While our 10 Best Cars of 2014 article was written to focus on the most newsworthy cars launched in the past year from a positive point of view, we figured that the circle could only be complete if we also take a look at some of the not-so-good vehicles that became part of our world in 2014. Obviously, the presence of some cars on the following list will probably anger a good amount of keyboard warriors and/or diehard fans out there, but that usually goes with the territory and you can’t please every reader every time.
As most of you know, no matter how much soul and poetry a carmaker exudes for some people, the automotive industry is just that, an industry. Industries, like every other business, are here to make money, because otherwise they would simply cease to exist sooner or later. Since marketing is a pretty big part of almost every business’ success, a lot of carmakers rely on intangible details such as brand or model image to sell their products, especially when talking about niche cars.
That is exactly where a lot of them go wrong sometimes, when newly-introduced cars don’t necessarily tick all the right boxes, or at least the minimum required in their brand DNA. From some points of view, this results in a bad car, while from others it simply means that one or more entities that helped to develop said car didn’t do a very good job at some point. Either way, the following list is in no way a professionally-made or objective one and each of the cars on it may very well become a best-seller and a huge success in the future.
With that being said, click past the jump to read more about the 10 Worst Cars Of 2014.
Mini’s reported lineup restructuring apparently has more traction than a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier. Shortly after Mini USA product boss Patrick McKenna said that the Coupe and Roadster models would be discontinued, company chairman Peter Schwarzenbauer added fuel to speculation about Mini’s future lineup by telling Bloomberg that mother hen BMW has deemed it unsustainable, thus the need to shrink its lineup to around five models.
The two reports paint a clear picture on BMW’s plan for Mini, which now involves ridding the company of unnecessary and overlapping models in favor of keeping a core lineup made up of “superhero” vehicles. According to Schwarzenbauer, these superhero models would have their own personalities and unique capabilities to create clear distinctions from the other Mini models. The Mini chairman didn’t explicitly say which models would be scrapped, but McKenna’s recent comments to AutoGuide have tabbed the Coupe and Roadster models as the two casualties of the brand’s planned model contraction.
That would leave the three- and five-door versions of the Cooper, the Countryman, the Clubman, and the Paceman as the faces of Mini’s revamped model lineup. The German automaker is also considering the possibility of offering an electric vehicle, which could be based on the Superleggera Concept that was unveiled at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.
That would make it five different models, each with their own derivatives. If BMW is really serious about cutting Mini’s existing lineup, these five models could make for a good core lineup. There are enough differences among them that there won’t by a risk of overlapping like the way it is now with the Coupe and Roadster.
Click past the jump to read more about Mini’s future lineup.
Since its rebirth under BMW in 2002, no other car company has been able to touch Mini when it comes to its range of customization. There are literally millions of permutations available—virtually assuring that no two Minis sold will be alike. A countless range of exterior graphics packages, floor mats, trim options, key fobs, fog lamps, colors, wheels, body-kits, valve stem caps, spoilers, performance parts and storage options allow buyers to customize Minis anyway they wish before their cars even leave dealer lots. These peripherals have been a huge revenue source for the company and, when added liberally, can cause MSRPs to double over the base cost.
Now Mini is introducing a whole new range of options to complement both the third-generation 2 Door and 4 Door models, including the new John Cooper Works Pro design line, at the 2014 Essen Motor Show. In addition, a gigantic range of new accessories is being introduced that will allow customers to take color coordination to new levels for both models. Want plaid floor mats? How about graffiti-styled rear-view mirror cover that say “VROOOOM?” Mini can oblige no matter how questionable your tastes may be.
Click past the jump to read more about the MINI Cooper S With John Cooper Works Pro.
The 2015 Mini John Cooper Works is expected to make its debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Seeing as there’s still some time left before the JCW heads to the Motor City, our spy photographers captured the car almost completely undisguised, except for the swirly-camouflage beard, undergoing testing in Munich.
Unlike the spy shots from May 2014 that had the JCW doing test runs using a Cooper S body, this model appears to be as close to the final production model. That’s hardly surprising since Mini has pretty much spent the entirety of 2014 developing the new John Cooper Works in time for its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2015.
The 2015 John Cooper Works is expected to receive a four-cylinder turbo engine that produces close to 231 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Should that be the final number, that’s going to represent a modest bump from the 218 ponies powering the outgoing model. It should also be enough to clear 60 mph in about six seconds.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works.
A total of eight MINI ALL4 Racing cars will compete in one of the longest and most challenging off-road events in the world: the Dakar Rally.
Originally hosted in 1979, the annual event is classified as a “rally raid” — that is, a long distance, cross-country marathon run held over the course of several days. The Dakar is composed of hundreds of racers in a variety of classes wielding motorcycles, quads, trucks, and cars. It’s a grueling, two-week journey over thousands of miles of rough terrain; an epic test of both mechanical fortitude and human will. Simply finishing the event is a monumental accomplishment.
