Full 2014 MINI Cooper Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Mini Cooper hatchback (the "hardtop") is redesigned and grows in size, while the convertible carries over unchanged. The new hatchback heralds the arrival of a pair of new engines, a redesigned interior and new features such as LED headlights and an adaptive suspension.
It was bound to happen. Smaller cars have been getting bigger for years and now this trend has hit Mini. Specifically, we're talking about the fully redesigned, and bigger, 2014 Mini Cooper hatchback (also known as the Cooper hardtop). But before you start firing off angry tweets to @Mini, know that this new Cooper is only about a cell phone longer than before and is still anywhere from 8-11 inches shorter than most other subcompact cars. Rest assured, the Mini Cooper still warrants its name.
Of course, the added size for this third-generation Cooper hatchback does translate to more space for people and things. The hatchback's backseat is still small, but it provides more room than before, especially shoulder room and hiproom. Maximum cargo space is up more than 50 percent, rating a generous (at least by Mini Cooper standards) 38 cubic feet. Other notable changes to the hatchback include a pair of new, turbocharged engines that are both more powerful and more fuel-efficient than before. Even the base Cooper hardtop with an automatic transmission is fairly quick; Mini claims it will scoot to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds. On the technology side, the hatchback now offers a rearview camera, a head-up display and an automated parallel-parking system.
What hasn't changed is the spunky and agile nature of this little runabout that makes it such a blast to drive, even when you're just running errands. And it's still one of the smallest cars you can buy, so the Mini remains a snap to park. All told, the minor growth spurt and other changes have boosted practicality, performance and fuel efficiency without affecting the hatchback's lovable personality.
Whether you're looking at the new hatchback or the carryover convertible, the effervescent little Mini Cooper is not without flaw. Although the hatchback (especially with the available adjustable suspension) goes over the bumps and ruts a bit more smoothly than before, the ride may still be too busy for some shoppers. And even with the increased space back there, the rear seat is undeniably small. The unchanged convertible version obviously retains its former pros and cons, so it's still fun to drive and has a clever, multifunction convertible top. But compared to the new hardtop it has a stiffer ride, harder-to-use controls and a smaller backseat. It also has poor rearward visibility, even with the top down.
Drivers looking for a similarly adorable European charmer with a more forgiving ride (though less sporty handling) will want to check out the 2014 Fiat 500. The relatively spacious 2014 Hyundai Veloster is also worth considering. As far as convertibles go, you'll get a bigger backseat with the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle and ample style with the Fiat 500 convertible. Overall, though, the Mini Cooper is one of the most entertaining small cars you can buy. Its ability to deliver high fuel economy and a measure of practicality, along with an engaging driving personality, makes it a popular choice for a wide range of buyers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mini Cooper is available in two-door hatchback (hardtop) and convertible body styles. The hatchback was redesigned for this year, while the convertible continues on unchanged. The hatchback is available in base Cooper and Cooper S trims, and the convertible comes in Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW) versions.
The Cooper hatchback comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, adjustable driving modes, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, multicolor ambient lighting, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB/iPod adapter. The S hatchback adds a more powerful engine, 16-inch wheels, foglights and sport seats.
The Cooper convertible is equipped similarly to the Cooper hatchback and adds a full power convertible top that includes a partial-open "sunroof" feature. The Cooper S convertible likewise adds performance-themed perks similar to those of the Cooper S hatchback. The John Cooper Works convertible includes an even more powerful turbo engine, upgraded Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit and cloth upholstery. A firmer suspension can be fitted to the John Cooper Works.
Option highlights exclusive to the new Cooper hatchback include adjustable suspension dampers, a rearview camera, a head-up display and an automated parking system. Other available features (some of which are grouped into packages) vary according to body style and trim level and include various 17- and 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED and xenon headlights, a dual-pane sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system, smartphone app integration, automatic climate control, heated front seats, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Even more personalization is available through a large selection of custom exterior and interior details such as hood stripes, contrasting hardtop roof colors and special interior trim pieces.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mini Cooper hatchback comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission (with hill-start assist and a rev-matching feature for smooth downshifts) is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional.
