You have to give MINI credit. The original “new” MINI that arrived in 2002 was a huge hit. Really, all they had to do was keep refining and freshening the model, and everything would have been fine. But smart marketers that MINI and parent company BMW are, they wanted to grow the MINI family to attract more people into the fun and funky brand.
So we’ve seen some interesting products: After the original hatchback, we got a convertible, then the extended wheelbase Clubman and mini-SUV Countryman. Next up, a pair of two-seaters—a first for MINI.
The 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe and Roadster are more rakish, more daring, and with even more edge than the original 3-door. We tested the MINI Cooper S Coupe.
At first glance, the Coupe looks like a MINI hatchback that was handed over to a hot rodder. Sitting slightly lower than the hatch, the Coupe’s calling card is a chop-top low-slung roofline that MINI says was inspired by a baseball cap on backwards. It’s polarizing; you either hate it or love it—but we got lots of thumbs up driving around in our test Coupe.
One interesting side note: It may have been our tester’s silver roof on the red body, but several people asked if the Coupe was a power-retracting hardtop, like what’s available on the Miata, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK. MINI, we have a great idea for your next model…
Until that comes, we had maximum fun driving our MINI Coupe. Ours was the S version, powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pumps out 181 hp, which is practically perfect. Sitting low with the low top creating a snug but cozy cabin, the S Coupe’s performance feels more intense than that of the MINI Cooper hatchback—although it’s pretty similar. Acceleration is very strong, and the six-speed moves quickly through the gears, with a typically notchy feel. The suspension is quite firm, but commendably never harsh.
Its small size and bad boy attitude make the MINI Cooper S Coupe an ultimate weapon to slice through traffic, and makes your favorite on- or off-ramp tremendous fun. The grip on the Coupe is phenomenal, and the feel through the steering is sublime. MINI really knows how to make a front-wheel-drive car handle! Not only that, we averaged mileage in the high 20s regardless of how leadfooted we were. And we were!
The standard sport seats are excellent, making longer journeys reasonably comfortable. Also, since the Coupe has a trunk instead of a hatch, it seems a bit quieter on the road, too.
The rest of the interior is typical MINI, which is stylish and fun (though some have rated it over the top). We think it perfectly suits the Coupe’s outrageous nature. Our tester had the Technology Package, which adds to the fun with an amazing 480-watt Harman/kardon sound system, a large 6.5-inch hi-def screen perfectly placed in the giant center-mounted speedometer, and MINI Connected, which lets you access Facebook, Twitter, and other things. Our only complaint is that the small stalk that controls the features is extremely fiddly, and it seems like you need multiple actions to call up the simplest things.
Like all MINIs you have a ridiculously wide amount of choices in packages, options, trims and accessories to make your Coupe truly one of a kind. If you just want extreme style and fuel sipping, economy the base Coupe starts at just $21,300. Our S model started at $24,600 and was extremely well optioned at a bit over $30,000. For you performance extremists, the MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Coupe model starts at $31,200.
Our recommendation? Cooper S Coupe without the sport suspension (it’s just a little too harsh) as a maximum grin-inducing machine that’s fun to drive, fun to be seen in, and a kick to look at sitting in your driveway. We can’t wait to see what MINI comes up with next.
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