From £14,6208
Third-generation Mini Cooper is stylish and fun to drive but its optional automatic transmission doesn't make the best of its excellent three pot engine

Our Verdict

Mini Cooper S

Now in its third generation, we find out if the bigger, cleverer and more mature Mini can still entertain like it predecessors did

What is it?

The third-generation Mini Cooper, driven in the UK for the first time.

We were very impressed by this grown-up, more upmarket Mini when we drove it earlier this year, and our first meeting on home soil demonstrates that the appeal of the Cooper hasn't dwindled.

This is a very stylish car, and although the steady growth in size of Mini models over the years won't please all, there's enough of the retro design still in place to suit most tastes.

The three-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol variant driven here is one of three engines to feature in the Mini range at launch, the other two being a 94bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel in the Cooper D and a larger 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with 189bhp in the Cooper S variant.

Step inside the cabin of the Cooper and you'll be instantly familiar with much of its layout, though there's been a big effort to lift the overall fit and finish. Toggle switches feature low on the centre console, while the Mini's large central infotainment display also remains. The speedometer, fuel gauge and rev counter have now moved behind the steering wheel - a good choice in our opinion - while the multi-function wheel itself also sports a new design.

There's ample space inside the new Mini, but the back seats are best left for shorter passengers and short journeys. Up front and the Mini's seats are comfortable and supportive. Our Cooper test car came with standard equipment including a stop-start system, a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio plug-ins.

The standard model costs £15,300, but a substantial upgrade via Mini's Media and Chilli packs - which add luxuries like satellite navigation, a sports steering wheel and sports seats - plus the fitting of 17-inch alloy wheels to replace the normal 15-inch items meant the cost of our test car leapt to £24,210.

The good news is that for the extra money this Mini felt reassuringly premium inside. There are plenty of soft-touch furnishings at work and some of the infotainment services, for example the string of LED lights around the cabin – which change colour and function depending on how you drive - give the Mini a really distinct and individual feel. 

What's it like?

Surprisingly sporty, so much so that you forget you're in a three-cylinder, petrol-powered car.

The engine sounds a little loud on start-up but it soon settles down into a pleasing hum and sounds quite sporty, especially at high revs. There's an excellent spread of torque on offer and the engine will happily pull all the way up to around 6000rpm.

Our test car was fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission – a £1270 option – rather than the six-speed manual that comes as standard on all Cooper models. It really lets the car down because it's slow to respond and there's no steering-wheel mounted paddles for quick and easy shifts. So to switch gear manually you have to push the gearlever back for up, and up for down.

We had the chance to sample the new Mini on a variety of road routes including twisting country lanes, motorways and urban environments. It's more than capable in each, but really excels on country A-roads. Here the enjoyment of driving a Mini arrives in leaps and bounds, and drivers will no doubt actively seek to set up the car to their own liking.

That's possible thanks to three variable driving modes that are offered in the Cooper. Sport mode increases the throttle response and firms up the steering, while an Eco mode means gear changes come lower down in the rev range to decrease fuel consumption. Normal or 'Mid' mode is the decent all-round choice.

The Cooper delivers the sort of playful handling we've come to expect from the smaller Mini models but there's also a new sense of maturity. Bumps and road imperfections are now tackled with ease, and the car has a sense of composure that's been lacking from previous generations. It's a comfortable and, if you need it to be, a quiet and economical experience to drive.

Should I buy one?

It's hard not to fall for the simple, impish charms of this latest Mini Cooper. While its styling may still be an odd collection of different shapes the overall package has vastly improved for this third generation.

Our advice, though, to get the best out of this excellent car would be to steer clear of the automatic transmission tested here and instead opt for the standard six-speed manual gearbox. You'll not only save £1270 but you'll end up with a better car as a result.

2014 Mini Cooper (automatic)

Price £16,570; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 60.1mpg; CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1085kg; Engine 3 cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged petrol Power 134bhp at 4500-6000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
14

26 May 2014
There is only an incidental reference in this review to the interior space having grown hardly at all despite the increase in size of the vehicle. A bit of boot size has been gained although it is still not very good. I am not going to trot out the "Issigonis would be turning in his grave" stuff for some, if not all, of this growth in external dimensions can be put down to laudable safety reasons. However the vehicle is now more a Fatti than a Mini and as with so many of the marque's present products, detailing is poor.

