2014 Mini Cooper Up Close And In Person - First DriveBy Henny Hemmes


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2014 Mini Cooper

First Drive: 2014 Mini Cooper
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel


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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico. January 30, 2014. The waiting is over. The first test drives with the brand new Mini are a fact, as this week the third generation made its official debut on public roads. I was among the first to drive the new Mini Cooper and the Cooper S.

This time, Puerto Rico was the location of choice and for the next 4 weeks the Caribbean island will be offering the international media good opportunities to check out the Mini Cooper and Cooper S hatchback. With the same models Mini USA began sales in the US in 2002. The hatch, or Hardtop in the USA, is the design basis for the other models in the fast growing Mini range. We are expecting the presentation of a concept car in Geneva and later this year, Mini will show a new model that is going to be built in The Netherlands.

Love it or hate it


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At first sight, the 2014 Mini may look very familiar – which is exactly the intention – but it is completely new. A closer look will show a rejuvenated design with a new face, but within the classic proportions, everything looks a bit taller. The LED headlamps of our test cars are optional and include a daytime driving ring with integrated turn indicator.

The new model has a 21.1 inches longer wheelbase than the outgoing model, is nearly 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider. This provides for some extra leg room in the front and rear.

The higher hexagonal grille gives the 2014 Mini hatch, or Hardtop, as it is called in the US, a bolder look. On our volcanic orange Cooper S the chrome bar (part of the Chrome Pack) that horizontally ‘splits’ the grille, may be overdone, especially since it is mounted directly above the black plastic bumper unit.


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Many drivers will like the real ‘IP’, the instrument panel with a rev counter on the left side of the odometer. The 8.8-inch ‘globe’ in the center of the dashboard is now used for Mini Connected which
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include an absolutely cool feature. It is something that you hate or love. But it takes some time to learn how to use all functions. Initially you may not like the ever changing color of the LED ring around the display. My colleague and I found it disturbing, but the toggle above the rear view mirror allows you to choose a color and fix it. We took the most modest one: amber.

However, I had to turn to Mini’s design chief Anders Warming for a full in-car explanation. In short, the LED ring and the display show you what you are activating with the controller in the center console. Also the LED ring give you feedback with different colors.

The picture shows that the LED ring’s color changes from blue to red, indeed, from cold to warm. On the other pictures you see that the outside temperature is 76 degrees: your Mini wears sunglasses and so can you!

And there is much more. Is the water temperature of the engine is o.k. you’ll see the Mini in the display with the hood open and a rocket being launched. I am sure the many members of the Mini Community will love it! Recently, I heard that there are already 4 million Mini-fans on Facebook..!

Compact


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A new generation also means that there are some big changes under its skin. First of all is it based on a new platform that will also be used for upcoming compact front-wheel drive BMWs (indeed!). It uses a three-link rear suspension that allows increased stiffness of the links to the body. In other words the stiffer body-chassis combination allows a stiffer suspension set up. Another advantage of the compact size of the rear suspension is the 3 cubic feet increased luggage space, now 8.7 cu.-ft. The Cooper stands on 15-inch wheels, while the Cooper S has 16-inch wheels. For the first time, Mini offers 18-inch wheels as a factory option, which were so far only available as a dealer option. Both our test cars, the Cooper and the Cooper S were fitted with Pirelly P Zero in the size 205/45 R 17

Many new options

Also a first is the availability of Dynamic Damper Control. Optional Driving Modes offer a choice for a sport, mid or green set-up for the accelerator and steering as well as engine sound. In combination with the Mini navigation system, the automatic transmission is able to ‘foresee’ the rout and control the gear shifts. Furthermore there is a new generation of five Twinpower turbo engines including the fuel efficient three-cylinder units ranging from 102 hp for the 1.2-liter in the Mini One and 134 hp for the 1.5-liter in the Cooper. The Cooper S has the new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 189 hp. The diesel engines will not be available on the American market. They are the 95 hp and 116 hp strong variants of the 1.5-liter three-cylinder motor.

Surprise


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Driving the 2014 Mini Cooper with its 3-cylinder engine was kind of a surprise. It performs smooth and quiet. The typical sound is only there when you start the engine or drive in 1st gear. But the engine performs very well. It reacts quick to throttle input and with its 162 Pound-feet of maximum torque at only 1,250 rpm it is flexible enough to drive on the winding mountain roads in second gear. Steering is light and offers good feel, while the suspension is able to gently work way the bumps in badly maintained roads without reducing the feel of firmness in normal circumstances.
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Then the back end feels planted on the asphalt. Mini says the Cooper should be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. Its combined fuel consumption is estimated at 34 mpg. The new 3-cylinder engine weighs between 22 and 33 pound less than the old 1.6 4-cylinder. The short engine with the cylinder heads are used for the 3-cylinder power plant in the hybrid electric i8 sports car, but there it has more horsepower.

As you may expect, the Cooper offers excellent driving comfort with a touch of sportiness. Many customers that are new to the brand will be absolutely happy with the 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine. Those who are looking for the intense go-kart feeling will look at the Cooper S. More about driving the Cooper S will follow tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

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