New MINI Cooper S (© Perry Stern)Click to enlarge picture

New MINI Cooper S

The new 2014 MINI Cooper hardtop provides more of almost everything. There's more power, more technology, and even a more colorful way for the interior to respond to specific commands, but MINI purists may be taken aback by just how much more Cooper hardtop there is to drive.

The third-generation premium small car is about 4.5 inches longer than its predecessor, with the 2014 Mini Cooper S another 0.8 inches longer still. The 2014 Cooper hardtop is 1.7 inches wider and 0.3 inches taller than the outgoing car. The wheelbase has been stretcheed just over one inch, with the front and rear track widened by 1.7 and 1.3 inches, respectively. Put that all together and you have a more user-friendly MINI. The 2014 Cooper hardtop now has 8.7 cubic feet of cargo space (up 3 cubic feet) and is said to be more comfortable and agile than before.

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No matter which model you choose, the U.S.-spec 2014 MINI Cooper hardtop will be more powerful than the car it replaces. The base model gets a 134-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant that enables a 7.3-second manufacturer-estimated 0-60 mph time with the new six-speed automatic and 7.4 seconds with the new six-speed manual transmission. Go for the 2014 MINI Cooper S and you'll get 189 hp from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with a 0-60 mph time of 6.4 and 6.5 seconds with the automatic and manual, respectively.

You won't need to travel that fast to notice what's new inside. The speedometer is right in front of the driver, along with a tachometer and fuel level. Starting the car involves pressing a toggle-type button that lights up red. Three large rotary knobs control the HVAC system, with digital temperature displays in the center of the rotating dual-zone climate controls. An 8.8-inch center stack screen is available.

Whether you call it flair or over-the-top gimmicks, the 2014 MINI Cooper definitely has it with the circular LED lighting display that shows six colors and responds to different commands. When your MINI is equipped with parking sensors, the lights display in yellow or red, depending on how close you are to an obstacle. As you approach a navigation destination, a ring of lights gets smaller, and as you'd expect, changing the temperature results in a flash of blue or red lights. Completing the LED package, loaded models can be equipped with LED taillights, LED fog lights, and full LED headlights.

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Engine stop-start is standard on the automatic, whose shift points can actually be altered based on navigation data if a route is selected. Sport and Green driving modes are also part of the package for every 2014 MINI Cooper. In an automatic-transmission Green mode, the 2014 Mini Cooper can decouple its drivetrain between 31-99 mph once the driver stops pressing the accelerator pedal, letting the car save fuel while coasting.

The MINI may be bigger, but the automaker has still focused on driving fun. Additional attention has been paid to making sure the steering system compensates for torque steer, and Mini's Dynamic Damper Control has been designed to offer comfort or more performance-focused responses from the now lighter-weight suspension and damping systems.

As you'd expect from a BMW-owned premium brand, the 2014 Mini Cooper hardtop allows even more ways to check options boxes than ever before. A head-up display like that in the Mazda3 is available, as is adaptive cruise control and a pedestrian warning system with an initial braking function. An automatic parking system can steer the car into a parking space as long as the driver controls the gas, brakes, and gear selection.

The new MINI Cooper may be bigger, but there are probably more consumers waiting to experience the MINI mystique than purists complaining about the car's size. We're not sure how much bigger MINI can grow the Cooper hardtop after this generation, but we're looking forward to seeing how well the new engines and interior updates work in the rest of the ever-expanding MINI lineup.