Thursday, September 28, 2017

Devon test drives a Mini Hardtop


2014 MINI Cooper Hardtop -- NHTSA test 8883 - front.jpg

The Mini Hardtop is our favorite of the entire Mini Range. It's retro styling and fun to drive nature makes it the best small car to own. Plus its resale value will stomp any small car and leave it in its dust. But is the Mini all the car you'll ever really need?

The previous generation Mini Hardtop we really didn’t care too much for the all style no functionality approach for the interior. The toggle switches were fiddly to operate and felt cheap. This generation Mini Hardtop has somewhat changed it but some switchgear remain the same. At least they are much easier to use and navigate through. Plus the infotainment system is the best fitted in any small car. Those in the front seats will enjoy the space while rear passengers will struggle to find comfort. It’s still cramped but not as cramped as before. The boot space is decent but not great.

Alloy wheels are standard on both the Cooper and Cooper S trim. You also get keyless entry and push button start. Bluetooth, a digital radio and air-con are also standard. LED headlights are optional as well as parking sensors and power folding exterior rearview mirrors. Picking one of the several packages will reduce costs of several options but we strongly suggest keeping options light because it pushes the Mini Hardtop price very steep quickly.

The 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder powering the Cooper is a real gem of an engine. It is also the pick of the range. It’s still affordable and has the lowest running costs all while being as fun to drive as a Mini should. The Cooper S offers a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 189hp. It’s faster and much more fun to drive. The manual gearbox with both is the best way to enjoy the driving experience. The auto gearbox is smooth too but it’s not as fun.

Steering and handling are what you’d expect of a Mini. Standard suspension is fine but if you want the sweet handling that Mini can offer we strongly suggest opting for the sports suspension. Only tradeoff is that you’ll have to deal with an overly firm ride which can be unforgiving at times. Steering is very fluid and direct but tends to follow the groves in the road.

If you are looking for a small car that’s fun to drive offers low running costs and is cheeky looking. The Mini Hardtop is the way to go. If you stay clear of the options list you can walk away with a decently priced Mini. However its small size may count against it. There are better options out there but none of them have the charm of a Mini.

Likes: Most fun to drive small car you can own. Resale value is strong too. Dashboard design isn’t as fiddly as previous generations.

Dislikes: Options can sky rocket the price quickly. There are so many other cars that are more practical for similar money.

Devon’s Pick: The Cooper trim offers decent performance with decent running costs at a decent price. It’s really hard not to consider one unless you just have to have the more powerful Cooper S. The Cooper trim is the way to go.

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