- Good looking throughout
- Noisy at motorway speeds
The Mini Hatch has been an enduring favourite of ours since its inception. The car has evolved markedly over the decades, morphing from a small, cheap city car to a larger, A-segment hatch for the luxury-minded motoring masses. And don’t get us started on its various derivatives.
The latest iteration, the third-generation 2014 New Mini Hatch, has evolved further still, piling on the inches and pounds, making it the largest Mini to date. But does its extra girth ruin everything the original Mini stood for or does a bigger, not-so-mini Mini make for a better car? We took the 2014 Cooper S model on a 1,500km road cross-Europe road trip to find out.
The new Mini is instantly recognisable as just that – the new kid on a long, very familiar block. This latest model maintains all the styling hallmarks you’d associate with the marque including the distinctive hexagonal radiator grille and circular headlamps. There are tweaks unique to this model, however, notably daytime driving lights, full LED foglamps and turning lamps and large, handsome rear light clusters.
The interior has been given a thorough redesign, too. For the most part it’s gorgeous, with very comfortable yet hugely supportive and adjustable seats, clear instruments and a wealth of new technology — including a head-up display and a centrally-mounted circular LED display that provides visual feedback to a variety of functions. You can see it in action in our video review above.
More important than the surface tweaks, is the fact the new Mini sits on a new platform. The standard car is now 98mm longer, 44mm wider 7mm lower than the previous model and orders of magnitude larger than the original. Its wheelbase has also been stretched by 28mm compared to the previous car. As a result, the new car is significantly more spacious for all passengers. There’s more leg and headroom for those sat up front, plus extra leg space for passengers in the back. The boot volume has been increased by 51 litres to 211 litres and the rear seats have a 60:40 split design so you can fold one side and/or the other to accommodate extra luggage.
Those numbers are impressive on paper and also in the real world. We drove the car some 1,000 miles during our test period, from Barcelona to London, all while hauling a total of three occupants and their luggage (a large suitcase plus three smaller bags). Everybody on board felt comfortable the entire way and we could, at a push, have fit a fourth passenger and another small bag.
Performance & Handling
We made a beeline for the Mini Cooper S model during our test period. This car uses a 2-litre, 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine that kicks out 194bhp and 180Nm of torque, which is enough to propel it from a standstill to 62mph in 6.8 seconds – 0.2 second quicker than the previous Cooper S. You’ll have to exercise restraint if anyone even remotely looks as if they’re about to challenge your traffic light drag race superiority – not only will you (usually) win, you’ll be doing highly illegal speeds before you even realise.
We’re happy to report the Mini’s much-vaunted go-kart-like handling is present and correct. Its steering is incredibly responsive – even small inputs result in big movements, which contributes to a feeling you’re very much connected to the car.
It’s an absolute joy to drive this car on or near the limit. There’s an adequate level of steering feel (for a modern car) and the chassis accurately communicates its intentions at every step. A new mode selector switch at the base of the gear stick lets you switch between Green, Mid or Sport modes, each providing increasing levels of throttle response and stiffness of the steering wheel.
The Cooper S’ suspension is just firm enough, so there’s little bodyroll and it’s not overly choppy over pock-marked roads. Its brakes are strong and confidence-inspiring, while the six-speed gearbox is snappy and accurate.
Our only complaint, if we were being overly critical, would be the fact the cabin can get a little loud due to wind and road noise when travelling at motorway speeds.
Economy & Environment
Despite its punchy performance, the Mini Cooper S emits a reasonable 136g/km of CO2 and does 48.7mpg, so it won’t break the planet or your wallet. But if you really want to impress your hippie friends then grab yourself the standard Mini One hatch.
The 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder, TwinPower turbo petrol engine returns as much as 61.4mpg while chucking 108g/km via its exhaust. The diesel-powered Mini One D is the most frugal of all, with an impressive 83.1mpg and 89g/km.
Equipment & Value
The new Mini Cooper S is available in volcano orange or pepper white as standard, with contrasting roof and mirror cap colours. Other colours are available, but you’ll need to splash between £250 and £475 if you really want to get personal. White bonnet stripes are a £75 extra. Inside, the full cloth interior trim looks great, but leather or part leather is also available.
Whatever you do, make sure you opt for the Media Pack. It’s pricey at £1,395, but includes a host of really cool tech features. These include a multi-function steering wheel, a sat-nav with 8.8-inch display, Bluetooth audio connectivity, cruise control and the Mini Connected system.
The latter includes more features than we could possiby list here, but highlights include an LED ring display around the central screen, that serves as both an ambient lighting system, and a visual feedback system that reacts to just about every action that you or the car performs.
The new Mini is larger than ever, so it should come as no surprise to learn it features a huge array of safety tech. Standard equipment here includes front and side airbags, side curtain airbags and a partially active engine compartment lid that springs up to cushion impacts with soft human flesh.
The Mini’s assortment of new in-car technology also contribute indirectly to improved safety. The aforementioned circular LED display provides a clear indication of the distance to your next turning, all of which can be seen in your peripheral vision, minimising the amount you might have to spend looking at the sat-nav display. A head-up display also shows navigation instructions, as well as vehicle speed and media settings – all in the driver’s line of sight.
Naturally, the new Mini’s excellent handling, strong brakes and plentiful power mean you’ll stand a strong chance of avoiding any trouble that may come your way.
When we first cast eyes on the new Mini, we were sightly underwhelmed – on the surface it doesn’t seem a minor evolutionary step. After spending lots of time with the Cooper S, however, we can confidently say there’s much more to this model than meets the eye. This car delivers everything the previous incarnation did, and brings a lot more to the table. It looks fantastic, is more comfortable for all passengers, has more modern and better implemented technology and is terrific fun to drive. It may be a bit of a departure from what the original Mini stood for, but this modern iteration is a real joy.