2014 Mini hatch Cooper & Cooper S Review

It’s bigger, it’s safer, it’s cleverer, but is it is still a ‘Mini’ to drive?

By Shahzad Sheikh

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

The new, new, new Mini hatch is here! I say it like that, because this is the third generation of the modern Mini that was bred anew by BMW and born in 2000, arriving to much critical acclaim and commercial success. The present day Mini interpretation tips a hat to the Alex Issigonis original 1959 teeny tiny city car, but don’t trouble yourself with futile comparisons. That car was a fuel-crisis response to a need for cheap, small but roomy cars.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

What Mini in the new millennium has in common with the 60’s darling tearabout, is style, a sporty drive and fun personality. Shake off your preconceptions and approach the new Mini thus, and you’ll fall in love with it. Same goes for new, new Mini, and as for new, new, new Mini… well let’s see.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

What’s new in the new, new, new Mini?

But first, let’s see what’s changed, because it still looks pretty much like it did in 2000 right? Wrong. Look closely and everything is different. Significantly so in some aspects. This is a completely new car from the ground up and shares nothing with its last two predecessors.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

It is obviously bigger: 98mm longer, 44mm wider, but only 7mm taller; wheelbase is also up by 28mm, whilst it gains 32kg for the Cooper and 40 for the Cooper S. The front overhang is longer by 56mm, to provide better safety through an increased crumple zone. For a car that used to be renowned for a ‘wheel-at-each-corner’ stance, the overhang is now visibly pronounced.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

That’s down to the clever styling which neatly keeps the proportions and overall design that we’re so familiar with. The grille is bigger and the rear overhang has also increased for the same noble reasons of safety, though this benefits owners by making the boot larger – the rear backrests are adjustable to give you even more room should you need it.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

It’s all new inside too. Familiar but very different. It’s a bit more grown up in fact. The circular and oval motifs are still there, but less overt, whilst the winged logo display is gone. The instrument pod on the steering column is now more functional. The toggle switches are still there, and this is the first car this side of a Lamborghini that gets a very cool toggle starter. There’s more usable storage space and in addition to the glovebox there is another pop-open compartment above it.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Previous Mini owners will feel right at home in here, but the biggest difference is how the massive central circular disc is employed. It’s no longer the speedometer (now in front of you and also available on an optional heads-up display panel). Instead it’s given over to an 8.8-inch screen with a horseshoe line of LEDs along the upper circumference which react differently depending on what you’re doing, for example going from blue to red for climate control, or moving around the dial to indicate revs.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

The Mini likes to get connected too, so you can hook up your Facebook and Twitter accounts and even listen to online radios stations, plus there’s special Apps to do all sorts of other clever stuff including telling you how much fun you’re having.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Changes under the very recognisable Mini body

How deep do the changes go? Very. Right from a completely new chassis, to optional clever suspension and all-new BMW engines – I mention BMW, because previously the motors were joint-venture products: the new Mini had a Chrysler developed motor; the new, new Mini got a Citroen-Peugeot unit. But for BMW, which frequently wins awards for its own engines, this was probably a somewhat frustrating state of affairs.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Welcome then to the two new engines we’ll be getting, both equipped with TwinPower Turbo technology. The Cooper gets a three-cylinder (that’s right and a characterful tune with it, if a little dieselly) 1.5-litre that puts out 136bhp, 16bhp more than before.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Meanwhile the Cooper S gets 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 192bhp giving it a 0-100kph time of just 6.7 seconds putting it close to a VW Golf GTI for performance. They come with six-speed manuals, but all the cars here will probably only be bought with the six-speed auto (with paddle shifts on the Cooper S).

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

On the go the Cooper feels thrummy but eager, I missed not having the paddles to change manually, but you can move the lever over to manual mode and shift with that. The Auto does a decent job changing gears by itself of course, particularly in Sports mode. Really though the Cooper, as with all of the Minis, would be so much better with a full manual gearbox and clutch.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Having said that performance is not at all wanting because whilst it’s down 56bhp on the S it’s also 60kg lighter. Both cars also benefit from very flat peak torque curves – or should that be plateaus – from just 1250rpm upto about four and a half. The Cooper will manage over 200kph so won’t be left behind on the motorway either.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

But jump into the Cooper S and deploy over 200lb ft or torque at your disposal and you’ll immediately feel the difference, one that is confirmed by an acceleration time that is over a second quicker than the Cooper. The engine might not sound as interesting, but it is smooth and the strong thrust is particularly satisfying in a car of this size. Boy, can’t wait to see what the John Cooper Works edition will be like!

