2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop
No one was quite sure what to expect when BMW reintroduced the MINI brand to America, as the first of the modern, 2002 cooper hardtops began arriving here. But, it sure sounded like a good idea at the time. And since then the good times have continued to roll with an expanded portfolio of convertibles, wagons, roadsters, and even crossovers. Well, now it’s time to return to the humble two-door hardtop and start the 3rd generation of “new minis”. So, let’s see if the 2014 Mini Cooper is still super!
The 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop has undergone it’s most extensive re-engineering since the 2002 revival. And while most changes seem evolutionary, this Mini eyes the future rather than the past.
It has gotten bigger of course, 4 and a half inches longer, but with only 1-inch more wheelbase, So, there’s more overhang, but the classic shape remains. And while fans will applaud that proportions haven’t changed that much; they’ll be the first to notice the bolder take on iconic elements like the grille, side scuttles, head and tail lights, as well as the longer, flatter nose.
With the new chassis also comes two all-new engines, as well as new 6-speed transmissions, both manual and automatic. Power includes a 2.0-liter turbo I4 with 189–horsepower and 207 lb-ft. of torque, 221 with overboost. Standard in the Cooper S; output is up from the previous gen.
The more intriguing new engine however, is the standard Cooper 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo, with 134-horses and 162 lb-ft., 170 on overboost.
Now we spent time with both motors at the international press launch in Puerto Rico and found the I3 to be the most impressive.
But to confirm that it wasn’t just the island lifestyle clouding our judgment, it’s a standard I3-automatic equipped Cooper that we have here for testing. And after further review… our previous call has been confirmed.
There are aggressive Sport, Mid and relaxed Green modes to tailor your driving experience, but it was in Sport mode that we took this Mini to our test track.
Torque was good off the line and our Cooper Hardtop sprinted to 60 in a respectable 7.0-seconds. It felt great in the short run. However, the ¼-mile run proved more leisurely at 15.4–seconds and 92 miles-per-hour.
But the Cooper has never been about straight line kicks. The fun starts when you begin sawing the wheel back and forth. Suspension hardware remains Mini’s unique single-joint spring strut front along with a multi-link rear, but everything has been both lightened and stiffened, losing none of the go kart feel along the way. The electronic steering is quick, but a bit numb feeling.
It all makes an extremely capable back road handler, but much like most of the recent cars from corporate parent BMW the sensory parts have given way to more efficient electronic ones. Brakes weren’t quite up to the task, however, halting our tester in a rather lengthy average of 135–feet from 60.
Mini has also put the brakes on some of the cheapness on the interior. There’s definitely a more premium feel, if one that’s also a bit less unique. Unless you are a minimalist, you will very much appreciate all of the small item storage nooks, as well as more front cabin space.
In the back seat, leg room is up, but headroom is down. So, it’s still a tight confine for most adults. Cargo space climbs to 8.7 cubic-ft. seats up; 38.0 cubic-ft. with seatbacks folded. That’s something all buyers can get behind.
Iconic elements like the “love them or hate them” toggle switches, and of course the big round center dash display remain. But, the speedometer has moved from there to a routine place behind the steering wheel. The center display can be filled with an 8.8-inch color screen controlled by Mini’s version of BMW’s iDrive system.
Surrounding the center display is a “mood ring” that changes with driving mode. From Green for Eco to Red for Sport. Other new bits like the available pop up head up display also make the case for convenience over nostalgia, as does no longer having to insert a key to get the party started.
With auto stop/start, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are very good at 29-City, 41-Highway, and 34-Combined. We saw a spot on average of 34.2 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
Mini fun starts at a reasonable $20,745. The sportier Cooper S, at $24,395.
So, has the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop gotten too big for its britches or is it still the fun runabout that we’ve loved so much? Well, more space doesn’t necessarily mean less fun, so we’re good there. But, we could do without the homogenization of more of BMW in the design. Still the spirit of the original Mini remains intact. Let’s all hope that always remains the case.
