2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop Long-Term Road Test: Introduction
September 10, 2014
What Did We Get?
Peppy engine. Playful demeanor. Corners flat and goes like stink around curves. These are sentiments often attributed to Mini Coopers, especially the hardtop model synonymous with the Mini brand.
Cooper Hardtops are some of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars on the market, if not the most comfortable or spacious. Every new iteration of the Mini Cooper is an event, and the 2014 model year brings a long list of improvements to the diminutive hatchback.
The Hardtop boasts a mildly redesigned look, a brand-new base engine, and rides on an all-new platform for 2014. The hatch looks nearly identical to the outgoing model, and you'll have to get up close to notice the revised front and rear fascias. The interior is also reworked, with the most obvious change being the merciful relocation of the speedometer from the massive central infotainment circle to a more natural position in front of the driver.
What makes this Mini completely different are the changes you don't see. Under the hood, the old four-cylinder engine is replaced by a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder. Output goes from 121 horsepower/114 pound-feet of torque to 134 hp and 162 lb-ft. Despite the increased power, this Mini earns higher EPA fuel economy numbers: 33 mpg combined (29 city/40 highway), versus the 2013's 31/28/36/ mpg.
With so many changes, we figured it was a great time to reacquaint ourselves with the Mini Cooper. Once we decided to get one, it was time to face the lengthy options list. Better sit down for this one....
What Options Does It Have?
Back in 2009, when we wrapped up the long-term test on our 2007 Mini Cooper S short of its 20,000-mile goal, we issued a warning to ourselves:
"The best Mini on paper is not necessarily the one you want to own and drive for a year. Yes, the quality will be better, and the ride will have improved, and it will probably be faster and more fuel-efficient, but if you make the wrong choices on the options sheet, hitting that magic 20,000-mile mark is going to be a problem."
Back in 2009 the specific options we found most disagreeable were the 17-inch wheels and sport suspension. manual transmission also didn't play nice with our slog through L.A.'s freeways. We kept our previous follies in mind as we optioned our new Mini, but we didn't take all of our own advice.
First we grabbed the $1,500 Sport package, which adds sport seats, LED lights and 17-inch Tentacle wheels (which ran an additional $500). We ditched the manual this time around and selected the six-speed automatic transmission, which set us back $1,250. Also on tap were the Cold Weather package ($600 — power-folding mirrors and heated seats), Premium package ($1,750 — panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon audio and automatic climate control), MiniWired package ($1,750 — center armrest, navigation system and Web apps) and Park Assistant package ($1,000 — front and rear sonar sensors and parallel parking aid).
We didn't stop at performance and comfort packages. We also ordered a few à la carte pieces, including a cargo package ($250), LED foglights ($250) to match the headlights, and satellite radio with a 1-year subscription ($300). We wanted our Hardtop to have a customized feel, so we checked the boxes for chrome interior accents ($250), chrome mirror caps ($100), dark gray headliner ($250) and real wood dash trim ($350).
The damage was finally done after the Hardtop received a Deep Blue metallic paint job ($500) and was fitted with Satellite Gray leather seats ($1,750). The Mini Cooper Hardtop started with a base price of $20,745 after destination. That was before we went a little overboard with the options list. Our tester rings in at $33,095.
Why We Got It
Our Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds' First Drive of the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop was the first indication that the newest Mini was something special. Dan returned raving about how good the base 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder was. We all wanted to experience firsthand how this unusual engine performed in one of the sportiest small cars on the market.
In a sense, we also wanted to redeem ourselves for the sub-20,000-mile exploits of our past long-term Mini Cooper. We went for the automatic transmission this time and skipped right over the available sport suspension (a separate option from the Sport package). Our choices will hopefully help usher our Hardtop past the milestone we always strive to surpass.
Will our new 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop break its predecessor's 20,000-mile curse? Will the automatic tranny and standard suspension make the Hardtop more livable? How many of the options selected are worth the dough, and which ones are undercooked?
We have 12 months and 20,000 miles to explore this new Hardtop and all its features. Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test page for our impressions.
Best MPG: 27.9
Worst MPG: 22.9
Average MPG over 390 miles: 24.6
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.