2014 Mini Cooper: Road Trip
March 6, 2015
On a recent fuel economy update for our 2014 Mini Cooper, LTRTB reader Darex made a comment that stuck with me. "It is a FANTASTIC road trip vehicle. The sport seats are a 10/10 for comfort, and it's plenty fast and potent for the interstates...I've taken road trips in my MINI. It's as pleasant as you could want for this purpose."
My brain called bull. I'd driven our Mini for extended periods of time and while it's not rough, the ride sure is firm and I was sure it would be nothing but tiring on a long drive.
So, to prove Darex wrong, when the time came for me to hit the road for a Vegas weekend, I signed out the Mini.
...and now I have to apologize. Darex is correct. 100%. Our long-term Mini is a superlative road trip car not just by small car standards, either. It's genuinely pleasant.
Let's start with the ride. It's a Mini, not a Lexus and as such the ride isn't floaty, nor is it quiet (we'll get to the quietness later). But when hauling up the freeway, all of those little bumps and wiggles the Mini amplifies at 35 mph are gone. It's smooth and controlled at freeway speeds and even big wrinkles in the pavement don't throw it off course.
Wind doesn't faze the Mini either. Judging by the speed of the tumbleweeds racing across the 15, I'm guessing the wind was a constant 40 crosswise with gusts around 60. This could be completely wrong, but that's how it looked. The Mini stayed steady. Same goes for passing big rigs. No buffeting. No shake.
Power isn't a problem either. Because I was on a boring road trip, I slid that cheesy lever into the Mini's eco setting, but never needed more power. (I always WANT more power. There's a difference.) It passes with ease and, if you're not paying attention, has a tendency to cruise just a few MPH above what the California and Nevada highway patrol thinks is a reasonable speed. The Mini also has very little mechanical drag at freeway speeds. Lifting off the throttle doesn't cause an immediate reduction in speed.
The seats are great, too. So good they deserve their own post. Look for that in a couple of days.
The final Pros include the Mini's quick steering and tiny footprint which allow you to sneak into any gap in traffic safely and confidently.
OK, a minute on the negatives which are not bad enough to make me forget how much I enjoyed the Mini on this boring highway slog:
The Mini's quietness is more dependent on road surface than bigger cars with more sound dampening. On something like asphalt, it's fine. On concrete, it's loud. Wind, too, is an issue. On a concrete freeway with stiff winds at highway speeds, it was too loud inside the cabin to effectively use the built-in Bluetooth. Most of the noise was coming from the tires and from the top of the windshield.
The car is largely very stable on the highway, but the tires tend to hunt grooves and follow those instead of your intended direction of travel. Keeping a hand on the wheel solves this problem.
Fuel economy. After 710 miles of driving, most of it on the highway, I managed 30.6 mpg with a best tank of 34.5 mpg. This average is below the EPA average of 33 and well below the Mini's highway rating of 40 mpg. Sure, the drive to Vegas is littered with hills, traffic snarls and brodozers chewing up their Super Swampers at 60 mph. Still, on a mostly highway ride, mostly sticking around 70 mph I expected to get a tick better than 1.5 mpg above combined.
So, sorry for what I muttered when I read your comment, Darex. The Mini really is a great road trip car.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 9,756 miles