View From the Driver Seat Isn't as Good - 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop Long-Term Road Test

2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop Long-Term Road Test

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2014 Mini Cooper: View From the Driver Seat Isn't as Good

February 3, 2015

2014 Mini Cooper

My most vivid memory of the first generation of the new Mini Cooper is a frantic freeway commute. I was late for an off-site meeting, or thought I was. It turned out I had my days mixed up and I arrived to find the hotel taken over by a political fundraiser. Not my kind of crowd. I was so relieved. But I've never before (or since) had so much fun being stressed out trying to get somewhere. Our (very) old long-term 2002 Mini Cooper S was in its element in cutthroat traffic situations.

No, it wasn't very potent below 4,000 rpm. Nor was it especially comfortable or well made (the rubber pads were always coming off the pedals), but it had quick steering and the visibility was amazing. The glass area was huge and I could see the corners of the car and this was very empowering. It was like the old days that I never lived. I loved every minute of it.

When I get into our 2014 Mini Cooper (yeah, that's how it looks when you enter the cockpit from my driveway in the morning sun), I realize how much time has passed since November 2001. I find myself measuring the passage of time by the reduction in visibility.

2014 Mini Cooper

When I compare interior photos of the three generations of the modern Mini Cooper, it's hard to see how the sight lines have changed. But there's no denying it when you're sitting in the cars, or looking at all three generations side by side.

2011 Mini Cooper (second generation)
2011 Mini Cooper

2005 Mini Cooper (first generation)
2005 Mini Cooper

I noticed a difference when the Mini hardtop was redesigned for 2007. I couldn't see out of it quite as well. But overall, the visibility was still very, very good. I could still spot the corners of the hood from the driver seat. I still felt like I was driving a small superhero of a car even though I knew the hood was taller.

Sitting down in our 2014 Mini Cooper is a wholly different experience. It's roomy and more accommodating than its forbears, for sure, but I have no idea how big this car is from the driver seat. I know it's still a small car, but I don't feel it anymore. I could be driving something as small as a Fiat 500 or as large as a Honda Civic, but since I can't see to the end of the Mini's longer, taller nose, I just don't feel as definite about its proportions.

And so I don't feel as confident or as fearless as I'm threading it through traffic. I drive this Mini more conservatively and I have a bit less fun. Which is maybe as it should be since I am now a parent. But I'm not sure the Mini Cooper should have been allowed to grow old right along with me.

Erin Riches, Deputy Editor

2014 MINI Cooper

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