Full 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe is an all-new model.
Mini is trying very hard to convince people that the two-seat 2012 Mini Coupe is a super-compact sports car. From its shallow-rake windshield to the integral roof spoiler and wing that deploys from the trunk lid, the Coupe aims to strike a chord with hard-core driving enthusiasts in a way that its upright Cooper hatchback doesn't. The problem is that the 2012 Mini Coupe presents more of a styling statement than it does any measurable enhancement in performance or driving pleasure.
Mini touts the Coupe as its first coupe design, meaning the engine compartment, "helmet" roof and stubby trunk differentiate it from the now-familiar Cooper hatchback. From a distance, the Coupe, which sits 1 inch lower, looks oddly proportioned, but it's when you get close that the unusual design starts to make an impression. Where its roof blends into the rear glass, a slot and integral spoiler are created, giving the Coupe the look of a car wearing a backwards baseball cap. At speeds above 50 mph, another spoiler deploys mechanically from the edge of the trunk lid, offering even more airflow management that's said to increase the top speed slightly. The downside is that it also further obscures already-challenging rearward visibility.
In terms of driving dynamics, the 2012 Coupe is nearly identical to the rest of the Mini lineup. There's a definite Mini feel to everything the Coupe does -- it has essentially the same footprint as the hatchback -- and because the Coupe sits a little lower, it feels sportier but truly isn't. Fuel efficiency and straight-line performance are nearly identical because the drivelines are the same from Base all the way through high-performance John Cooper Works trim levels.
With what appears to be a resurging interest in coupes, the 2012 Mini Coupe offers a unique take on the personal car with, well, personality. Whether Mini's Coupe better stimulates the adrenal gland or makes any more sense than something like a Honda CR-Z or Scion FR-S is still a question that remains to be answered. For now, we'll congratulate Mini for taking a design risk, but wish the manufacturer had given its self-described "sports car" more performance.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe is a two-door two-passenger coupe with a hatchback-style trunk lid. There are three available trim levels: Base, S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
The base Coupe comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The optional Sport package adds 16-inch wheels, foglamps, dynamic traction control with electronic differential lock, sport seats and hood stripes.
The Coupe S adds 16-inch wheels, a turbocharged engine, a hood scoop, firmer suspension tuning, foglamps, sport seats and alloy pedals. The Coupe S Sport package adds 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, dynamic traction control and hood stripes. The John Cooper Works trim includes a more powerful turbo engine, upgraded suspension and Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit, John Cooper Works badging and checkered-cloth upholstery.
Major optional features (some of which are grouped in packages) include adaptive xenon headlights, automatic climate control, heated seats/mirrors/washer jets, keyless entry/ignition, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, Bluetooth and an iPhone interface that includes Twitter access, RSS feeds and Web-based radio. Other options include different wheels, parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system and a multitude of different interior trims and materials. Furthermore, a multitude of dealer-installed accessories are available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Mini Coupe comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Every Mini Coupe comes with a Sport button that sharpens the response and behavior of the throttle, transmission (with the automatic) and steering.
Mini estimates a manual-equipped Coupe will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds (9.5 seconds with the automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy is 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined with the manual and 28/36/31 with the automatic.
The Cooper S has a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration in 6.5 seconds for the manual and 6.7 seconds for the automatic. Estimated fuel economy is 27/35/30 with the manual and 26/34/29 with the auto.
The John Cooper Works cranks up the turbo boost to produce 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission, and fuel economy is 25/33/28. Mini estimates a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds; our testing revealed slightly slower results, with a 6.4-second best 0-60 time. As good as these figures are, however, we've recorded nearly identical ones in a regular Cooper JCW hatchback.
All 2012 Mini Coupes come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, dual front and seat-mounted side airbags. Dynamic traction control, a differential lock and parking sensors are optional. A LATCH child seat tethering system is standard for the passenger seat. In Edmunds testing, a Coupe JCW stopped from 60 mph in a very good 114 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
As expected, the interior of the Coupe is done up with typical Mini flair, including the infamous toggle switches, giant speedometer and body-colored panels. They're all nice nods to the original Mini, but in terms of practicality, it comes off as a bit gimmicky.
At best, the Coupe's cabin feels intimate; at worst, it's claustrophobic. There is no shortage of headroom (thanks to a double-bubble headliner), but unlike the airy feeling in the high-roof Cooper, the Coupe's cabin itself feels rather tight. In place of rear seats, Mini fits the Coupe with a cargo area divider that offers up a small parcel shelf.
Luggage space, at 7 cubic feet, is a couple cubes better than a regular Cooper hatchback's, but besides the cargo area pass-through, there's no provision to expand as is the case with the hatchback. Access to the trunk is rather easy, at least, as the rear glass lifts up with the trunk lid like a hatchback. Rear visibility is particularly poor for the Coupe.
Unfortunately, measurable performance advantages of the two-seat 2012 Mini Coupe over the four-seat Mini Cooper hatchback do not exist. But whether or not the Coupe is reported to be a tenth of a second quicker than the Cooper is largely a moot point. Every Mini's mission, regardless of model/trim is to provide a uniquely sporty driving experience, and the 2012 Mini Coupe fulfills that promise.
The Coupe's lower stance and slightly firmer suspension don't translate into improved handling, either. Instead you get a slightly busier ride -- especially on the John Cooper Works Coupe, where some have even called it unacceptable. This is why we have historically recommended either the Base or the S trim, but without the optional Sport suspension. The car's electric-assist power steering is as good as any manufacturer has developed, with crisp reactions and laserlike precision. As expected, however, the higher-performance models' more aggressive suspension and wheels/tires can produce a nervous on-center feeling at speed if the roads get choppy.
Overall, the Base Coupe will likely satisfy most drivers, with the S trim adding a little more thrill with its turbocharged engine. Opting for the 208-hp John Cooper Works Coupe is a commitment that some may later regret.