New Car Reviews

2014 Mini Cooper – The Novelty Wears Off

Miles to Date: 12,690

Long-Term 2014 MINI Cooper Update: Winter 2015 ( 2 of 5 ) Miles to date: 12,690

Some toys are unbelievably cool on your birthday, but get relegated to the back of the closet after just a few weeks. The novelty is also wearing off when it comes to our 2014 MINI Cooper. We were initially thrilled with its cutesy design and funky interior, but we’re starting to tire of the car’s many quirks.
I begin a fortnight driving the 2014 MINI Cooper around the environs of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the funky red-and-white hatch disappoints as a city car. With a numb clutch, lazy throttle tip-in, and tall gearing, the Mini is a nuisance to drive in stop-and-go traffic. The left pedal is damped so much that finding the clutch bite point is guess-and-check, while the right pedal has a soft, lazy response that makes accurately slipping the clutch a chore in our 2014 Mini Cooper. I either over-rev the engine and chirp the winter tires away from stop signs, or lug the engine and chug away like the car has only two cylinders.

“I was really turned off by the Cooper’s turbo-three,” chimes in associate Web editor Eric Weiner. “The power band is so narrow that you are constantly working to keep the engine alive. I did average 41 mpg on a highway trip, though, which is very impressive.”
We also take umbrage with the Mini’s poor ride comfort, no matter how smooth or broken the pavement. The car jiggles and bounces over every surface, and big impacts announce themselves with a bang! that has me suspecting I’ve bent a wheel. (The rolling stock remains intact thus far.) While my colleagues counter that our Mini rides firmly because it’s equipped with an optional sport suspension, I note that a Volkswagen Golf GTI has far sportier handling yet absorbs bumps with a smoothness that the Cooper can only dream of.

Other gripes from the logbook: rattling interior plastics, an occasionally confusing infotainment system, and the fact that the windshield header sits so far forward that it’s sometimes tough to see traffic lights if you’re first at an intersection.
“The harsh ride and terrible visibility are complete deal-breakers for me,” agrees associate Web editor Joseph Capparella. “This much squeaking and rattling is unacceptable to me, especially in a $30,000 car that aspires to be ‘premium.'”

Visiting friends in Chicago gives me chance to test the Mini’s highway performance, which likewise leaves me nonplussed. The frameless windows don’t seal very well, permitting as much wind roar around the driver’s side window as I remember from the 2014 Mazda Miata MX-5 convertible we tested this summer. Couple that with a ride that never settles, and I quickly tire of driving the Mini long distances.
On the plus side, the car’s on-board electronics are excellent. The infotainment system provides clear maps and accurate navigation instructions, the rotary controller allows easy access to Bluetooth phone functions, and the active park-assist slips the Cooper into street-parking spots with ease.

Back at the AUTOMOBILE office, the 2014 Mini Cooper hasn’t done anything for me that half a dozen other small hatchbacks couldn’t. The Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta are livelier and more nimble in urban use, and the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf offer gobs more refinement. Heck, for the $29,795 as-tested price of our Four Seasons Cooper, you could buy a reasonably equipped version of the All-Star-winning 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI and have cash to spare.

Buying a Mini Cooper makes a big style statement, affords shoppers the chance to take advantage of an enormous list of dealer-installed add-ons, and grants access to a wildly enthusiastic owner community. There is no doubt that no other car in this price bracket offers those things, and that’s a big part of why the revived Mini brand has taken the world by storm. Yet with so many more refined, better-driving, more affordable small hatchbacks on sale today, the 2014 Mini Cooper fails to excite this editor.

Overview

  • Body style 2-door hatchback
  • Accommodation 4-passenger
  • Construction Steel unibody
  • Base price (with dest.) $20,755
  • As tested $29,795

Powertrain

  • Engine 12-valve SOHC I-3 turbo
  • Displacement 1.5 liters (91 cu in)
  • Power 134 hp @ 4500–6000 rpm
  • Torque 162 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed manual
  • Drive Front-wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy 30/42/34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Chassis

  • Steering Electrically assisted
  • Lock-to-lock 2.4 turns
  • Turning circle N/A
  • Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
  • Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Vented discs/discs
  • Wheels 17-inch aluminum
  • Tires Pirelli Centurato P7
  • Tire size 205/45R-17 88V

Measurements

  • Headroom F/R 40.3/36.9 in
  • Legroom F/R 41.4/30.8 in
  • Shoulder room F/R 50.6/47.8 in
  • Wheelbase 98.2 in
  • Track F/R 59.1/59.1 in
  • L x W x H 59.1/59.1 in
  • Passenger capacity N/A
  • Cargo capacity (seats up/down) 8.7/38.0 cu ft
  • Weight 2605 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R 62%/38%
  • Fuel capacity 11.6 gal
  • Est. fuel range 442 miles
  • Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)

Equipment

  • standard equipment

    • 15-inch aluminum wheels
    • Multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel
    • 4-speaker audio system
    • Air-conditioning
    • Power windows
    • Interactive LED ring
    • SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription
    • Bluetooth
    • Cruise control
    • Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
    • Auxiliary audio jack
    • USB port
    • Mini driving modes
    • Leatherette upholstery

Options

  • Premium package- $1775
    Panoramic moonroof
    Automatic climate control
    Harmon/Kardon premium audio

Mini wired pack- $1750
Navigation w/real time traffic
8-in center screen
Center armrest
Enhanced Bluetooth
17” Cosmos Spoke silver wheels- $1250
Park assistant package- $1000
Park distance control
Parking assistant
Cold weather package- $600
Heated front seats
Power folding mirrors
Rear view camera- $500
Satellite radio- $300
Fog lights- $250
Blazing red metallic paint- $250
Chrome line exterior- $250
Sport seats- $250
Storage package- $250
Headliner in anthracite- $250
Interior surface Firework- $200
Bonnet stripes in white- $100
Color line glowing red- $100