There has been quite a bit of controversy around the all-new Mini. Some people are complaining that it’s gotten too big to be considered “mini” anymore, and others are bickering back and forth about the way it looks overall. I personally look forward to every single time I have a Mini road test booked – the little car’s quirky, nimble personality sits very well with me. This year’s model is quite a bit different; it’s the first full redesign of the regular Cooper hatchback since 2007. I took out a 2014 Mini Cooper S with all the fun bits and goodies to see how it stacks up.
First things first – Mini has finally done away with the 1.6L engine for this car. An all-new 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine now powers the Cooper S. It puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Two-pedal models are available, but my tester was thankfully equipped with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. There isn’t very much turbo lag at all, and the Cooper S has a serious amount of power under the hood. Flipping the controller surrounding the shift boot into “Sport” mode makes the car come even more alive – this mode even makes the exhaust sound a bit louder and meaner. An added touch that I was pleasantly surprised to see was the fact that the transmission automatically rev-matches downshifts.
The Volkswagen GTI is a thoroughly excellent hot hatch, but my pick in the class would be the Mini Cooper S, every day of the week. This latest generation maintains the same amount of snap, crackle, and pop that the Mini brand is known for, all while being 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider than the outgoing hatchback. Exterior styling is still traditionally Mini, but the front end has been given a treatment to fit the new headlights, and the taillights have grown. The interior is a bit more comfortable and livable than the old car, but the biggest improvement is the ride. My old (R50 first-generation) Cooper had a ride that was firm to a point of thrashy, and I suppose I liked it then. Driving this new Mini made me realize just how atrocious the ride in the old one was.
Handling is a huge priority for me in this class. I mean, hot hatches are all in the 200-horsepower range, so they’re quick but not necessarily fast. The ability to take corners very quickly and make this car your weekend track toy is a huge part of the appeal. The steering on the new Cooper S is good, and I have no complaints about how the little car darts around the city. The combination between the power, the handling, and the versatility of this car makes it incredibly perfect for my lifestyle. I think I’m in love all over again.
The features-to-dollar ratio is hugely improved on the new Cooper S. My tester came almost loaded to the gills and rang in at $31,000. This is with the six-speed manual transmission (please don’t buy a two-pedal Mini Cooper S, that’s blasphemy) and the option boxes for a bunch of toys ticked off. This car was also equipped with the new Mini infotainment system, which is essentially a slightly modified version of the BMW iDrive setup. It’s pretty good, and screen resolution is excellent. This system has a widescreen display too, which makes it appear much more premium than it actually is. My car was also equipped with xenon lights, front and rear fog lamps, a panoramic sunroof, and heated leather seats. It’s important to note that the new headlights are simply breathtaking. I’m really not exaggerating just how crisp the cutoff is or how bright they are without blinding oncoming drivers. It just might be my favourite headlight setup on the market.
There were, however, a couple things about the interior that I wasn’t really a fan of. Minis over the past decade have been following their own little gimmicky tradition – power window and door lock controls as toggle switches on the center stack. I personally loved that, and it was a huge contributor to the uniqueness of the little car. The new Cooper S has relocated said switches to the doors, which I find takes away from the little car’s otherwise-splendid character. Also, the center display surround has some neat mood lighting, which can be altered to reflect stereo frequencies, engine speed, ambient lighting, etcetera. These colours also are shared with the lighting in the footwells. If set to match the interior lighting, these lights are not bad at all and add a nice touch to the interior. Otherwise, I find them a bit distracting.
The new Mini Cooper S is a driver’s car through and through. It may be front-wheel-drive, but it’s the best-handling front-wheel-drive car I have ever driven. The Ford Fiesta ST is the only thing that holds a candle to it, and the interior on that car isn’t nearly as livable on a daily basis as this one is. Since I’ve personally owned and daily-driven a Mini for a few years, I believe can attest to how easy these cars make your life. The latest Cooper S may be a bit bigger and a touch softer than the old car, but it hasn’t lost its way. In fact, I’d argue that this latest hot hatch is the best one ever. If I could justify another two-door, there would be one in my garage any day of the week.
2014 Mini Cooper S Gallery