By Joe Wiesenfelder on November 18, 2013
Competes with: Fiat 500, Chevrolet Spark, Mazda2
Looks like: Last year's Cooper Hardtop but with 21st-century engines and other tech
Drivetrain: 134-hp, turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder or 189-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; six-speed manual or automatic; front-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: March 2014
The 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop is a complete redesign, marking the third generation of the two-door that started — actually restarted — it all in 2002. (We'll just consider the classic Mini sold overseas for decades a different model altogether.) As it did for its second generation, the Hardtop has grown a bit. As was also the case last time, it doesn't look much different from the generation prior.
More relevant are the new engines and a slew of technology never offered before on a Mini, or many other cars, for that matter.
Truly a redesign, the new Hardtop is 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider than the 2013. The wheelbase is also 1.1 inches longer. Though the car is only 0.3 inch higher at the roofline, the hood looks noticeably higher than the previous generation's, making this Mini look less mini when the previous generation is nearby. To distinguish the new Hardtop from the previous generation (or the one before that, frankly), you need to look pretty closely.
As before, a few elements set the S trim level apart from the base Hardtop: a hood vent, larger brake-cooling ducts and centered tailpipes.
LED headlights with supplemental turning lights are now the optional upgrade, replacing the xenon headlight option found in the previous gen.
The Hardtop's larger exterior translates to more space for all four seats, Mini says, as well as 3 cubic feet more cargo volume for a total of 8.7 cubic feet. The front seats' bottom cushions have been lengthened by 0.9 inch and the seat travel has increased. Shoulder room and foot space are more generous, according to Mini. Leatherette (imitation leather) seats are standard, and combination cloth/leather seats are optional.
Form now follows function, as the speedometer and tachometer have migrated to atop the steering column. Buyers can also choose an optional head-up display that projects information on a dedicated small window that extends up from the dashboard, rather than on the windshield itself as some cars do. The gauge relocation leaves the large center-of-dash position open for display purposes, with a screen as large as 8.8 inches for the optional navigation and multimedia system. A knob controller on the center console is the interface; the display isn't a touch-screen.
Push-button (actually push-toggle-switch) start is now standard. Advanced options include everything from adaptive cruise control and a self-parking feature to support for smartphone apps and telematics.
The new generation replaces the Hardtop's ancient-yet-able 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a choice of two turbocharged engines: a 134-horsepower, 1.5-liter three-cylinder in the base model or a 189-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the Cooper S. They drive the front wheels through a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, both of which Mini describes as new. Thanks to direct injection and variable valve timing, even the wee three-cylinder produces a continuous 162 pounds-feet of torque. The Cooper S' four-cylinder gets 207 pounds-feet. A brief turbo overboost can exceed the specs for short bursts.
Though it's described as a conventional transmission, the six-speed automatic can optionally select gears based on the upcoming road using GPS data, a system developed by the motorsport division of Mini owner BMW and recently debuted on the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Mini says the suspension has been redesigned for greater comfort, and for the first time variable-firmness adaptive shock absorbers are optional.
In addition to the typical front, side-impact and curtain airbags, the Hardtop includes knee airbags for the front occupants. Along with the adaptive cruise control comes a pedestrian and collision warning/avoidance system.
A backup camera is newly optional.
Check out the gallery below.
Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, leads the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe