2014 Mini Hardtop Cooper S Review

A street-legal, fuel-sipping go-kart.

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August 22, 2014

2014 Mini Hardtop Cooper S Review

It's not like all too many other small cars, where the seating position feels like you're on top of the engine; instead, you have to work to remember where the nose ends.

Introduction
The Mini Hardtop, BMW's littlest car and the keystone of its Mini lineup, was given a complete makeover for 2014. Now in its third generation as a member of BMW's family, the Hardtop Cooper S finds itself growing in nearly every direction. It's got a new look on the outside, a new look on the inside, and a new set of engines. An inline-three moves the standard Hardtop Coopers down the road, but a 189-horsepower turbocharged four lies beneath the hood of the hot-to-trot Hardtop Cooper S. And, for the first time in a very long time, you can get an automatic transmission.

Does that mean the Hardtop Cooper S has lost some of its hard-driving edge? Sort of; while it has become a bit softer than the outgoing version, there's still plenty to be excited about.

2014 Mini Hardtop Interior The biggest and most obvious changes (if you aren't a die-hard Mini fanatic) are in the interior. Namely, the speedometer has finally moved out of the giant circle in the dead-middle of the dashboard. Both the tachometer and speedometer are now situated in front of the steering wheel, although the tachometer is so tiny that it's tough to monitor with a quick glance. Regardless, if you're moving from a non-Mini to a Mini, it's going to be a more seamless transition than in the past.

Along with moving the speedometer in front of the driver, Mini has replaced the center stack with a new set of infotainment controls. We aren't able to comment on the base-model system, because ours had the optional navigation installed, which includes a larger screen with greater detail. The navigation screen is easy to read, and the entire infotainment layout is nice and simple.

The seats are plenty comfortable; they have enough bolstering to keep you secure under spirited driving, but they aren't so tight that you're going to feel like a gym membership should come with the car. The rear seats are a little on the tight side, although they can be folded down to add some space to the trunk, which is woefully tiny. They're definitely more useful down than up.

Also, can we talk about how much fun toggle switches are to use? The Mini has been using toggles for quite some time, and we're glad they stuck around for another generation.
2014 Mini Hardtop Exterior If you haven't paid attention to the evolution of the Mini, you'll probably think that the new Hardtop Cooper looks a whole hell of a lot like the old Hardtop Cooper. Well, that's true, and it's not entirely a bad thing; after all, the Mini's shape is more or less a defining feature of the car by this point, even if its size is caricaturish in comparison to the O.G. Mini from many moons ago. Everything above the chrome-stripped beltline is glass, and everything beneath it is sheet metal.

The Mini grew several inches in length and a couple inches in wheelbase over the previous generation. Most of that length is confined to the front end, and so the new Mini's nose looks much longer than before. It's not like all too many other small cars, where the seating position feels like you're on top of the engine. Instead, you have to work to remember where the nose ends.
2014 Mini Hardtop On the Road Mini loves stressing that its Hardtop Cooper S is very go-kart-like. Aside from some body roll, that's true. The chassis feels solid, and handling is relatively flat around all manner of corners. The steering, while electric, doesn't completely isolate the driver from asphalt feedback. The throttle is easy to modulate, and the brakes are plenty stout for a car of its size.

The Hardtop Cooper S comes with three different drive modes - Sport, Mid, and Green. Green numbs everything up, from the steering to the throttle, in order to keep the car as economical as possible. On the other side of the spectrum, flick the switch into Sport, and the whole car livens up (including the suspension, if you opt for the $500 Dynamic Damper Control, which we suggest). No matter the mode, our tester's six-speed manual was perfect for the job, snicking into each gate with the same sort of feel that you'd get from an E46-generation BMW M3. Truly, BMW's roots do shine through in this diminutive front-driver. The manny-tranny also comes with a rev-matching downshift feature, perfect for hotshoes that can't be bothered to learn heel-toe downshifting.

While driving, BMW's navigation system is great. If you pay the $500 for Mini's head-up display (HUD), the nav's directions will be placed right in front of your face, along with your speed. It'll also display the next few audio tracks if you have your smartphone plugged into the Mini's USB port. Why even bother looking away from the road? You shouldn't have to, and for a little bit of money, you won't have to.
2014 Mini Hardtop Final Thoughts However, that 'little bit of money' can become a big bit of money if you start checking too many options boxes. Since Minis are meant to appeal to a younger generation, there exist about 15,000 different options for the Mini - you can pay for everything from Union Jack mirror caps, to a rear spoiler, to LED headlights. Even though our Hardtop Cooper S tester started out at a reasonable $23,600 (putting it right next to the Hyundai Veloster Turbo), with options, the sticker leapt to $33,795. For that price, you could start moving into proper BMW territory (although you'd be heavily devoid of options once again if you jumped brands).

That said, if you're capable of keeping options to a minimum (we enjoyed the dynamic dampers, the HUD, and the navigation), you can get a spry little coupe for under $30,000. It doesn't have the interior space of other cars in its segment, but those cars also lack BMW-bred handling and build quality. You really do feel like you're in a smaller BMW.
2014 Mini Hardtop Specs & Price Engine: 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged inline-four

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

Power Output: 189 hp / 207 lb-ft

Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 38 highway

Base Price: $23,600

As Tested: $33,795

Available Features:

Cold Weather Package: Heated front seats, power folding heated side mirrors

Sport Package: White turn signals, LED headlights, black hood stripes, 18-inch wheels

Premium Package: Storage nets, keyless access, Harman/Kardon sound system, panoramic sunroof

Media Package: 6.5-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth audio streaming, center armrest

Wired Package: Media Package, plus traffic information, navigation

Wired Upgrade: Wired Package, plus backup camera, head-up display, rear parking sensors

Loaded Package: Media Package plus Premium Package

Fully Loaded Package: Everything above, plus automatic climate control

Individual Options: Everything above, plus dynamic damper control, sport suspension, auto-dimming rear and side mirrors, rear fog lights

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