Keep that frown as you slide the drive mode dial to "Sport" and see a cheerful MINI graphic thinking of go-karts and rocket ships appear in the centre cluster with the message, "Let's MotorHARD" in bright green.
Bad mood instantly gone. Guaranteed.
Besides being an immediate killer of S.A.D. (and God knows we need that these days), the new MINI Cooper S is everything we've come to expect from the German-made Brits, plus a bit extra and even with a few surprises.
What is a MINI Cooper S?
The Cooper S is the sporty (though not the sportiest) variation of the MINI Cooper, a cute little hatchback with a history rife with racing lineage. Essentially a well-appointed go-kart, the MINI Cooper is much larger than it was when originally conceived in the 1960s.
While there are a myriad of models available of the Cooper (Roadster, Clubman, Countryman), as well as special editions (Piccadilly, Mayfair, Camden, etc.), the 2-door hatchback is the original and the most well known.
2014 MINI Cooper S Price and Specs
When the new MINI Cooper emerged in 2002, pricing seemed a bit steep. However, over the years, pricing has leveled and the current MSRP is reasonable.
With a starting price of just over $25k, the MINI Cooper S sits nicely in a price point most can afford. My particular Volcanic Orange Cooper S with the Loaded Package, LED Lights Package and a few other stand-alone options (such as 17" rims and bonnet stripes), came out at $31,610.
No matter how you choose to spec your 2014 MINI Cooper S, you'll be treated to a most excellent TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder 2.0L engine that produces 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. The MINI Cooper S can be outfitted with an 6-speed automatic transmission, but I urge you to opt for the 6-speed manual and really enjoy the car. Power is pushed out the front wheels.
Driving the 2014 MINI Cooper S
I adore driving this hatch. I've never tried to hide my feelings for this bashful little German-bred Brit, because it gets me every time.
Truthfully, this generation of MINI feels fatter than the outgoing model, and it should. This is a bigger, longer version (but not by much). However, despite that none of the handling prowess and steering feel is lost on this new MINI Cooper S. In fact, it feels as eager and willing to please; this feisty little British bulldog just wants you to have a good time.
Pop the 2014 MINI Cooper S into "sport" mode and feel already sharp steering and precise throttle input tighten up more, and hear the exhaust fart and gurgle even more prominently. Oh, and take note of your grin growing exponentially, as well.
For the first time, I have a truly sore spot for a new feature in the 2014 MINI Cooper S. Now, thankfully it can be deactivated, but it's still there and so subtle it's as if MINI kind of wished you didn't realize it was there. MINI now features automatic rev-matching on downshifts.
Unlike the Nissan 370Z that blips the throttle as soon as the gear lever approaches a gear gate, the MINI won't touch the revs until you've firmly placed the gear lever through a gate, at which point you've probably already blipped your own throttle and so overridden the system.
To me, the MINI is one of the few "driver's cars" left out there. Sure it's got a host of technologies to keep you on the straight and narrow, but it's one of the few "raw" cars still available. This auto rev-match feature dumbs it down to a level I can't even bear to think about. So I won't anymore.
Inside and Out of the 2014 MINI Cooper S
Along with the new engine, MINI made changes to the exterior and interior of the Cooper. Maintaining that MINI grin, the Cooper looks like it ate one too many scones and clotted cream for tea. A beefier front fender and puffed out front lip might offend some, but I think the effect is appealing and in keeping with MINI's identity.
Inside, more changes took place as MINI has now moved the speedo to behind the steering wheel a la masses. MINI enthusiasts everywhere are throwing their heads back in anguish at this slanderous move, but trust me it ain't that bad. The massive centre stack circular dial remains containing the entertainment/nav screen as well as a nifty (obnoxious?) LED light frame that changes colour and pattern depending on what you're doing in the vehicle
Otherwise, the MINI is as MINI as it ever was, inside and out.
Comparing the 2014 MINI Cooper S
The MINI Cooper S is in a league of hot-under-the-collar hatches like the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen GTI. Not a fan of the hatch but still want the fun-to-drive nature and you're looking at the likes of the Honda Civic Si. However, when it comes to driving a car that really speaks to you as a driver and an individual, I'd say the MINI comes out on top every time.