2014 Mini Cooper: Small Engine, Big Fun
October 20, 2014
Go-kart or slow-kart?
Our long-term 2014 Mini Cooper is powered by a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder engine. This is the new base engine for the Mini (it's also the same basic motor that provides half the sauce for the BMW i8) and though it only produces 134 horsepower, thanks to the responsive throttle and the 162 pound-feet of torque, it's really fun to drive.
Despite the lack of cylinders, this motor's more potent than the lump it replaces. The old base motor was a 1.6-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that put out 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a base Cooper hardtop with that engine took 8.9 seconds to reach 60 mph, It weighed in at 2,542 pounds. Our long-term Cooper hardtop tips the scales at 2,807 pounds, but it made the sprint to 60 in just 7.3 seconds. That doesn't exactly make the Mini a rocketship, but by three-cylinder standards it's pretty impressive.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta is available with a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder and the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage comes standard with a 1.2-liter three cylinder. Those cars took 9.3 and 11.7 seconds, respectively, to get to 60 mph. Sure, they're tuned with fuel economy in mind, but the Mini does pretty well there too. It's rated at 33 mpg combined compared to the Fiesta's 36 and the Mirage's 37. Combine the Mini's three-banger with the electric powertrain in the larger, more powerful i8 and you get 28 mpg combined (or 76 MPGe with the electric motor) and 357 horsepower.
But let's face it, nobody drives around at full-throttle all the time. Around town, you can hear a muffled rumble from the Mini's engine bay at low RPM and it's got more than enough low-end torque to keep up with impatient Los-Angeles commuter traffic. The Mini redlines at 6,500 rpm but its sweet spot at about 4k, before it seemingly runs out of torque and the power drops off dramatically. In the canyons, this makes it feel fantastic, eagerly climbing up hills and maneuvering through chicanes. There's no need to bang off the redline around every corner, so you can stay right in the Mini's preferred powerband. Even with the base motor, this Cooper feels sharp. It definitely embodies the go-kart cliché.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor