By Matt Degen
When the Mini Cooper relaunched the diminutive British brand – by way of not-so-diminutive German parent BMW – in America in 2002, it also injected new life into small cars. The original Mini Cooper Hardtop offered what other economy cars didn't: high style, endless customization and a premium feel. More than anything, it was exceptionally fun to drive. As the years zipped by, various other iterations of the Mini have arrived, all based on the Hardtop. Now, the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop enters its next generation and leads the way for other Mini variants with an all-new platform, more efficient engine choices and a trove of technology. A convertible version and the roomier Clubman are also available, but their revamps will come later.
If you want a car that feels like a go-kart, you'll love the Mini. Aside from their smile-inducing driving manners, Minis are fuel-efficient, a snap to park and highly customizable. The Cooper Convertible adds atmosphere (literally) to the mix, while the Clubman adds space that actually makes the two rear seats livable.
It should not startle you to learn that, Clubman withstanding, these cars have tight rear seats and limited cargo capacity. They are, after all, mini. And with their premium nature comes premium pricing above rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda2, Honda Fit and Hyundai Veloster.
The 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop is all-new, featuring fresh design, turbocharged 3-cylinder and 4-cylinder engine choices, and improved technology and safety features that include automatic braking. For now, the Cooper Convertible and Clubman carry over from the previous year. The slow-selling Clubvan cargo vehicle is no longer offered in the U.S.
Driving Impressions We've yet to drive a Mini that did not make us grin. An automotive David to the surrounding Goliaths, Minis don't necessarily have tire-shredding power, but oh can they carve...... a corner. They are attracted to twisty roads like metal to a magnet. This is all the more notable since Minis are front-wheel drive. Thankfully, highway ride is not compromised. Despite their small proportions, Minis tend to be immune from the nervousness that can plague other subcompacts at freeway speeds. Even the Convertible deserves kudos for feeling remarkably planted. The new base engine in the Cooper Hardtop loses a cylinder but gains more power than its outgoing 4-cylinder, so we expect it to be a spunky partner. The larger and higher-power 4-cylinder in the 2014 Cooper S also cranks up the power, now to levels comparable to that of the previous top-line JCW (John Cooper Works) performance model.
FUEL ECONOMY/FUN FACTOR
The Mini is proof that you don't need a big, gas-guzzling engine to have massive amounts of driving satisfaction. The Mini may not win street races, but with fuel economy reaching into the mid-30s, you'll experience a different type of joy when you pass your competition at the filling pump.
Whether labeled eccentric, ironic or tongue-in-cheek, Minis take pride in being different. Case in point: Do you know of any other convertibles with an "Openometer" to measure how often you have the roof down?
The Mini's interior blends retro style and unique details, not the least of which is a gargantuan speedometer that can probably be seen from space. The 2014 Clubman and Convertible's dash will look familiar if you've been in a Mini, including the center row of shiny switches. They look and feel great, but can be awkward to use. The all-new Hardtop boasts a slick head-up display that relays info such as directions and speed limits. The Mini Cooper Hardtop, Convertible and Clubman have seating for four. The front seats are roomy, but the Clubman is your best bet if you plan to put adults in the rear.Exterior
Mini says its cars have a "bulldog" stance. You won't find fur or a tail, but rather a low, squat stance that helps these diminutive British cars cling to the road. Mini Hardtops have long stood out for their available contrasting-color roofs, and owners can distinguish their car with myriad personalization options. Mini Cooper Convertibles use black fabric tops that when up create large interior blind spots. The convertible roof is automatic and has a nifty feature that enables it to be partially open. The Cooper Clubman is several inches longer than the Hardtop, and instead of an upward-rising rear hatch has a pair of swing-out doors.
The all-new 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop comes with the first 3-cylinder engine used in a Mini, while 2014 Cooper S Hardtop models have a new, more powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The Convertible and Clubman continue to use the same 4-cylinder engines (see Under the Hood, below). Those carryover models continue to come with Leatherette or cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity with USB/iPod connector, air-conditioned glove box and 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player. Convertible and Clubman models ride on 16-inch wheels, and both feature a Sport mode for peppier performance. Minis also come with three years/36,000 miles of no-cost maintenance.
