2014 MINI Cooper Review

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Base
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Starting At: $20,745
Base Convertible
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Starting At: $25,045
John Cooper Works
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John Cooper Works Convertible
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Starting At: $37,335
S
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Starting At: $23,991
S Convertible
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Starting At: $29,445

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2014 MINI Cooper Overview

The little buggy that loves to hug curves gets a few lovable curves of its own for 2014, and more powerful BMW engines to boot, in a total redesign. Its Base now offering power nearing that of the former S with a similarly turbocharged engine, and the soon-to-follow S offering power nearing that of the former John Cooper Works (JCW), this all-new MINI Cooper also ups the suspension ante, strengthens the chassis and gets a bit bigger while adding modern tech amenities like a touchscreen display and even a traffic sign memory system—as if it wasn't already the most interesting little thing on U.S. roadways.

What's traffic sign memory, you ask? Well, it just might be the next big thing in urban-going vehicles, as it encourages drivers to keep their eyes at least in the direction of the road by reading speed limit and other road signs, displaying that information in the gauge cluster, and even storing those reads for later comparison with GPS data to streamline the whole process. Other subcompacts may call themselves Smart, but MINI is turning into a big brainiac in an adorably tidy package.

Promising an even more powerful JCW and maybe even a diesel version just a little further down the road, totally new body styles like a 5-door and even a sedan are also expected to join in the fun sometime within the next couple years. The only disappointing news is Europe's all-wheel-drive Base Cooper won't make it to this side of the pond, but we still get the option for ALL4 on the S and as always, the JCW comes standard in ALL4 form.

The new engines will also have new gearboxes, new chassis and a longer wheelbase to help the more powerful engines get drivers and passengers from point A to point B that much more smoothly. The 2014 MINI Cooper seems to be growing up a bit this year, the total redesign showing just as much practicality and playfulness but with a wider look, new headlights, LED daytime running lights, a new grille, larger taillights and a greater rake of the windshield, not to mention some silken curves. The interior's function and fanciness hold hands as the MINI Cooper shows off a dash-mounted folding HUD, a center-mounted speedometer and touchscreen display. MINI is definitely no slouch in the tech department, adding digital headlight assist, parking assist and that nifty traffic sign system for 2014.

One reason the MINI Cooper changed was best said by BMW's group design chief: "A brand is a living organism—you need to feed it things, otherwise it will die, which is why new design elements are being introduced." Its new engines are "downsized but not downgraded," allowing MINIs to have all the power they need and fit it into a small space. All the latest MINIs share a platform with BMW's new front-wheel-drive versions of its 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series released in recent years. Meaning, they're tried and true, and if you're not sure about it yet, go try one of those.

The Base engine is a 1.5-liter turbo 3-cylinder, with 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. There is a rumored 1.5-liter diesel engine with 114–116 hp, but torque and economy are unknowns at this point. The Cooper S will, like its other S brethren, have a turned-up turbo over the Base model, taking the lead until MINI gets its JCW Cooper finished up. The S will take a 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft torque with the option of all-wheel drive.

However, unlike previous years both the Base and S engines have a direct-injected turbocharged setup, which is borrowed from BMW. The JCW will expectedly get even more power out of the S's 2-liter turbo for 220 hp. Again, torque and economy are still a question here.

Previous versions of the MINI Cooper used a Peugeot 1.6-liter 4-cylinder base engine with 121 hp and 114 lb-ft/torque, while the Cooper S used a turbocharged version good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft/torque. The 2014 MINIs don't just upgrade the power, though—they're also using improved drivetrains.

The 2014 manual transmission has a new gearbox with a gear sensor that adapts the engine speed when shifting, thus allowing extremely sporty shifts. A new automatic gearbox works in conjunction with the start/stop and navigation systems to lower fuel consumption, using BMW technology that can anticipate upcoming downshifts.

The improved next-gen Electronic Power Steering offers speed-dependent support. Adding yet another big thing in this small package, MINI adds electrically adjusted dampers for the first time, offering drivers two settings: Sport and Comfort.

Otherwise, the body is made of aluminum in order to keep the weight down, and a countershaft is designed to balance out the noise and vibration associated with 3-cylinder engines. The complete redesign of the chassis focuses on the tried-and-tested structure of  the single-link spring strut axle at the front and the multi-link rear axle, making for a smoother ride. The spatial design of the rear axle leads to improved entry comfort and more space in the rear, reportedly adding more cargo space.

Although MINI hasn't yet released any specifics on the interior, everything looks high-quality judging by the spy shots, with alcantara leather used in abundance. The seats appear to incorporate thigh bolsters and even offer a tartan-like fabric pattern. Welded and rolled sheet metal joints are widely used for the first time in cars from the small vehicle segment. The B pillars will be reinforced with a coating of galvanized, hot-formed steel that will allow other previous weight-increasing measures to be dropped for 2014.

Updated

Your prototypical "Tom Girl" Patricia got her start digging into Ford engines before she aged into double digits. Gifted with a mechanical mind, her favorite pass-time in the summer is picking up a fixer-up'r at the local public auction and massaging its every ailment until it's primed for a new lover. From dirt bikes to land yachts, every partner offers something truly special in her love affair with the road - just don't tell her husband.

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MINI Cooper Questions

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