Let's get this out of the way: The 2015 MINI Cooper Coupe is all about fashion. That's neither good or bad; it's just what it is. Essentially the same car as the traditional MINI Cooper hatchback underneath, the MINI Cooper Coupe differs with its shorter and more steeply raked windshield, two fewer seats, baseball-cap-style roof and, alas, higher price.

For better or worse, as a 2-seat sport coupe with front-wheel drive, there's nothing else like it on the road. The Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins have rear-wheel drive, and the only other sporting 2-seater in this price range is the rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible. Well, that and the 2015 MINI Cooper Roadster, which is essentially this car with a convertible top.

Yes, the Coupe makes little sense for most drivers, especially given that the Cooper Hardtop delivers a comparable driving experience in a considerably more useful package, but who says car buying has to be about practicality? The MINI Cooper Coupe makes a visual statement. If that's how you like to roll, the Coupe is fun, hip and (somewhat) affordable.

What's New for 2015?

In addition to a few minor color updates, the MINI Cooper Coupe adds two new standard features for 2015: automatic wipers and automatic climate control.

What We Like

Excellent engines; impressive fuel economy; nimble handling; fits just about anywhere

What We Don't

Only two seats; even less cargo space than a regular MINI; can get pricey when loaded with options

How Much?

$22,900-$32,800

Fuel Economy

Three powertrains are offered. Base-level Cooper models use a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes just 121 horsepower. That's not a huge figure, but the benefit is gas mileage: It's rated at 29 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway with the manual or 28 mpg city/36 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Step up to the Cooper S Coupe, and you get a turbocharged version of the same engine for a total of 181 hp. For that model, fuel economy falls to 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the automatic or 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with a manual. John Cooper Works models, which add 27 hp for a total of 208, have the same fuel economy ratings as a Cooper S Coupe.

Standard Features & Options

The MINI Cooper Coupe comes in three available trim levels. There's a base model, called simply the Coupe, a midlevel Cooper S Coupe and a high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) model.

Drivers who choose the base-level Cooper Coupe ($22,900) get 16-inch alloy wheels and basic power accessories, such as windows, mirrors, locks and keyless entry, along with newly standard automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers. The Coupe also includes standard leatherette upholstery and iPod and USB connectivity. A 121-hp 1.6-liter engine is standard.

Upgrade to the Cooper S Coupe ($26,200), and you get a turbocharged version of the base model's engine, which is good for 181 hp. Other upgrades include fog lights, a firmer sport suspension, sport seats and sport pedals.

Topping the range is the John Cooper Works trim ($32,800), which boosts power to 208 horses. It also features an even firmer sport suspension, an aerodynamic body kit, 17-in wheels and strong Brembo brakes.

While those prices may not seem so bad, the Cooper Coupe's biggest problem is that so many features are relegated to the options list. There's a Cold Weather package with heated seats and heater mirrors; a Premium package with keyless ignition and automatic headlights; a Technology package with the MINI Connected smartphone integration system, rear parking sensors and an upgraded sound system; and a Sport package, which adds larger wheels, sport seats and sport-tuned traction control. Like most MINI models, the Cooper Coupe also offers a long list of color options. An automatic transmission is $1,250 extra.

Safety

The 2015 MINI Cooper Coupe comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and four airbags (front and side).

The Cooper Coupe had not been crash-tested stateside as of this writing, but other MINI models have generally fared well in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. The Cooper Hardtop, for example, earned four stars overall from NHTSA, along with strong marks from IIHS.

Behind the Wheel

Under most circumstances, the MINI Cooper Coupe drives like -- surprise! -- a regular MINI Cooper. All of its responses are fully caffeinated, especially when you hit the little Sport button next to the shifter, which tightens up throttle and steering calibrations.

In spite of its modest power, the base coupe is actually a rather spry performer, zipping around town with surprising vigor. The automatic transmission slows things down quite a bit, so stick with the satisfying manual shifter unless you want to leave a lot of acceleration on the table. The Cooper S model's turbocharged engine is one of our favorite engines in any car, delivering exuberant acceleration with virtually no turbo lag. It sounds like it's having a great time, too.

The JCW model is an adrenaline junkie's dream come true. We must note, though, that when we hustled the JCW Coupe hard around a racetrack, the rear end got surprisingly squirrelly in tight corners.

As with other MINIs, the optional sport suspension can make the car too stiff for everyday use -- ditto the 17-in wheels, alluring as they are. A thorough test drive may be in order if you want to check those boxes.

Other Cars to Consider

FIAT 500 -- While we consider the base 500 to be a step down from the MINI, it's a lot cheaper. Meanwhile, the turbocharged 500 Abarth hatchback has a great engine and is almost as quick as a Cooper S Coupe for a little less money.

Mazda MX-5 Miata -- The rear-wheel-drive Miata is the quintessential affordable 2-seater, and it's now available with a retractable hardtop for a coupelike experience. We'd be hard-pressed to pick a Cooper Coupe over a Miata for the same price.

Subaru BRZ -- The 2-seat, rear-wheel-drive BRZ sport coupe is certainly worth a try. It costs as much as a well-equipped Cooper S Coupe, but it's every bit a match for the MINI through the corners, with proper rear-drive dynamics besides. Ditto for the Scion FR-S, the BRZ's mechanical twin.

AutoTrader's Advice

We don't see the point of buying a Cooper Coupe without the turbocharged engine. This isn't a practical car, so you might as well go all out under the hood. Whether you want to step all the way up to the JCW model depends on your budget.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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