Start to configure a Mini, and you'll be informed there are more than 10 million ways of doing so. Suffice to say, Minis are highly customizable cars, from the color of their racing stripes and mirror caps to an optional leather interior. In addition to many a la carte add-ons, Mini bundles popular options into packages. Among them are a Technology Package with a high-def screen, integrated apps that work with Apple's iPhone, navigation and a harman/kardon audio system, and a Cold Weather package with heated seats and mirrors.
Mini is miniaturizing its base engine in the new Cooper Hardtop, moving from a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 4-cylinder to a turbocharged 3-cylinder. As previously noted, the smaller engine is actually more powerful than the larger one it replaces and is expected to be even more efficient. Optional is a larger and more powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder. Since the 2014 Convertible and Clubman are not (yet) being revamped like the Hardtop, they continue to use their existing engines. In those, even the base powerplant is adequate for a fun romp, while the top-line, 208-horsepower JCW version is feisty to the max. In the middle and extremely satisfying are the S models with engines tuned to make 181 horsepower. Minis are fuel efficient, but they do require premium-grade gasoline.
2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-3
134 horsepower @ NA rpm
162 lb-ft of torque @ NA rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
2014 Mini Cooper S Hardtop
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
189 horsepower @ NA rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ NA rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
2014 Mini Cooper Convertible and Clubman
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
114 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/35 mpg (manual), 27/35 mpg (automatic)
2013 Mini Cooper S Convertible and Clubman
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
181 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg
2013 Mini John Cooper Works Convertible and Clubman
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
208 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
192 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-5,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg
Prices range widely among Mini Cooper models due to their varying trims and body styles. On the low end, the 2014 Mini Cooper Clubman has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $22,195, while the Cooper Convertible starts at $25,945. S models of the Clubman and Convertible start at $25,895 and $28,945, respectively, and the top-dog JCW versions go for $33,095 and $36,095. At these prices, 2014 Mini Coopers are higher than mainstream competitors such as the Fiat 500, Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Veloster, Honda Fit and Mazda2. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. You'll pay a premium upfront for a new Mini, but better news awaits regarding their resale value, which has traditionally been very good.
By BIG D on Saturday, August 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "FUN TO DRIVE ECONOMICAL GREAT DAILEY DRIVER"
Cons: "NO ISSUES"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"CAR HAS BEEN PROBLEM FREE. SUSPENSION IS A BIT STIFF. I WISH I HAD UPGRADED TO THE CLIMATE CONTROLED SYSTEM. OTHER THEN THAT A VERY GOOD ALL AROUND DAILEY DRIVER."
8 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By Minilover on Thursday, June 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, beautiful, holds lots of cargo"
Cons: "Repairs may be costly"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"A bought my 2010 Clubman S last fall with only 32,000 miles on it and got it at a great price because the previous owner couldn't make the payments and sold it to me for his payoff balance. I have absolutely LOVED driving it around town and we even drove it on vacation (430 miles on one tank of gas!). But alas, my heart was broken few weeks ago when my clutch started slipping. The dealership wanted nearly $3000 to replace (that included the flywheel) but a got it repaired locally for less than $2500. STILL, I am dismayed that a clutch would fail with so few miles. I guess it's possible the previous owner did not drive it properly. I have driven a clutch over 40 years and have never even had to have one adjusted let alone replaced. SO, if you are going to purchase a used Mini be aware that the repairs may be more expensive than the Honda you are used to. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is the last major repair I have to make for a while. It's just too good a car to not be highly dependable... I hope."
10 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Driver 1 on Tuesday, April 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 67,500overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive"
Cons: "value, quality, engineering, expense of repairs"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car while a blast to drive has been a problem from the beginning. Clutch out at 30K, timing assembly out at 50K, rattles interior and exterior are many and irritating. I have shelled out thousands for repairs including the above, and oil line leaks, thermostat replacement, heating and cooling problems, electrics, door sticks, windows stick, trim falling off, door panels popping off. Just poor quality and terrible value. Unless you enjoy spending lots on money on car repairs I would not recommend this vehicle."
14 people out of 21 found this review helpful