Mini estimates the base hatchback will sprint from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds with the manual and 7.3 seconds with the automatic transmission. The company also estimates fuel economy at 34 mpg combined, regardless of transmission.
The Cooper S hatchback packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It also offers a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, the latter featuring steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Mini estimates its 0-60 performance at 6.5 seconds (manual) and 6.4 seconds (automatic). The company also estimates fuel economy at 32 mpg combined with the automatic and 28 mpg combined with the manual.
All hatchbacks come with an automatic stop-start feature that shuts off the engine when you're stopped to save fuel.
The Cooper convertible comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 121 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped hatchback will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds (9.5 seconds with the automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy for the base convertible is 31 mpg combined (28 city/35 highway) with the manual transmission and 30 mpg combined (27/35) with the automatic.
The Cooper S convertible has a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It also offers a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration in 6.5 seconds for the manual and 6.7 seconds for the automatic. The S convertible rates 30 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway) for both the manual and the automatic.
The John Cooper Works convertible has a higher-performance version of the turbo 1.6-liter rated at 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual and six-speed automatic are again available. Fuel economy estimates mirror those of the Cooper S at 30 mpg combined, manual or automatic.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Mini Cooper include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control and front-seat side airbags. The hatchback also comes with side curtain airbags and knee-protecting airbags as standard equipment, while the convertible features pop-up rollover bars and larger front side airbags that extend higher up for added protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
All Mini cabins brim with a sense of playfulness and fun. The convertible retains the traditional, oversized center-mounted speedometer. Although the new hatchback features a similar design cue, this circular element now houses the radio controls and an optional display screen either 6 inches or 8.8 inches in size. The hatch's actual speedometer has been relocated to a free-standing cluster atop the steering column and is fitted next to the tachometer. The new Cooper hardtop also has redesigned controls, including easier-to-use climate controls and power window and door lock controls on the door panels (in the convertible, these switches remain at the bottom of the center stack behind the shifter).
Both versions of the Mini have up-to-date electronics. The company's optional Mini Connected infotainment interface offers smartphone integration that allows easy access to Facebook, Twitter and a slew of Internet radio stations, including Pandora. Additionally, Mini Connected includes Google search and send-to-car functionality. The hatchback features an improved multifunction multimedia controller (similar to BMW's iDrive) in the center console and also offers an available head-up display as well as a fan-cooled cell phone docking station.
The new Mini Cooper hatchback also has more passenger and cargo space. You'll find an extra 1.5 inches of headroom up front, while the rear seat picks up nearly an inch of legroom and a full 3 inches of shoulder room. Still, it's small back there. Cargo capacity measures 8.7 cubic feet with the 60/40-split hardtop's rear seat up and a generous 38 cubes with it folded down.
A neat feature on the Mini Cooper convertible is the soft top's sunroof function, which allows you to retract the forward portion of the top on days when you don't feel like lowering the top completely. The convertible's tailgate-style trunk opening features an upper package tray that can be raised to allow larger items to fit in the tiny 6-cubic-foot trunk. Unlike in most convertibles, the Mini's rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate larger items, but the rollover hoops and soft-top mechanism prevent the loading of bulkier objects. Rear visibility for the convertible is poor with the top down (as it stacks rather high) and even worse with the top up.
All versions of the 2014 Mini Cooper share an engaging personality thanks to their eager responses to driver inputs. The trade-off is a firm ride and occasionally raucous cabin environment, especially when you're driving on broken pavement. Ride quality is even stiffer on the Cooper S and John Cooper Works models. For comfort's sake, our recommendation is that mainstream buyers skip the sport suspension options and the larger wheels. The new hatchback has a more solid, forgiving feel on the highway, however, and its cockpit stays a little quieter than past Mini Coopers.
Most drivers will likely be plenty happy with the base Cooper, especially the energetic new hatchback. But the thrills increase with the S, while the JCW Mini convertible simply pegs the fun-o-meter. With the six-speed manual transmission, you get a remarkably precise shifter and an easy clutch. Shifts from the convertible's automatic transmission aren't especially smooth, but it's very responsive to driver inputs when put in Manual mode. That said, the new automatic transmission in the Cooper hatchback is a major upgrade, as it's both more responsive and smoother-shifting.