2014 Mini Cooper: Makes Long Hauls Better than Before
by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on September 1, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I needed to make an 800-mile round trip drive to San Francisco. Ideally I'd have a vehicle that could get out of its own way and wouldn't occupy two city blocks if parallel parked. Our 2014 Mini Cooper seemed appropriate for such conditions.
Having received a "C" for comfort compared to other hatchbacks on the Edmunds' rating scale, however, I was concerned I'd be over the drive before breaking free of the Los Angeles traffic scrum.
Some years back, a stint I'd done in a Mini Countryman's ergonomically-challenged cockpit cast a cynical shadow on their form-over-function approach. The central speedometer placement was inconvenient, and the mess of toggle switch controls would sometimes simultaneously activate the seat heater and roll up the window if obscured by a large drink in the cupholder.
Here's the 2013 Mini Countryman's central speedometer. Are the Mickey Mouse cues purely coincidental?
Placement of essential controls/toggles in older Minis invites interference from drink containers.
Our long-term Mini Cooper's cabin preserves the look of this unique design but improves its functionality tenfold.
No more central speedometer (it's now in front of the driver). Radio controls are also integrated for a more efficient use of space.
New toggles are raised higher above the cup holders and perform less active roles. Window and door lock controls have thankfully moved to the doors.
When it comes to the Mini Connected system, I share the same positive sentiments as Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans. I find it intuitive and easy to navigate. I also agree that the only real hang up is the location of the rotary touchpad knob, forcing your arm into an unnatural T-Rex position to access it.
Other benefits, especially when spending six-plus hours on a northbound highway in the afternoon, are sufficient armrest recesses. This sounds trivial, but it's actually imperative to avoid frying your window arm with UV radiation for hours at a time.
After four hours on the road, I decided my comfort concerns were unfounded. Out on the highway, the Mini's short wheelbase and slightly stiffer ride aren't optimal for long-hour comfort, but they were far from unpleasant and certainly wouldn't deter me from making the drive again. And once back within city limits, there are few vehicles that feel more adept at dicing through the madness — or parking.
What a garage looks like in San Francisco.
Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ 19,554 miles