2014 Mini Cooper 1.5 Review

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There's a new Mini in town and while you may think it's exactly the same as the old one, let it be known that the 2014 Mini Cooper is a vastly different creature than its 2013 sibling.

Exterior changes for the 2014 Mini Cooper are subtle. Aside from the Countryman-sized rear tail lights, there's very little to distinguish old from new. But that's where the similarities end as the interior and engine are completely new.

All-new engine for 2014 Mini Cooper

The engine powering the 2014 Mini Cooper is nothing short of brilliant. It's one of the finest engines I've ever sampled and it happily wears the performance and economy caps equally well. With 100 kW and 220 Nm at your disposal in a body weighing just 1 060 kg, the grin-inducing factor is high. Expect 100 kph to come up in about 8 seconds as you listen to that distinctive three-cylinder growl.

Fuel economy is this engine's priority and while Mini claims 4.8 l/100 km, in reality you're not going to see that because you'll be throwing the car around and having a great time. Can the car handle being thrown about? Absolutely. That's the one thing that's been carried through from the older models - fun factor.

The 2014 Mini Cooper is an immensely fun car to drive. It's at its best on a tight and twisty road, but it's still enjoyable when in bumper to bumper traffic. Will it ever get tiresome? I doubt it. See, Mini's products are more than just cars - they're fashion items and those who drive them, love them.

Interior

It's very obvious that Mini has spent some quality time improving the ergonomics and interior layout. Gone is the silly centre speedo and in its place is a very funky circular outline light around the infotainment screen, which changes colours as you accelerate, adjust the volume and even change the temperature. It's entertaining to play with the settings and watch the colours change.

The speedo and rev counter are relocated to the steering wheel, which is where they fit in nicely. There's no key slot either, simply keep the key in your pocket and start the car by an aircraft-style switch located in the bottom half of the dashboard. Check the gallery to see what I'm talking about.

Summary

In closing, I think the 2014 Mini Cooper has grown up considerably. Also I don't think Cooper owners ever need to feel inadequate when seeing the faster and pricier Cooper S sibling. The base Cooper offers just as much fun and marginally slower performance for a more financially sensible price. Naturally you can take full advantage of the options list, but beware you can escalate the price to insane levels. Our fully-kitted test car had a price tag of R364 010!

Second opinion

Mini's new contender feels entirely evolutionary and a bit grown up. It's lost some of the retro character touches, but has improved in every other aspect. The finishings are more luxurious and the engine more powerful and torquier. It's still fun and cheerful, but a bit more 'comfortable shoes' than 'brash sneakers'. -Ashley Oldfield

2014 Mini Cooper quick specs

Price  R287 500 (R364 010 - as tested)
Engine  1.5-litre Three cylinder turbo petrol
Power  100 kW
Torque  220 Nm
Transmission  Six-speed Automatic
Wheels  18-inch alloys
0-100kph  7.8 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy  4.8 l/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Outstanding engine . Still retains Mini fun-to-drive abilities

We dislike: . Price of options . Useless rear seats

Also consider: Citroen DS3 Fiat Abarth 500 Audi A1 Alfa Romeo MiTo

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