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2014 MINI Cooper & Cooper S: First Driving Impressions

253_Cooper

Somehow, some way, they’ve done it. MINI has increased the size and refinement of the car while making it feel more immediate, more fun and more (dare we say it) MINI. Let’s be honest. Since MINI introduced the Countryman and Paceman there’s been a growing concern that they didn’t know how to create something that felt as alive as the R50 or R53. In talking with MINI engineers today, it was clear that they felt they had something to prove. From what I’ve experienced today, they did just that with a MINI that felt more alive in my hands than anything since the R53 — all while feeling every bit as fast as a R56 JCW.

It’s not just that MINI made this new car as good as the R56. From the moment you get on the gas and hit a turn, it’s noticeably better in almost every perceivable way. Yet the star of the show from the driver’s seat has the be the handling, and more specifically the immediacy of the turn-in. The F56 Cooper S feels more eager, and in-turn, closer to the R53 than the R56 ever did.

244_Cooper

What about the Cooper? MINI has taken the two models and pulled them apart just a bit more than before. That means the Cooper is now a bit more focused on being comfortable in its base form. Luckily, Sport Suspension remains an option, as does the fantastic variable suspension I sampled today. While it doesn’t quite bring the Cooper to Cooper S levels of handling and feel, it brought a level of fluidity that I appreciated on the mountain roads of Puerto Rico.

Is the F56 perfect? No. Certainly there are some points of contention here and there. Yet after a day driving both the Cooper and Cooper S around Puerto Rico, I can confidently say that from the driver’s seat, MINI has nailed nearly every aspect of this car. Get excited.

032_Cooper_S

Look for our full review tomorrow with a deeper dive into the car, including a full dissection of the driving characteristics.

Written By: Gabe

  • lawrothegreat

    More! Please more! The USA Configurator is much better than the UK’s…. According to the downloads the F56 has launch control?!

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Yes – sport automatic only. And it’s pretty cool.

    • http://about.me/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

      The US site is very nice now (especially when compared to the old Flash site). A Boston company called BEAM is to thank! http://www.beamland.com

      • Alexandre

        Don’t want to be party pooper here but the new website is not as good as it could be, especially given MINI’s resources and the importance current/future owners give to the configurator (which is probably unseen in other brands).

        • http://about.me/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

          If a software vendor waited for an application to be perfect, the application would never go to market. The old US flash site was refined over practically a decade, but I remember when the 2011 R56 LCI configurator went live and the visually hiccups were practically comical. That’s the nature of software. BEAM has done a fantastic job designing a site consistent on mobile and desktop platforms in a pleasing, smooth and thoughtful UI which is consistent with the brand while being more visually informative than most other manufacturers even if the details are sparse in a few areas. There is always room for growth and if you find specific issues or have suggestions, send them a message (I’m not being sarcastic). As a software developer myself, sometimes the bugs aren’t found until users get into the system and only if someone voices that to the developer/designer: http://www.miniusa.com/content/miniusa/en/contact-us.html

  • heli_guy

    Great to hear, especially given the fuel economy numbers. Does the manual get and go justify the poor mpg numbers?

  • Mark H

    Initial impression is boding well. I personally have been holding onto my ’06 R53 as I’ve been disappointed with the R56 and could never bring myself to trading her in for one.(though I was strongly contemplating a Coupe for a while…) But…she’s getting on in years and miles. I’m hoping they’ve brought forth a more suitable replacement with the F56.

    • http://about.me/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

      That’s exactly what I’ve said here and in other places. I’ve owned three R53s, and the R56’s improvements (until the 2011 LCI change) never seemed to justify the switch in my mind but the F56 looks like it might just justify the jump.

  • Stew

    Hope you got to drive it at night, My R56 lights standard were a joke. Seriously I had to buy aftermarket bulbs as when the street lights ran out it was bordering on dangerous. Great short review.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Xenon. Always get the xenon. Or in the case of the new car, get the LED headlights. They shouldn’t even offer halogens anymore, IMO.

