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First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe


* Two-seat sports car with hatchback versatility

* Available in Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works trims

* Smallest, fastest Mini ever produced

Back in 2001, BMW successfully re-launched its modern interpretation of the original Mini Cooper. This accomplishment was especially notable because American buyers have long been averse to small cars. In 2008, the Cooper found itself a bigger brother in the Mini Clubman, a car meant to offer a little more leg room and cargo space. Earlier this year, Mini inflated the design yet again to introduce the Countryman, a small crossover utility vehicle with the added benefit of a taller ride height, four doors and the optional “All4” all-wheel drive system. Clearly the folks over at Mini are working diligently to expand their portfolio and in the process the brand has become less and less…well, mini.

For 2012, Mini has launched another car but this time the design has been shrink-wrapped around the fastest, mini-est Mini ever built: the two-seat Mini Cooper Coupe.


Similar Design, Similar Features

Right out of the gate, the Coupe is available in three trim levels: the base Cooper, turbocharged Cooper S and performance-tuned John Cooper Works (JCW). All three cars come standard with power locks and windows, radio with CD player, and all of the other basics you’d expect from a modern Mini. Like all Minis, the Cooper Coupe can be highly personalized; over 10 million configurations are available.

Looking from the wheels to the mid-section, the Coupe has nearly identical lines to the existing Cooper or Cooper convertible. That’s because it’s the same basic car. The Coupe is built on an adapted version of the convertible’s chassis except for slightly more aggressive headlights and bumpers up front.

The big difference is the roofline, which was designed to resemble a “backward-facing baseball cap,” according to Mini’s CEO and Chief Motorer Jim McDowell. With this new roof comes a more slanted front and dramatically raked rear windshield making for an all-around sportier look.


Quirky Interior, Expected Performance

Inside, the Coupe looks and feels just like the standard Cooper Hardtop, and that’s not a bad thing. Attractive cloth or optional leather seats and soft touch materials on the dash remind us of the Mini’s premium appeal relative to other subcompacts. Sometimes the finest things come is small packages. Pair these niceties with Mini’s oversized speedometer and unique switches, and you have something that both you and your passenger will always be excited to jump into.

And, passenger is a singular word because there are only two seats. Still, there’s plenty of space and two adults can sit comfortably. There’s also more than enough room in the hatch for a weekend road trip luggage or groceries for a full week.

On the road, the Coupe is high revving in base form, peppy in the S trim and all-out fast as a JCW car. With more than 200 horsepower, Mini claims that the JCW model is the fastest vehicle they’ve ever built; we believe them. The real story comes with Mini’s well known go-cart-like handling; the Coupe has it in spades. While we’re not sure that it’s any quicker around a turn than the already-exciting Cooper, this little car is an absolute blast to drive, making the driver feel like a superhero on winding roads.

The Coupe excels in the fuel efficiency department, too. The base car gets 29-city/37-highway, the S pulls 27-city/35-highway, and the powerful JCW car gets 25-city/33-highway miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $22,000 for the Cooper Coupe, but depending on which trim and options you choose, the price for a loaded John Cooper Works Coupe can exceed $45,000.

The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe is an all-around fun car that feels sexy, instead of cute. If you’re in the market for something with two seats, sleek design and the fun-factor galore, make sure to drive one before you make a purchase.


What this means to you: With historic British design and precise German engineering, the Mini Coupe is a great fit if you’re looking for lots of fun with only two seats.


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