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Yes, yes, but we’re not looking for a mini musclecar, does it HANDLE like a Mini?

Oh yes, and more! You’d think the elongated platform and body would take away from the traditional go-kart feel, but if anything the electric power steering has been tightened and weighted up with quicker, sharper responses. Your mildest inputs are very meaningful to the Mini, and it responds so immediately, that the first time you drive it, it’ll positively leave you startled.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Once you get used to the accurate reactions and decent feel from the helm, you can start to explore the extremely exploitable attributes of the still delightfully agile chassis. Its natural tendency is to pivot around its centre, even more so with the Dynamic Damper Control, that seems to quash understeer as soon as you might become aware of it.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

It reacts to the subtlest of throttle and braking inputs, and you can even get it to slide the back out a little during sharp direction changes, which it will execute instantly even under great duress. This we learned during the Autocross style challenge as part of the press drive (which I won incidentally – hurrah for MME beating all the other journos!).

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

I win a Mini Bulldog for being first in the Autocross challenge – what joy!

It’s so easy to place this car exactly as you want it and to make it dance around cones with such precision and playfulness. Understeer will appear if you just barrel too hard into corners, but you won’t be flung off on a tangent into the scenery – well, not unless you’re being silly.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

In short the Mini is still an absolute hoot to drive based on our brief experience, and quite frankly, I can’t wait to get it out again and head into the mountain roads around the East Coast where I think it will prove itself still a massive grin-inducer.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Verdict

The fact that the new, new, new Mini (actually perhaps I should just use the BMW product code, F56, to describe the 2014 Mini hatch) is still so good to drive, and perhaps even better than ever, should not come as a surprise. BMW knows that that was, and will remain, the Mini’s biggest selling point and a major factor in converting opinion – just get them behind the wheel and they’ll sign the cheque with a giggle and a laugh.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

Yes it’s bigger, yes it’s not quite as cuddly as it was, but then it’s safer, more practical and space and comfort are improved. The interior is also a vastly better than before, and it remains a great car to use as your daily driver, or to take an early morning blast, or unleash on the occasional track day or autocross session, or all three – on the same day!

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

It’s not cheap, but then it never was, and of course you’d immediately want to personalise it with the multitude of options available, so it’ll get even costlier. However the Mini, and cars of this ilk, are not purchases you make with the head, but with the heart, and this certainly won mine over on first acquaintance and leaving me wanting it for longer.

2014 Mini Hatch F56 launch in Dubai

2014 Mini Hatch – the Specs

Price:
Cooper: AED140,000
Cooper S: AED165,000
Cooper S (Top spec): AED175,000
Engine:
Cooper: 1.5-litre three-cylinder 136bhp @ 4500-6000rpm, 162lb ft (170lb ft with overboost) 1250-4000rpm
Cooper S: 2-litre four-cylinder 192bhp @ 4700-6000rpm, 207lb ft (221lb ft with overboost) @ 1250-4750rpm
Performance:
Cooper: 0-100kph 7.8secs, 210kph, 4.7L/100km
Cooper S: 0-100kph 6.7secs, 233kph, 5.2L/100km
Transmission: 6-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight:
Cooper: 1190kg
Cooper S: 1250kg

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Let us know what you think of the new, new, new Mini hatch below

 

 

One response to “2014 Mini hatch Cooper & Cooper S Review”

  1. Donny says:

    I really hope the petrol Cooper version will take off in the UK, so we can finally start to see a swing back towards ‘proper’ fuel used in a combustion engine, halting that upward 60%+ sales curve of derv!

    The first time I saw the headline figures, I nearly fell out of my chair. Acceleration to match a 90s hot hatch and fuel economy to match a mid-size diesel…..crazy.

    If there’s a single downside to the new model for me it’s the oversized rear lights, but then I’ll be behind the wheel of the thing inside, not driving it from outside at the rear!

    Top car. I just hope the driving experience matches up to the hype.

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