26 May 2014
Flatus senex wrote:

There is only an incidental reference in this review to the interior space having grown hardly at all despite the increase in size of the vehicle. A bit of boot size has been gained although it is still not very good. I am not going to trot out the "Issigonis would be turning in his grave" stuff for some, if not all, of this growth in external dimensions can be put down to laudable safety reasons. However the vehicle is now more a Fatti than a Mini and as with so many of the marque's present products, detailing is poor.

Agreed! I was horrified to read that WhatCar? put the MINI head to head with an Audi A1, Citroen DS3 and Seat Ibiza, and had the NERVE to award it with "best for rear space". On what planet is the MINI best for rear space? I'm not a tall person and yet I simply cannot fit in the back of the latest MINI with the front seat in my driving position. I'm not even anywhere near 6 foot. Unbelievable. If MINI could sort this out and pay some attention to the space on offer inside the vehicle (something's seriously amiss somewhere!), then this would be a far more appealing proposition.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

26 May 2014
My sister own a previous generation mini and I am always pleasantly surprised by the room in the rear. I am 6'3" and although climbing in isn't very graceful thanks to the small doors and whoever is up front does have to sit far forward I can sit in the back for a couple of hours fairly happily. Something I could not do in her previous Renault Clio or a current Ford Fiesta. I think the fact the seats are so low helps.

26 May 2014
Mini seem now to have perfected the surprised guppy look with this model. The black plastic sill and wheel-arch trim looks cheap and nasty.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

26 May 2014
I went with my parents for a test drive in a new Mini well over a month ago. Wonder why the delay in posting this review? Incidentally that model was an automatic Cooper and it felt plenty responsive from the back seat and there were no complaints from the driver. Bearing in mind their other car has the excellent 8 speed ZF autobox, they have good grounds for comparison. One issue however, the ride in the back seats suffers noticeably the larger the wheels get.

26 May 2014
Darren you touch on the issue, albeit briefly, in the review. Thas issue is the basic Cooper with the headline price of £15,300 is woefully under-equipped. There's a tiny single-colour screen, no LED lighting, weedy 15" 5-spoke wheels, coal-hole black interior etc etc. Add in the connect-pack, visual-boost pack, chrome interior pack, some colour on the IP surfaces, decent interior lighting etc etc, and you're heading to £20K. Even the Chilli pack at £2.5K doesn't give you LEDs.
They're very canny those MINI marketeers. Along the same line as the Porsche and BMW option systems. I'd love you to try out a basic car and report back...

26 May 2014
Forgetting the auto, the performance and base price are excellent. At 24k of course this car becomes a joke. Surely even the residuals are awful on a mini at this price. I think we need autocar to drive a base model

26 May 2014
We took delivery of our new Cooper auto in early April. For a little over £18k we specified 17" alloys, non-runflat tyres and a space-saver spare, chrome interior and exterior packs, white indicators, a sports steering wheel and TLC servicing package. Surprised about the comments regarding the auto: ours changes gear quickly and smoothly and, according to Mini, is 0.1 seconds quicker to 60mph than the manual. Rear seat space is fine, though getting in and out is less than elegant. We're both just under 6' tall. Poor detailing? Such as? We really like the look and build quality seems excellent. Our only criticism is the standard audio is fiddly to operate and the monochrome display looks cheap, otherwise we're delighted with the car.

26 May 2014
Daniel Joseph wrote:

Poor detailing? Such as?

Well someone has already mentioned the sills and wheel arches. I will just add the fog lights and that trademark Mini problem with the indicator repeaters as further examples. That's just the outside!

However as "proud parents" you will be hardly likely to go along with these views and I can only wish you joy with the vehicle.

26 May 2014
IMHO, the black plastic cladding on the sills and wheelarches is practical and looks fine as long as you specify 17" or 18" wheels. The standard 15" items look lost within such large enclosures. Also, you need a strong paint colour to offset the black trim. (Our MINI is orange!) As to the indicator repeaters, I agree that the junction of shut lines in this area on the MK1 (R50) new MINI looked messy, but I think this is no longer an issue. Not sure what's wrong with the foglights! In any event, thank you for your good wishes. What we really like is that it could only be a MINI and looks unlike any other car in its class. I guess that one either "gets" MINI or not. Our other car is a Boxster, so you'll see where we're coming from in this regard.

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