- Engine: 1.5-liter
- Horsepower: 134
- Torque: 162 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.4 seconds @ 92 mph
- EPA: 29 mpg city/ 41 mpg highway
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined
2023 Lexus UX 250h
More Fun Than Premium, But That’s Just Fine With Us
Entry-level models are always tough for luxury brands to pull off well. You can’t deliver the full experience, but you have to give buyers enough of a taste so they’ll eventually trade up for more. Well one marque, Lexus, has been very successful at doing just that, and this week we look at their latest starter SUV, the UX.
This Lexus UX arrived for 2019 as the brand’s smallest SUV yet. Priced in the mid-30s, it delivered a heck of a lot of the Lexus experience for a modest amount of money. And with capable handling, easy maneuvering, and thoughtful features, it was an affordable entry-level luxury ute that was easy to love. For 2023, Lexus makes this little premium runabout even better.
For starters, the UX is strictly hybrid now as the previously standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is no more. And while the Hybrid used to be exclusively all-wheel-drive, Lexus has now made a front-drive version available with AWD an option.
Lexus Hybrid Drive pairs 2 electric motors to a 2.0-liter I4 for a total combined output of 181-horsepower. All-wheel-drive versions add an additional motor in back to drive the rear wheels.
Front-wheel-drive versions get an improved Government Fuel Economy Rating of 43-City, 41-Highway, and 42-Combined; all-wheel-drive versions remain 41-City, 38-Highway, and 39-Combined. We averaged 39.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our all-wheel-drive tester.
That’s a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 7.6-barrels of oil consumed yearly with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
If there was any shortfall of the original UX, it was that it was a tad noisier, with perhaps not quite as refined a ride as what we were used to from Lexus. Well, for ’23, they have enhanced the body structure with more welds, and quieted down road noise with new tires. One thing that didn’t need changing is that its small size makes it a real joy to whip in and out of traffic…
…or the cones of our handling course at Mason Dixon Dragway, stopping just short of sport sedan territory with quick steering and excellent feedback.
Overall handling is very neutral, with minimal body roll, and it seems to know where you want to go before you move the steering wheel.
That’s courtesy of the F Sport Handling package which adds an Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, as well as additional bracing for the steering system.
On the acceleration front, there’s a nice little jump off the line, but economy is definitely the priority, with a slow and steady trek to 60 of 8.1-seconds; though that is 2/10ths quicker than the Hybrid we tested in 20-19.
No fake CVT shifting, just consistent high-revving throughout the ¼-mile; though there are paddle shifters on the wheel to select through 10 simulated gears if you choose. Our best time was 16.2-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
A good firm pedal and ample feedback made panic braking above par for a luxury utility. Some nosedive, but stops of 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour were stable and consistent.
Despite being the brand’s entry-level SUV, it doesn’t look much like a traditional utility vehicle, appearing more like a sleek overachieving hatchback, especially with F Sport Design upgrades.
Visibility is somewhat compromised by the minimal greenhouse, but that’s what we have cameras and sensors for these days.
With the F Sport Handling Package’s heavily bolstered sport seats, the front cabin experience is not quite the plush high-end Lexus we’re used to either. Still, we loved it.
Granted, rear seat room is really only adequate for pre-teens; but the total interior experience is well above typical entry-level expectations.
Thankfully, the UX joins the rest of the Lexus lineup in eliminating the frustrating Remote Touch Interface and upgrading to a touchscreen in standard 8 or optional 12.3-inch sizes.
Pricing starts at $36,490 and reaches $43,920 with F Sport Handling. All-wheel drive is now a $1,400 option with all trims.
While it’s an even better gateway into the Lexus SUV family than before, with its considerably handling performance and hatchback vibe, it does seem to be more of a global or urban effort than one designed for wide-open American highways. But that’s okay with us too. The Lexus UX is a fun little utility with great fuel economy, and just enough of the Lexus treatment to make you want to come back…and step up…for more.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I4
- Horsepower: 181
- 1/4 Mile: 16.2-seconds at 87 mph
- EPA: 41 City / 38 Highway / 39 Combined
- Transmission: CVT
- 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 39.9 MPG (Regular)