Flip the rocket-red start-stop switch on the 2014 Mini Cooper S, and the glowing center console will read “Be Mini” in imperative digital script. To us, that once meant fun and funky, at the expense of functionality. The latest Mini brings more maturity to the table, but we wanted to see just how much of its adolescent impishness was left on the cutting room floor.
Grown up in more ways than one
No doubt the 2014 MINI Cooper S has grown, but it’s done so in a way that goes beyond improved interior space and better materials. Mini also made changes that make the Cooper S more practical for everyday use. The throwback center speedometer migrates to a more reasonable place above the steering wheel, the door locks sensibly relocate to their proper place near the door handles, and there’s even a handy storage box hidden behind the faux carbon-fiber dash panel on the passenger’s side.
Where’s the fire?
Previous MINI Cooper S buyers were willing to accept chintzier digs and toddler-sized rear seats because they valued the hot hatch’s lively driving dynamics and ebullient character. With the 2014 Mini Cooper S, the larger 2.0-liter engine sadly lacks some of its predecessor’s zip, even though the new car is faster and more powerful. “I miss the 1.6-liter’s eagerness and high-revving nature,” said associate web editor Joey Capparella. However, the 2.0-liter’s greater low-end torque makes for less tiresome city driving. Plus, the Cooper S boasts an automatic rev-matching function that eases the pain of driving a stick in traffic.
Still Young at Heart
That’s not to say the wizened 2014 Mini Cooper S has sapped its soul of fun. There’s more than enough get-up-and-go to squeal the front tires, and the chassis will carve up the twisties like a Christmas ham. And in a sea of compact crossovers and sedans, the Mini continues to excite all who see it.
Five minutes into my drive, a six-year old grinned at me out the back window of her mother’s RAV4 while we were stopped at a red light. She opened her mouth and widened her big eyes, mimicking the Mini’s cartoonish headlights and gaping front grille. I couldn’t help myself—I wound out the engine in neutral and made my goofiest face back at her. The Mini can (still) do that to you.