While still on the East Coast, our 2014 Mini Cooper spent some time with contributor Jamie Kitman, a man who has spent plenty of time ruminating on the creations of Sir Alec Issigonis. Besides local trips into and out of New York City, Kitman also hit the road, dashing up to Boston. His report:
“I drove the Mini up to Boston and back, 410 miles. On that trip, my initial impressions of rough riding ways, noted in a previous day with the car, pretty much evaporated. The new, larger 2014 Mini Cooper is probably a better riding car than previous iterations, though it's hard to know how much the lack of optional big wheels is accounting for this one's relative civility. [Our car rides on 17-inch wheels.]
“The best part of the new 2014 Mini Cooper is the engine. Like the new Ford Fiesta 1.0, which I've been driving simultaneously, this three-cylinder that proves a humble trio of combustion chambers can be fun. At its best, the Mini mill is fizzy, (mildly) fruity, and fun. Slog and it will bog, so gear selection is key. You want to be in a high gear for maximum economy, then you find that there's not much there when you wood it for rapid acceleration. So the choice between performance and economy is more clear than usual. I got 39.7 mpg headed up to Beantown but less than 36 mpg on the way back, owing to traffic and less than careful gear selection. There were times when I found myself driving in fourth and fifth when I thought I was in sixth, which is a testament to the engine's smooth and silent ways.
“The need to manipulate the six-speed gearbox brings the clutch action—which is surprisingly heavy—into focus, as I discovered in a late night road construction traffic jam that I was forced to endure along the Massachusetts Turnpike. Examining my surroundings while going nowhere, I was glad to note the quality of interior plastics is much improved from earlier Minis and I suppose the i-Drive interface marks some sort of progress. But while the tactile dimension is improved, the rest of the 2014 Mini Cooper's dash architecture is still annoyingly cutesy and not always logical. I didn't care for the new freestanding fuel gauge, especially when I couldn't figure out what it was.
“The biggest sin is that while the 2014 Mini Cooper handles well and is a relaxed highway cruiser—a neat trick for something with such small displacement—it really is disturbingly bigger. The front end not only looks homely (this is easily the ugliest of the three new Mini generations we've seen), but the driving position also underscores the fact that this is no longer a Mini but a small BMW. The vast acres of dash top may increase cubic nostril room, but it is wasted space; the driver is now so far from the windshield that he feels removed from the action. And with a relatively long hood in front of that and a hefty overhang ahead of the front wheels, Sir Alec must be spinning in his grave.”