The original event was a race between Paris, France, and Dakar, Senegal, but organizers moved to South America in 2009 citing security concerns. However, the new location is no less punishing, as the upcoming rally will cover some 9,000 kilometers of dunes, mud, sand, rocks, gravel, and extreme altitudes across Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia.
If you think this sounds like the wrong event for a MINI, you’re incorrect. High-performance versions of the plucky vehicle have a streak going with three consecutive victories between 2012 and 2014. For the 2015 event taking place in early January, a total of eight MINI entrants will attempt to maintain the championship.
“Even with the most outstanding preparation, the Dakar remains a tremendous adventure with unforeseeable challenges and highly demanding tasks that all participants will have to master in order to succeed,” said Jochen Goller, Senior Vice President at MINI, in a press release. “With this in mind, we are more than pleased to enter the 2015 Dakar Rally with a professional, experienced team in our strategic partners of the X-raid Team, a highly competitive driver line-up and a proven winner in the Mini ALL4 Racing.”
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 MINI ALL4 Racing.
The Nurburgring lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars has been with Renault for many years. Two different iterations of the Megane set new benchmarks in 2008 and 2011, respectively, with an 8-minute 7-seven record to survive until March 2014. That’s when the Seat Leon Cupra became the first FWD car to lap the ’Ring in less than eight minutes. However, the new benchmark didn’t last too long, as Renault returned to the German track with the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R and regained its top position with a 7-minute 54-second lap.
While the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R still stands as the fastest production FWD car on the "Green Hell," the French hatch is far from being the quickest overall FWD car around the race course. That honor goes to a beefed-up Mini Cooper that just smashed the Megane’s lap by a whopping 10 seconds. How’s that possible? Well, first of all, the Mini in question is a John Cooper Works model. Then there’s the fact that the hatch got a few extra tweaks from German specialist Schirra Motoring. The end result is a 1.6-liter four-banger that generates 286 horsepower — 78 ponies over the stock model — a curb weight of only 2,215 pounds, and a hatch that’s faster than a host of sports cars.
I’m not kidding, this JCW is quicker around the `Ring than both the Porsche 911 GT2 and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, and it matches the Pagani Zonda S’ Nurburgring lap time. That’s downright impressive no matter how you look at it, even though this Mini doesn’t qualify as a production car. This also means the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R gets to keep its record, but Schirra’s Mini is definitely the coolest FWD car to have lapped the ’Ring so far.
The present-day Mini Cooper may be more of a fashion accessory than an affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle, but that wasn’t always the case. The original Cooper was created in response to Britain’s oil crisis of the late 1950s and came in a compact, affordable package. It was UK’s version of the Volkswagen Beetle; it was a people’s car.
The tiny economy car debuted in 1959, seven years after Morris and Austin merged to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Initially powered by an 848cc engine rated at 35 horsepower, the Mini received larger 1,275cc inline-four that delivered more than 70 ponies. It may not sound like much, but the first-gen Mini was quite the nimble car thanks to its reduced weight. The entry-level car tipped the scales at a feathery 1,360 pounds; the more powerful Cooper S weighed in at 1,512 pounds.
Mini’s sales success was soon backed by numerous motorsport achievements, including Monte Carlo Rally wins and impressive performances in the British Touring Car Championship. The Cooper S won no less than three Monte Carlo rallies between 1964 and 1967, beating iconic cars such as the Porsche 911, Porsche 904, and Lancia Fulvia HF in the process.
Although the original Cooper was built until 2000, the same year BMW launched the modern Mini, its presence on the U.S. market was rather brief. BMC exported about 10,000 Minis to North America between 1960 and 1967 before discontinuing sales due to the stricter federal safety standards that were imposed in 1968.
The Mini Cooper remains popular today, 55 years since its inception, with many cars being restored to their original specification and paraded during local and international events. The video above pays tribute to the Mini with a loving look at a 1971 Cooper S. This car defined what a small sporty car should be, and for that, we love it.
When Lego announced the Ultimate Collector Series Batman Tumbler, we thought that was pretty cool. There are some issue though. It is massive, it costs $200, and Lego can’t keep it in stock, so its impossible to find.
What is a car-loving Lego enthusiast to do? Just buy a different Lego set of course!
Lego has a long history of cool car-related creations. You can get a replica of the old
Volkswagen van, multiple version of F1 cars and the Cadillac-based Ecto-1 wagon from the Ghostbusters film. And then they have set 10242; the classic Mini Cooper.
For $99, you can grab one of these kits that has almost 1,100 pieces, and is extremely detailed. The car is bricked out in British Racing Green, has a full interior, working doors, trunk and "bonnet," and it comes with a complete picnic set as well.
