2014 Mini Cooper S new car reviews

BMW can't really restyle the MINI Cooper very much. The entire brand exists based on the history of the classic Mini, so it'll always look more or less like a reinterpretation of that little rally-winning runabout. The third generation of the modern ultra-compact has debuted, and while it's still recognizably a MINI, it's a whole new car underneath.

The base Cooper now drives with a turbocharged three-cylinder engine. It's definitely not slow, with 162 ft.-lbs. of torque propelling it to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. The formula is the reprise of a trend we've seen before: forced induction replacing displacement. In the Cooper S, BMW has fitted a TwinPower four-cylinder engine.

TwinPower is the name they've heaped on their trifecta of engine tech: turbocharging, direct injection and variable valve and cam control, giving the Cooper S 189 horsepower and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque. The MINI's Sport suspension is still remarkably stiff, so we'd take the standard setup for daily use. Look for the base car to start at just under $20,000, and add $3650 to get into a Cooper S.

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David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Here's the funny thing. While this piece concentrates on the Cooper S, I'd be totally happy with the regular Cooper. MINI claims a 7.4-second zero-to-60 time for the Cooper--not the Cooper S but the Cooper. We didn't get to verify it during our first drive, but I'd totally believe it. I remember when that kind of time was reserved for cars wearing an Si or SE-R badge.

The three-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt. It also sounds nice--like way nicer than most any other standard model. Unlike past years, the MINI gets a "real" BMW engine, too. This one doesn't come from a third party. The six-speed transmission also shifts smoothly. Pedal placement is spot-on.

A lot of people have been bellyaching over the new, larger size. To be honest, I didn't notice it. We like our MINIs small, and this one still feels like a little car. Up front, it's still a touch on the cozy side. The back seat is still fairly useless, too. MINI claims more trunk space than before, so that's nice.

Oh yeah, those front seats. Get the optional Sport seats. They have giant bolsters. MINI interiors have always looked great, but sometimes they haven't felt as nicely. The new car's interior is much closer to BMW-spec. And the dash still contains a giant circle, but since it now houses a display unit it's not so awkward.

New is the Sport/Green slider switch. The Sport mode quickens up things a bit. You know, it almost made the suspension too stiff for the crappy roads we encountered. Hopefully we'll have one of these things on track soon--you know, so we can fully enjoy it.

The Cooper S basically takes the Cooper and kicks it all up a notch. Yes, it's quicker, but for the first time the regular Cooper doesn't feel like a total dog.

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Comments

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Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
2/27/14 6:39 p.m.

What was it like to drive fer christs sake? I'm not living vicariously with you on this road test. Have a double espresso and bang out some words!

jcrosby
jcrosby
2/27/14 8:50 p.m.

Hey, the speedometer's in the right place!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/5/14 2:58 p.m.

Shaun, driving comments are now up. Sorry for the delay.

Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
3/5/14 8:17 p.m.

Well Done! Love your publication, I even buy it to support the work.

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