CarCorner Review: 2012 Mini Coupe

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

It goes without saying that the new Mini Coupe makes people do a double take – from its shallow-rake windshield to the integral roof spoiler and wing that deploys from the trunk lid. My guess is the Coupe is going after “driving machine” enthusiasts in a way that the Cooper hatchback doesn’t, but I have to say that the driving dynamics and handling aren’t significantly different than the Cooper S, although the look certainly is. My test car was the John Cooper Works edition, so it wasn’t inexpensive with a base price over $31,200 and with all the goodies including navigation the final sticker was over $38,000.

At first glance, the coupe looks like the top should lift off, but when you’re up close, you see the roof blends into the rear windshield and there’s a slot in the top behind the windshield and an integrated spoiler on the deck that deploys automatically at 50 mph and drops down below 40. The problem is, the view from the rear-view mirror is pretty tight to begin with and when the spoiler pops up it distracts even more. While I’m sure it helps with airflow and will likely help with top speed, I think it’s more for show than go.

In the cockpit, you’ll find the familiar center mounted speedometer that’s huge relative to the dash, but carries a lot of information including navigation fuel and audio information. You’ll also see the familiar toggle switches that you either love or hate. I kind of like them but then again, I am a bit of a dinosaur and remember toggles from back in the days. The seats are firm, which one would expect and get a bit tiring after a while, not something I’d want to spend several hours on the road in.

But the Mini is all about fun and to that end, it offers a lot of it. It’s not terribly fast, but it is quick and sitting an inch lower than its big brother it handles quite well, although you can get a bit of torque steer zipping around corners if you’re not careful. Powered by a 1.6 liter 208 horsepower engine, mated to a six-speed standard transmission, you can definitely have some fun and in truth, I did enjoy my week in the Mini Coupe

Bottom line, the Coupe offers sharp handling, distinctive exterior styling, which I see a lot of potential for customers having some fun with, a huge fun quotient, yet all with great fuel economy. So if you’ve looked at the Mini but felt it was a bit staid, definitely check out the Mini Coupe. At the very least, it brings a whole new visual experience to the Mini.

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