You can watch me build the entire thing in time-lapse mode by pressing that little play button. The kit was a lot of fun to build, and it took me about 3 hours. It was a pretty awesome way to spend a Saturday morning. If you want to see some more photos of the finished kit, just check after the break.
There is an overlying stigma that trying to buy a fun and sporty car will cost you an arm and a leg. We decided to set the record straight, and with a shoe-string budget of only $20,000 we have been able to come up with 10 brand-new cars that will make any enthusiast happy without breaking the bank. To make the list, each car must demonstrate a certain level of character, fun, and practicality. Cars were chosen based on weight, handling ability, and power. Also, every car chosen offers a manual transmission on the engine/trim level that we have chosen. So fun, practical and available with three-pedals. There isn’t much more that you really need when looking for a fun and cheap car.
Before you start frying about the great cars that are available for just a little bit more like the Mazda Miata and Ford Fiesta ST, or the amazing cars you can get used, we wanted to focus on the really cheap side of things. If you are already stretching your budget to get a $19-$20k car, buying something at $23k is just not an option. Also, if you are already stretching your budget to hit that $20k mark, the last thing you can afford is the cost of repairs and maintenance that comes with every used car. A full warranty is a very important thing for this market.
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into this. As always, feel free to tell me how awesome and right all my choices are. If you think I left something off this list, let me know that too. Now hit that jump and enjoy.
See our top ten enthusiast cars for less than $20,000 after the break.
The Mini brand was resurrected for the 2001 model year, five years after the original Cooper ceased to exist. Initially available only as a three-door hatch and two-door convertible, the new Mini quickly grew into a lineup that included the Clubman, the Countryman, the Coupe and the Paceman. The first-gen model survived for only five years, being replaced by the second-gen in 2006. In 2013, the brand new, third-generation Mini was unveiled, this time riding atop BMW’s UKL1 platform.
Mini already debuted a brand-new diesel engine for the Cooper 5-Door, and the Brits decided to give that same oil burner to the three-door version as well. We’re talking about the 2.0-liter four-banger that generates 170 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, and enables the Cooper DS to become the most powerful diesel Cooper ever created.
Of course, it’s not overly fast from naught to 62 mph, but its 7.3-second second sprint is good enough considering the hatchback claims to return up to 58 mpg on the highway. The 0-to-62 mph figure drops to 7.2 seconds when the engine is paired to the six-speed Steptronic transmission. Sporty and efficient, a recipe that fits today’s demanding market like a glove.
Unfortunately, there’s no word as to whether this nippy fuel sipper will hit U.S. shores or not, but don’t expect to find it at a dealership near you this year. On the other hand, those of you who live in the United Kingdom can order one starting July 2014.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2014 Mini Cooper SD.
The current Mini Cooper is no longer the small economy car that used to rule British streets beginning with the 1960s. Revamped under BMW ownership, the tiny vehicle that Mr. Bean used to haul armchairs and buckets of paint has grown into a fancy hatchback that’s not exactly affordable when packed with all sorts of amenities.
Nevertheless, the new Mini has become increasingly popular in the United States, where no less than ten iterations are available in showrooms. However, the German-owned company is expanding its lineup yet again by adding a five-door version of the familiar hatch, increasing the number of vehicle that have more than three doors to three. The other two are the Clubman and the Countryman.
The Mini Cooper 5-Door came a little later than expected, but it’s finally here to show off its longer body and additional rear doors. Longer and slightly taller than the regular three-door Cooper, the 5-Door’s main purpose is to satisfy customers that have been asking for a roomier Mini that provides easier access in the back and doesn’t feature bi-parting rear doors.
Set to go on sale in the summer of 2014, the Mini Cooper 5-Door is also an alternative to the Fiat 500L, as well as a thorn in the Clubman’s side.
Click past the jump to find out more about the 2014 Mini Cooper 5-Door
Previewed by a concept vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show in January, the next-generation Mini John Cooper Works has been spotted testing Northern Europe since February. More recently, though, the Brits have moved their trials at the Nurburgring track, the perfect environment for a beefed-up hatchback.
Although the spy shots we’ve just received from our paparazzi show a vehicle that has lost most of its camouflage, we’re actually looking at a mule that wears a Cooper S body with a John Cooper Works front bumper attached to it. Still wearing the yellow wrap, the bumper has a more aggressive design and it appears to be identical to the one seen on the concept car.
The lighter, 18-inch aluminum wheels also carry a new design, but the upcoming hot hatch will receive more distinct features, such as a new rear bumper with an integrated diffuser, roof spoiler and side skirts. These features are likely to find their way on the prototype as development continues this summer.
Motivation will be provided by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s expected to crank 231 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s 13 ponies more than the outgoing model and just enough for the vehicle to reach 60 mph from a standing start in less than six seconds.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works.