The 2014 Mini Cooper is a pretty slick car. The modern reincarnation is in its third generation now, yet it hasn’t strayed from the original concept. This latest example carries on the styling cues from when the BMW-owned Mini Cooper first hit our shores back in 2002. While it’s grown longer and slightly wider, the new Cooper still feels nimble and fun to drive, particularly in sporty Cooper S guise.
It’s easy to fall into cliché-land and use the term “whimsical” when describing features and aspects of the car. Our Cooper and Cooper S have a number of useful, even clever features: some cool ones and some puzzlers. Below are a few of the standouts.
Hidden door locks
With the redesign, Mini slickly integrated the power locking buttons in the dead space by the interior door handle: quirky, yet still conventional. Too often European cars make due with a single, center-mounted button for locking and unlocking the doors. While it makes it easier to build left- and right-hand drive versions, it’s a pain when you get out of the car—sans keys—and try to open the other door or the hatchback/trunk and find they’re locked.
One carryover from the first- and second-generation Cooper S is the hood scoop. Ostensibly there to help ram air into the turbocharger, the vent is actually fake, just like in the 2007-2013 car. Yes, the first-gen Cooper S had a functional scoop, but this one is just for styling.
Looking out for you
Rear visibility has never been a Cooper strongpoint. The 2014s aren’t breaking any ground here compared with their ancestors, with a short windshield and small side and rear glass. Although standard on many lesser mainstream cars, a backup camera is a pricey option on the Cooper. But Mini isn’t ignoring rear visibility completely. The rear head restraints have a slick folding feature for when they aren’t being used. Flipping the restraint down is an improvement over a fixed head restraint.
Both of our cars are well equipped, and each one has the sport seats, which give good support. While they are standard on the Cooper S, we paid the additional $250 to get them in the regular Cooper. They definitely add lateral support when you're tearing around corners, and the extendable bottom cushion helps long-legged riders. We consider this money well spent.
Red ring of life
Unlike with the Microsoft Xbox 360, the glowing red rings in the Cooper are good things. The Cooper comes standard with a toggle ignition switch that pulses with a diabolical red glow, and the ring around the infotainment screen in the center dash glows red when in sport mode (and green when driving more “environmentally conscious”). While the Xbox’s red ring meant death to the unit, the ones in the Coopers dare you to flip the switch and head out for some fun on twisty roads.
These are among the many notable features in these small cars. As we spend more time with these fresh additions to our test fleet, we’ll soon share a full first drive review.