2015 Hardtop New Car Test Drive
It's a coming of age for the 2014 Mini Cooper. The original hardtop is all-new for 2014, bigger and more refined, while still retaining its classic looks and lively handling.
Now 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider, the 2014 Mini Cooper rides on a wheelbase that's been stretched by more than an inch. Though the concept of a bigger Mini may be a contradiction in terms, the result is more interior room, increased cargo space and a more comfortable ride.
The Mini Cooper's design is familiar, yet more mature. The wide-mouth, hexagonal grille remains, as does the circular headlights, though the latter are now fitted with optional LEDs.
Inside, circular shapes are echoed everywhere, from the air vents, speakers and door pulls to the gearshift surround. The speedometer, previously located in the center stack, has been moved in front of the driver. The circular area vacated by the former speedo now houses a display screen, controlled by a large iDrive-style knob and surrounding buttons located on the center console.
Powering the 2014 Mini Cooper hardtop is an all-new, 1.5-liter turbocharged, direct injection three-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The new inline-3 is the first example in the U.S. on a production car of BMW's new modular engine, which is essentially a 3.0-liter inline-6 cut in half. The base Mini is efficient but not a track star; it goes from 0-60 mph in an estimated 7.4 seconds with the manual, and 7.3 second with the auto, according to Mini. It's great for daily driving, but we found it lacks oomph off the line and in the low revs.
The more powerful Mini Cooper S uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 189 hp and 207 lb-ft. of torque (or as much as 221 lb.-ft with an overboost function). With the larger inline-4, the 2014 Mini Cooper S can dash from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds with the manual and 6.4 seconds with the automatic. We found this peppy setup great for darting through pokey traffic and for tackling winding mountain roads. It also passes on the freeway with ease.
Both models get two new transmissions: a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. On cars equipped with navigation, the automatic transmission uses GPS to identify the car's location and map out possible drive routes, then adjusts shift points accordingly for better performance.
Adjustable driving modes include Mid, Sport and Green, which change throttle mapping, steering response and engine acoustics. In green mode, the Mini maximizes fuel efficiency by reducing the energy used by air conditioning and heated outside mirrors.
Fuel economy ratings from the EPA: 30/42 mpg City/Highway for the base hardtop with 1.5-liter three-cylinder and manual transmission 29/41 mpg City/Highway with the automatic. For Mini Cooper S models with their 2.0-liter four-cylinder, estimates are 25/38 mpg with the 6-speed manual and 27/38 with the 6-speed automatic. Premium gasoline is recommended for both engines.
Suspension and steering have been revised, which helps to make ride and handling in the 2014 Mini Cooper more refined than in the past. Mini's signature quick steering is still present, but doesn't feel as darty. Nor does the suspension feel as teeth-chattering. As before, the chassis is stiff and responsive, with practically no body roll around corners.
Because it's marketed as a premium car, the 2014 Mini Cooper is more expensive than other compacts, and options can add up quickly. Those looking for a small car with head-turning design might also consider the less expensive (but less powerful) Fiat 500 or the Hyundai Veloster. Alternatives to the Mini Cooper S include the Fiat 500 Abarth and Hyundai Veloster Turbo.
The 2014 Mini Cooper is available in two models: The base hardtop Mini Cooper ($19,950) is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-3 that makes 134 hp and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. Mini Cooper S ($23,600) uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 189 hp and 207 lb.-ft.
Standard features on the base Mini Cooper hardtop include manually operated air conditioning, fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with multifunction controls, on-board computer, dynamic cruise control, Bluetooth, 6-speaker audio system with CD player, HD radio, satellite radio capability, USB/iPod interface and auxiliary jack, split-folding rear seats, heated mirrors and washer jets and 15-inch alloy wheels.
The Mini Cooper S adds sport seats, fog lights, a different sport-tuned suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires.
Dozens of packages and options are available for all Mini models. Mini claims more than 10 million combinations are available, and that no two Minis are exactly alike. The Premium Package adds automatic climate control, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, panoramic moonroof and rain sensing/automatic headlights. The Sport Package adds sport seats on the base model, LED headlights and foglights, bonnet stripes and a choice of 17- or 18-inch alloy wheel designs. The Wired Pack adds navigation with real-time traffic and Enhanced Bluetooth. Standalone options include a sport suspension, dynamic damper control, heated front seats, a head-up display, various interior color and trim combinations, exterior color schemes and wheel designs.
Safety features include dual-stage front impact airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and passenger knee airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist and stability control. All models with the manual transmission feature Hill Assist, which activates the brakes when starting on an uphill start to prevent the car from rolling back. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, head-up display, camera-based cruise control, distance control, and automatic collision mitigation (which will automatically hit the brakes if a pedestrian or another car are detected).