel injection, 8 valve.
Golf GTi 16v 1800         Mechanical fuel injection, 16 valve.
Golf GTi 16v 2000         Electronic
Peugeot 1900          
Daihatsu 1000 100+       Three-cylinder turbocharged engine fitted to the Daihatsu Charade. Bank Garage Minis have done this conversion and quote up to 220 BHP with the rally spec 16 valve turbo. A bloke called Jason MacPherson has also done it.
Nissan MA-09ERT 930 82kW
      EFI SOHC 8-valve 4 cyl supercharged and turbocharged. From March Super Turbo 1989-1992. Note that these engines use the same block and head as the MA10 engine. There are also reports of these being tuned in excess of 200BHP! Thanks to Ed at the Modded Micra Network for this info:
Nissan E15-ET 1487 86kW
      EFI SOHC EFI OHC 8-valve 4cyl turbo. From 1984 EXA and Pulsar Turbo.
Nissan Z18-ET 1770 101kW
      EFI OHC 8-valve twin-plug 4-cyl turbo. From Silvia ZSE-X and Gazelle 1982-1983
Nissan FJ20-E 1990 112kW
      EFI DOHC 16-valve 4cyl. From Silvia RS 82-83
Nissan FJ20-ET 1990 142kW
      EFI DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl turbo. From Silvia RS-X,Gazelle RS-X and Skyline RS-X
Nissan CA18-DE 1809 97kW
      EFI DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl turbo. From FWD fitted to Australian late model EXA's
Suburu Justy           4 wheel drive