      • Alexandre

        Wish regulators were as serious with headlights (i.e. make Xenon standard) as they are with pedestrian impact standards…

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Ha!

      • r.burns

        The LED headlights illuminate less than Xenon At least that are the results from other brands

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Not the case with these.

        • r.burns

          It will have to be tested ;)

      • R.O

        Well I have a different opinion on Xenon lights, that being – they should be Banned – period. They are extremely blinding from behind and from on coming traffic. I hate them. Don’t know about LED, but Xenon’s in my experience and opinion are a hazard to other drivers. So many times when a vehicle behind had xenon’s I had to flip mirrors to dim and outside mirror to reflect away. On coming lights no matter how much I did the look away and down, blinded me. Yes I have a very strong opinion on this. If I were a Gov regulator – I’d ban them.

  • BK_R56

    3 Questions:

    Have you driven the manual? How is the clutch feel?

    How is the oil system? My R56 used to lose pressure on hard corners at times. I’m wondering if the pan has baffles or if they have some sort of other system to prevent oil starvation.

  • Stew

    Sorry just to add.

    As they advertise individuality and I done this with my current Coop was to swap the chrome grille to the black mess one. Can you spec the Cooper to have the grille of the S without any badge?

    • Stew

      Oh its getting late that should be black Mesh not mess!

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        If you create a Disqus account, you can edit your comments and fix typos and such on your own.

        • fishbert

          Someone voted down your comment. The only logical explanation is that you were cussing him out like a sailor, before editing your comment to be a bit more couth.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          My initial comments are always full of racial slurs and rape jokes, but Gabe makes me tone them down. I’d imagine that the down vote probably has more to do with many people preferring not to post comments with any form of accountability for what they say and where. Post under your own name and it’ll change the nature of your discourse, I guarantee it.

  • tobi

    thank you MOTORINGFILE, you guys are the best :D

  • Mihai

    i just got excited. lol

  • Mihai

    please do a brief comparison between sport automatic and manual transmission. I don’t aspect the sport auto to be more fun and more driver oriented than the manual but MINI might have pulled this off also…

  • Jgh548

    There is a purity to the experience with the R50 and R56 – just get in and have fun.

    How is that with this new model, with its multiple driving modes, extra refinement, weight, size etc?

    I worry when I see screens like “SPORT MODE – Maximum Go-Kart Feel” etc.

  • joe

    Can you guys tell us about the syncro rev matching? This is something that I’ve been interested in since I first saw it in action when top gear tested the 370z. Also (and we’re not going have THAT debate), I’ve always felt it’s a technology that can posibly save the manuals.

    Also I’d like to hear some more about the dynamic suspension. How comfortable can you get an S to feel?

    • r.burns

      Sure it is more comfortable, that the reason of a dynamic suspension. Question is in sport mode, does it bring more kart feeling, less roll ? Does it approach real sport suspension like Bilstein or H&R coilovers ?

  • Alexandre

    While I agree with you on the concept of shipping a product as opposed to waiting for it to be perfect before releasing it, most of the time this requires shipping something which is not full-fledged and that’s completely fine as long as customer expectations are set the right way. Fast iteration is better than having to fix tones of errors. I know I’m being super picky, but there are obvious bugs in the configurator that should have never seen the light of day (e.g. on mobile, taping on a chevron to get more information about the option of a package doesn’t expend the pop-up window). Anyways, thanks MINI USA for updating the configurator with the F56!

  • R.O

    Gabe, you wrote: “MINI has taken the two models and pulled them apart just a bit more than before. That means the Cooper is now a bit more focused on being comfortable in its base form.”

    Does that mean the Cooper has been “dumb”d” down (like the complaints on the R56) to suit non MINI enthusiasts and is more of as they say in GB “salon – tourer” vehicle? The Non S and S have always been different but has the difference grown for the F56? I’d hope the Cooper is still a “MINI” and not like the run of the mil car.

    Thanks.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      I don’t think I would use that term because at its core it’s the same as the MCS. Opt for sport suspension, 17″ wheels and it’ll still be a great option for an MPG minded enthusiast.


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MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
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2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
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R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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