2014 Mini Cooper: Why a Loaded Base Cooper Now Makes Sense
October 21, 2014
More than a few folks welcomed our 2014 Mini Cooper to the long-term fleet with raised eyebrows and incredulity. "Why would you spend $33,095 on a base Mini Cooper?" they wondered.
I'm here to lay it out for you.
First, the brand-new base 1.5-liter turbo three is no slouch. This is not the slug you may have encountered before. The new mill makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and our automatic-equipped version recently scooted to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds.
That's about 2 seconds quicker than last-year's 1.6-liter base car with an automatic. Suddenly the more-powerful Cooper S is no longer the knee-jerk upgrade it once was. That's even true if you live at altitude, because the 2014 base engine now has a blower just like its stronger sibling.
And the 1.5-liter turbo is less thirsty, too. Our automatic is rated at
33 32 mpg Combined ( 29 28 City/ 40 39 Highway), which is 2 mpg better on the highway than the thriftiest base manual-equipped version of last year's car. It's also 2 mpg better than a 2014 Cooper S automatic in a combined sense and 4 mpg thriftier on the highway.
If we were comparing manual to manual the 2014 base Cooper's advantage over the 2014 Cooper S would be 5 mpg city and combined and a full 6 mpg on the highway. It's hard to ignore
34 33 mpg Combined ( 30 29 City/ 42 40 Highway) versus 29 28 Combined ( 25 24 City/ 38 34 Highway) when you're talking about an entry-level engine that can now dish out plenty of merging and passing power.
For us, there really wasn't much of a choice. We simply had to try out the new base Cooper engine. But it's true we could have one for as little as $20,745.
Why so much more?
We consciously chose to try out the automatic this time around. More shoppers buy them (even in Mini-land) and we wanted to live with one on the basis that the little engine that could, could. This selection added $1,250 and brought the price up to $21,995.
Everything else is there because Mini has a long list of available options that are available on any new Cooper or Cooper S, and probably on the next go-round of every other model in its lineup, too.
But we can't try things like LED headlights, vastly improved navigation, parallel parking assistance, Harman Kardon audio, the big sunroof and other options if we don't load them onto our test cars. A stripped example with nothing on it doesn't help readers that might be interested to read how some of this stuff pans out. So, in the interest of science (and heated leather seats), we went a little nuts. If this were my own personal Cooper I'm sure I could have stopped at about $25,000 or $26,000 and been thoroughly satisfied.
That said, the new entry-level 1.5-liter turbo engine doesn't drive like the el-cheapo version. There's enough grunt to allow a new kind of Mini math: Take the money you would have spent on a Cooper S (and the fuel to feed it) and plow it into options on a 2014 Mini Cooper instead.
That's the theory I'm working on, at any rate. To me that's the heart of the story of the 2014 Mini Cooper.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,883 miles
Editors Note: Mini Cooper window sticker ratings were lowered by the EPA just one day after this was originally published. The mpg numbers in this article have been updated accordingly. But the Cooper versus Cooper S point is perhaps even more valid. The numbers are generally lower, so the Cooper's advantage is actually greater on a percentage basis. And the Cooper manual is now 6 mpg better on the highway than a Cooper S manual, up from 5 mpg better.