2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe
Date Posted: February 16, 2012
By Zack Spencer
Mini now has a smaller, sportier two seater that delivers driving pleasure but limited space.
Ever since BMW took over the Mini brand just over a decade ago, sales have been very strong. Next time you are driving about, especially in urban areas, have a look for these tiny packages of ''fun on four wheels''-- they are everywhere. Not content to sell the ''new Mini'' in its traditional three-door hatch configuration, BMW has stretched into a convertible, a wagon called Clubman and even a compact crossover called Countryman. 2012 ushers in the next stage of Mini evolution with this two-seater coupe, along with a two-seater roadster; basically a convertible version of the coupe. This Coupe is a sportier, sleeker take on the original three-door design with only two seats, a cropped roof and is lighter in weight.
Taking an already short car and turning it into a sleeker coupe design must have been a challenge for the designers. The front windshield has been placed at a steeper angle, the back hatch is no longer square and the rear pillars are wrapped in glass to provide an almost floating roof. Speaking of the roof, it is substantially lower than the regular model and the rear section intrudes on rear visibility. It is easy to say that this Coupe version is a about compromises on behalf of design and the owner. The design limits the outward visibility and cargo capacity and the owner has to be able to live with the confined dimensions in order to be seen in such an eye-catching car. As with all other model, there is a base model called Cooper, then the higher horsepower model called S and even an ultra high-performance model called John Cooper works.
It is interesting to note that Mini has one of the highest resale values in the business, yet scores very poorly in JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Study. JD Power not only studies repairs but complaints about design and functionality. Basically, the interior of any Mini is a mish-mash of toggle switches, push button switches, rocker switches and rotary dials. Then buttons and switches are scattered throughout the cabin with no sense of order. It talks a while to figure it all out. It could be said that these cars are quirky and the owners are at times frustrated with the complexity because the overall ownership experience is good. Buyers considering the Coupe should pay extra attention to the outward visibility due to the low roof. Being able to see traffic lights out the front window and more than one car through the rear window is frustrating for taller buyers.
Once on the road, all the Mini goodness comes to the surface and the quirks of this little car fall behind. A run to 100km/h in this Cooper S version takes only 6.9 seconds. This S model has a turbocharged 1.6L engine with 184hp and it feels fast and nimble, the exhaust gargles on throttle lift, making it seem faster, plus the manual transmission is a joy to throw around. It's no stretch to say that this Coupe feels even more go-cart like than the regular car; it is 45kg lighter and has 3 more hp. So yes it is quicker, just slightly. One of the things that make this car so much fun is the engine and road noise that provides a sporty soundtrack. That's also bad, because at highway speeds, this car is noisy and fatiguing. If you drive a lot on the highway, this might not be the Mini for you. The base model comes with the same 1.6L engine but it isn't turbocharged and it provides 122hp. If you can afford the stretch for the turbo, go for it you will never regret it.
The Mini Coupe starts at roughly $26,000 and the Cooper S version seen here starts at around $31,000, which represents about a $2000 premium over the regular models. To recap, the Coupe has no back seats, a smaller cargo area and it's loud but it is an absolute blast to drive. Acceleration and handling are at the top of this rather small class. The fact that the Mini brand has such a strong following, with excellent resale value shows the blind eye many buyers have to its shortcomings. The person that is attracted to this car will not care one bit about any of this. I'm sure buyers will be even more thrilled with a quirkier version of a quirky car.
The Good, The Bad
Very cool looking car with go-cart handling.
Some drivers might not fit and visibility is at a premium.
Power: 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder with 184hp
Fill-up: 7.6L/5.6L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $31,150