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Mini Cooper 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Mini Cooper S auto, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Introducing a car as well-known as the Mini Cooper S brings back images of twin-tank bricks-on-wheels sliding across the top of Mount Panorama or slithering down the Col de Turini. 

With the all-new model Mini has come a new, beefed up Cooper S, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder. Which is one cylinder and a half-litre up on the three-cylinder Cooper, not to mention a $10,000 price increase.

Value

The Mini range starts at $24,500 for the manual 1.2-litre turbo One. Our road test car, the Cooper S, starts at $36,950 for the manual with the six-speed automatic adding a stiff $2350 to nudge the price over the $40,000 mark. On-road costs have to be factored in as well.

Mini Cooper S comes with standard dual-zone climate control, interior LED lighting, multi-function leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and USB, keyless start, cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking and auto headlights and wipers and clear indicator lenses.

The big dinner-plate shaped and sized central stack houses a 6.5-inch high-res screen to run the infotainment system which is controlled by a BMW iDrive-style rotary knob. The S picks up sat-nav as standard as well as Bluetooth music streaming, an option on the Cooper.

Our car had further (and sobering) $11,930 of options. These included the two-panel Panorama sunroof ($1900), head-up display ($700), reversing camera ($470), adaptive LED headlights, LED driving lights and fog lights ($1500), dynamic dampers ($700) DAB tuner ($300) and something called leather cross punch ($1400), replacing the cloth/leather combination.

The balance of that huge options price rise is taken up with cosmetic bits and pieces such as stripes and a slightly-suspect off-white interior trim option.

This gave a staggering total of $48,880. Or VW Golf GTI Performance Package and RenaultSport Megane money.

Design

The Cooper S gets its own unique wing, a choice of 17-inch wheels (ours had the no-cost option Cosmos black replacing the Tentacle silver), and red highlights to remind you it's the quick one. The ‘S’ badging is subtle but identifiable and avoids being twee.

The front seats are chunkier and grippier than other Minis. The seats also pick up some extra adjustment for greater comfort and body holding. 

The off-white optional interior trim wasn't our favourite option, but did brighten the otherwise very dark cabin, seemingly a part of parent company BMW's DNA. To further lighten the mood, there’s a gigantic two-panel sunroof (the forward panel opens), although it only has a perforated blind to shield you from the sun's rays.

Infotainment 

The 6.5-inch central screen hosts USB and Bluetooth audio streaming, all controlled by a rotary dial on the centre console. The screen is much better than the Cooper's and the curiously cheap DAB radio was a welcome addition.

The satnav is standard BMW fare, so quite good, and with the $700 head-up display, the nav directions are projected on to the dinky little blade of glass that rises from the dash when activated. The head-up also shows speed and cruise control information.

Engine

The 2.0-litre four has a twin-scroll turbocharger and produces peak power of 141kW and 280 Nm of torque, the numbers are slightly down on its price competitors’ but more than adequate. 

As with the Cooper, the engine also features an active air flap and brake energy regeneration. Additionally, the S has driving mode control, with a smooth, frugal eco mode, a middle ground and an hilarious Sport mode with crackly exhaust and noisy turbo wastegate.

BMW claims fuel consumption of 5.9 L/100km (5.5 for the manual) and 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds. We saw 7.7 L/100km which wasn't bad at all given how hard it was driven.

Safety

The Mini comes with six airbags, ABS, brake force distribution and corner brake control and stability and traction control.

There's also active pedestrian protection and a crash sensor. As yet, there is no Euro NCAP or ANCAP star rating, but five stars seem inevitable.

Driving

The Cooper S is a hoot and, interestingly, a better all-round proposition than the supposedly calmer Cooper. The key may have been the dynamic dampers, but the S is a more composed car all round.

It's also much, much faster. Barrelling through the bends, even when they're practically underwater, is a huge amount of fun, with plenty of grip that gives way to gentle, predictable understeer.

With sport mode activated, the engine barks, splutters and chatters exuberantly, even in automatic form. The manual shifting of the tall selector is fun but still sometimes ignores your request for a downshift. It also automatically upshifts at the rev limit in manual mode, something we'd rather it didn't do. Go for the manual if you like to pick the gears.

Across broken surfaces and the ride is composed (for front seat passengers, anyway) even in Sport mode. 

Eco is the mode of choice for normal driving. Everything calms down, the throttle response is dampened and it drives like a normal German hatchback. It's an impressive transformation.

The highlight of the car is the way its chassis and steering work together to make the Mini such a lively car. All the Minis in the current range have this - a taut chassis with fast steering and effortless change of direction. The Cooper S just ramps up the responses and the speed.

Verdict

As with the Cooper, the Mini Cooper S would be a lot more fun if it was manual. With a low redline but a revvy engine, you want to be able to access every last revolution.

The Cooper S has a mythology built around it stretching over five decades and while this modern iteration is a completely different concept, it still hangs on to the glory days of serious cornering fun.

What the Cooper S does is behave like a normal car when you want it to, albeit an extremely small one. With or without the options it'll be a great, stylish hot hatch (make sure to tick "dynamic damping") but the S also serves as a warm-up to the inevitable John Cooper Works. Based on the brilliant S, the JCW will be even better.

Pricing Guides

$22,935
Based on 68 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,990
Highest Price
$33,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,750 – 21,878 2014 Mini Cooper 2014 (base) Pricing and Specs
5D HATCH 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $15,990 – 22,880 2014 Mini Cooper 2014 5D HATCH Pricing and Specs
Baker Street 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,370 – 23,320 2014 Mini Cooper 2014 Baker Street Pricing and Specs
Bayswater 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,800 – 25,080 2014 Mini Cooper 2014 Bayswater Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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