No one was quite sure what to expect when BMW reintroduced the MINI brand to America, as the first of the modern, 2002 cooper hardtops began arriving here. But, it sure sounded like a good idea at the time. And since then the good times have continued to roll with an expanded portfolio of convertibles, wagons, roadsters, and even crossovers. Well, now it’s time to return to the humble two-door hardtop and start the 3rd generation of “new minis”. So, let’s see if the 2014 Mini Cooper is still super!
The 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop has undergone it’s most extensive re-engineering since the 2002 revival. And while most changes seem evolutionary, this Mini eyes the future rather than the past.
It has gotten bigger of course, 4 and a half inches longer, but with only 1-inch more wheelbase, So, there’s more overhang, but the classic shape remains. And while fans will applaud that proportions haven’t changed that much; they’ll be the first to notice the bolder take on iconic elements like the grille, side scuttles, head and tail lights, as well as the longer, flatter nose.
With the new chassis also comes two all-new engines, as well as new 6-speed transmissions, both manual and automatic. Power includes a 2.0-liter turbo I4 with 189–horsepower and 207 lb-ft. of torque, 221 with overboost. Standard in the Cooper S; output is up from the previous gen.
The more intriguing new engine however, is the standard Cooper 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo, with 134-horses and 162 lb-ft., 170 on overboost.
Now we spent time with both motors at the international press launch in Puerto Rico and found the I3 to be the most impressive.
But to confirm that it wasn’t just the island lifestyle clouding our judgment, it’s a standard I3-automatic equipped Cooper that we have here for testing. And after further review… our previous call has been confirmed.
There are aggressive Sport, Mid and relaxed Green modes to tailor your driving experience, but it was in Sport mode that we took this Mini to our test track.
Torque was good off the line and our Cooper Hardtop sprinted to 60 in a respectable 7.0-seconds. It felt great in the short run. However, the ¼-mile run proved more leisurely at 15.4–seconds and 92 miles-per-hour.
But the Cooper has never been about straight line kicks. The fun starts when you begin sawing the wheel back and forth. Suspension hardware remains Mini’s unique single-joint spring strut front along with a multi-link rear, but everything has been both lightened and stiffened, losing none of the go kart feel along the way. The electronic steering is quick, but a bit numb feeling.
It all makes an extremely capable back road handler, but much like most of the recent cars from corporate parent BMW the sensory parts have given way to more efficient electronic ones. Brakes weren’t quite up to the task, however, halting our tester in a rather lengthy average of 135–feet from 60.
Mini has also put the brakes on some of the cheapness on the interior. There’s definitely a more premium feel, if one that’s also a bit less unique. Unless you are a minimalist, you will very much appreciate all of the small item storage nooks, as well as more front cabin space.
In the back seat, leg room is up, but headroom is down. So, it’s still a tight confine for most adults. Cargo space climbs to 8.7 cubic-ft. seats up; 38.0 cubic-ft. with seatbacks folded. That’s something all buyers can get behind.
Iconic elements like the “love them or hate them” toggle switches, and of course the big round center dash display remain. But, the speedometer has moved from there to a routine place behind the steering wheel. The center display can be filled with an 8.8-inch color screen controlled by Mini’s version of BMW’s iDrive system.
Surrounding the center display is a “mood ring” that changes with driving mode. From Green for Eco to Red for Sport. Other new bits like the available pop up head up display also make the case for convenience over nostalgia, as does no longer having to insert a key to get the party started.
With auto stop/start, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are very good at 29-City, 41-Highway, and 34-Combined. We saw a spot on average of 34.2 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
Mini fun starts at a reasonable $20,745. The sportier Cooper S, at $24,395.
So, has the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop gotten too big for its britches or is it still the fun runabout that we’ve loved so much? Well, more space doesn’t necessarily mean less fun, so we’re good there. But, we could do without the homogenization of more of BMW in the design. Still the spirit of the original Mini remains intact. Let’s all hope that always remains the case.
Torque: 162 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 15.4 seconds @ 92 mph
EPA: 29 mpg city/ 41 mpg highway