2014 Mini Cooper: From a Whisper to a Wail
October 28, 2014
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I play them when I'm getting ready in the morning, on my commute, when I'm doing chores and when I'm working out. When I first played one on the Edmunds long-term 2014 Mini Cooper, I wasn't sure it was working. The volume was too low. Duh, right? Problem was, when I turned up the volume, I still had trouble hearing it.
In case you think I'm hard of hearing, let me explain.
I was listening to the podcast via Bluetooth audio. See how high the volume is turned up in the photo above? This was a comfortable volume with the windows up, and no AC on. But if I wanted to crack a window or drive on the highway, the podcast was blotted out by competing noises. My podcast ended and I later switched over to the radio. The speakers blasted me with a wave of sound appropriate for the volume being up at 90 percent. This happened to me a couple of times over the weekend. If I wasn't hard of hearing before, I am now.
The issue seems to be isolated to auxiliary audio sources. I tested it with my iPhone wired via USB and had the same issue. Satellite and terrestrial radio sounded just fine. I'm not sure this is a defect in the system. My guess is that the Mini's audio system has a poor streaming component. I've run into this on other cars before. This is why it's important to test systems you frequently use on a car, such as Bluetooth and navigation, when going for a test-drive. I'm not sure this streaming volume issue would be a deal breaker for a Mini buyer, though. It's still a fun car.
I have one more nit to pick with the Mini's audio interface. The control knob turns the wrong way, counter clock-wise. In other words, you turn it to the left to scroll down. I never seem to get used to this. It reminds me of plugging in a USB cable: nine times out of 10, you have it turned the wrong way. Same goes for this control knob.
The only other automaker I can think of that does this is Audi and even that carmaker has seen the error of its ways and will have a traditional clockwise turning knob on its upcoming TT.
What makes this more puzzling is that Mini is essentially using BMW components and the same user interface for its infotainment system. Perhaps it was deliberately programmed this way as a "quirky" way of breaking from the norm.
What would bother you more, low streaming volume? Or the counterintuitive knob?
Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 3,515 miles