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 Michael G. on Friday, January 02, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 700overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drive, fun factor, looks and practical nature."
Cons: "highly customizable but price increases very fast!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Every review I read talks about the smile factor of driving this car! It is true...you just cannt stop smiling. Great engine, great steering, tight control and an awesome fully functional interior. I recommend getting the XL screen, as Nav goes split screen on that but not on the regular. Also you get the pad to write on with your finger which is cool and useful. My sales rep screwed my order and I got neither of these but now that I have been driving for 5 weeks I'm ok with the regular. I love the paint job (I got Chili red with black stripes, roof and wheels) and the shape of the car. My town is impossible to park in.....unless you drive a mini cooper :-). Some of the spaces I get into truely amaze me. Hence this car has given me a new lease of life and a vehicle I can actually use. Have not been on a long journey yet but around town this car rocks!"
10 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Mini owner on Tuesday, July 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 88,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "size, cornering, upgrades in new model"
Cons: "road noise for convertible, lacks low-end torque"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"If u don't care to read the long review that follows, here it is in a nutshell: will be buying new-model Cooper. Hope to hold out long enough for convertible JCW. Small size REALLY helps in traffic, finding parking spaces, and clearing tight spaces no other performance car can. NOTHING in this price range corners like a Cooper S, not even the Evo or the STI. New Cooper F56 is a totally different car inside. It's a Mini BMW. REVIEW I bought an '08 Cooper S in '09, and have been using it as my primary car for almost 7 years. I've been shopping around, maybe for something with an actual back seat for my poor kids. Was considering mainly the Subaru STI and the Mitsubishi Evo. Can't afford to give up the ability to quench my frequent thirst for adrenaline. What people have said is true: the Evo is INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. I'm a small guy (5'9, 175 lbs, 32" waist), and the seat bolsters STILL squeeze my hips. The sport suspension, while great for performance, adds to the rough ride; u can feel EVERYTHING u roll over, even when u squash a June bug! Honestly, if the seats were more comfortable, the sporty ride would be tolerable. The Subaru WRX/STI is not only more comfortable, but leaves its paint at the starting line. OMG! How incredible is this car?!?! Leaves the Evo wimpering at the starting line. (to be fair, I drove the auto Evo with paddle shifters, and the manual -- only comes manual -- STI). But still ... the Evo was soon forgotten. The STI ... not so much. Hard to believe it's legal. Even though I can hardly consider a stick-shift as my primary car, I was really struggling not to buy that STI. But besides being manual, there was one other note that kept me from pulling the trigger: it slid on corners where I know my Mini wouldn't. Then I discover that Mini has redesigned the classic Cooper, so I went and gave it a spin. Well, my friends, I have found my next car. What a beast! The new engine is actually stronger than an old JCW, and u can feel it, and it still corners like I'm accustomed to. The exterior is only slightly changed, but the interior is almost TOTALLY changed! Much more feature-rich: push-button start, NAV controls same as in BMWs, better display, can change engine mode from "sport" to "green". BMW has seemingly given up on trying to keep the British Mini heritage, and made it an actual BMW (only smaller). Still not crazy about the low-end torque, which is one reason why I was considering the Evo and STI. Some tuning may be in order. But besides shoehorning my kids in the back seat every once in a while, it is as close to perfect as I think I'll find for my needs: 1) performance in an automatic, specifically cornering ability that CAN'T be beat. being self-employed i do a lot of light-to-light driving while following nav, talking on the phone, texting, drinking coffee, eating cereal. 2) the size will spoil u. u will find holes in traffic and parking lots u would have NEVER considered before. 3) comfort in a sports car. 4) 8-year-old convertible top still no leaks. Here are a few points on the down side: 1) had to replace the $800 battery bc the computer was automatically turning on the radio in the middle of the night. with labor to fix computer, came to $1,200, of which I paid 1/3. 2) auto transmission gets weird sometimes: won't shift, or shifts roughly. i've heard and read about Mini tranny problems, i believe a class-action lawsuit was filed, but nothing too serious yet. when it happens, i just shift over to paddle shifters. 3) not really a "con", more of a maintenance issue: one tire-pressure sensor went out: $350, and something with the right front suspension was wearing out: $1,300. at almost 90K miles, i figure a few things will start to give."
14 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By Rich G on Monday, July 07, 2014
I want this caroverall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Low end power, Comfortable ride, crisp shifter,"
Cons: "Exterior design slightly bloated"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I recently test drove this car at a local dealership. This is the first time I had ever driven any Mini model and my comments are a comparison of the impressions I got about previous models from reading numerous test drive reviews, to what I experienced in this car. First off, driving off the lot I was immediately impressed with how much power the car had in low gears. During a 10 min drive, I felt as if I could drive around in 2nd in normal city driving and the car felt very comfortable doing so. I mention this because in the past, I have driven several cars with manual transmissions which required constant shifting in city traffic, especially in traffic jams, which can be very tiring. Not so with this car. Another equally positive note is how the car felt driving over less then perfect road surfaces. I have read many reviews of previous mini's citing how harsh the ride was and this evolution of the mini seems to have solved that problem. The car felt very solid and composed over all surfaces. I understand this is the first mini built on a BMW platform and to be honest, when I was driving, my thoughts were - this must be what the BMW experience is all about. I get it! I realize there are many professional reviewers that rate this car below such Japanese imports as the Mazda 3, Honda Civic etc.. However to me these are boring appliances without character. I have been there and done that. The mini is a car with character that most reviewers don't give credit for. The only negative I noted was the general appearance of the exterior which looks slightly bloated compared to the previous model. It looks like a cross between the countryman and the old mini."
9 people out of 10 found this review helpful