2012 MINI COOPER REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sports hatch
Price: $45,340 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.7l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.0l/100km
And here, in this stumpy-bummed variant, there are two less seats and a lower roofline, for even more impracticality.
So what is its reason-for-being?
Fun, that’s what it’s all about. In the Cooper S Coupe is all the distilled essence of MINI. That means all the giggles of the regular Cooper hatch and its legendary handling, bundled with a nippy turbocharged S engine.
Oh, yeah, and that roof - a little dome that looks like it sorely needs a New York Yankees logo embroidered onto it. But whatever you think of it, for good or for bad, it makes the MINI Coupe a real eye-catcher.
Quality: If you’ve ever been at the wheel of a MINI before, then you’ll find no surprises in the Coupe. Everything from the chubby steering wheel to the dinner-plate sized speedo in the centre stack carries over from the hatch.
In this particular car there were rattles aplenty: the two piece parcel shelf chattered away like a noisy toddler and two separate rattles from the dash, one high, one low, came and went during our time with the car.
The finishes used are high grade however and, despite the noisy bits, there’s a brick-like solid feel to the car generally.
Comfort: Being a two seater, there’s no need to worry about freeing up rear legroom. That means you can sprawl out at the wheel or in the passenger seat.
There’s still not a lot of rearward seat travel, but the seats themselves are comfy and provide a nice secure grip.
Under the domed roof, which sits 29mm lower than the hatch, things feel a little closed in. There’s ample-enough room under the scalloped headlining once you’re seated, but you have to duck to make it in and the steeper windscreen robs a fair bit of visibility.
Equipment: The MINI options list is pretty long, but standard bells-and-whistles include partial leather seats, a leather trimmed multi-function wheel, bi-Xenon headlamps, front and rear foglamps, dusk-sensing headlamps and auto-wipers, cruise control.
There's also steering-mounted gearshift paddles, illuminated sunvisors, sports suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and six-speaker CD/MP3 compatible sound with aux and USB inputs.
Storage: Thanks to the absence of a rear seat there’s a fairly handy 280 litres of rear space; that’s an impressive 20 litres larger than the Clubman offers.
And, because the Coupe isn’t really a coupe at all, but a fast-back hatch, the high opening tailgate makes loading and unloading fuss-free.
Inside the cabin, space is at a premium, but there’s a handy bit of stash-space behind the seats, plus a fold down panel into the boot.
Keeping odds and ends organised in the rest of the cabin however is tricky, aside from the glovebox there’s no covered storage and door pockets are slim.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Cooper S - the regular one - is a rapid little device that offers class-leading dynamics. None of this, you’ll be pleased to know, has been lost with the introduction of the Coupe bodystyle.
With 135kW of power at 5500 rpm and 240Nm of torque from 1600 rpm all the way to 5000 rpm, there’s plenty of pull at just about any speed.
And go? It’s a blast. Pile on the revs and it’s like an urgent mad ant (and the JCW is even madder).
The six-speed auto, with sports mode selected, holds gears to perfection. The changes are a little on the wooly side though and can’t match the crisp rapid shifts of a DSG transmission.
For those who think they can do it better, there are steering wheel paddles to play with (but the pull to up-shift, push to down-shift action is less intuitive for me).
Refinement: Put the boy-racer antics aside for a moment and the MINI behaves like a real premium hatchback.
Sure, you’ll never mistake the ride for a Rolls Royce, and there is some jarring from bigger holes and surface imperfections, but overall refinement and comfort is quite ok.
Hit the upper revs and the exhaust note gets rorty, but in an enjoyable way, and never coarse.
Suspension: Not every car of this size is lucky enough to score fully independent suspension - but the MINI does.
The result is agile handling that feels both light on its feet yet amazingly stable.
The ride is firm, but unless you’re testing the limits the Cooper S is quite well settled. The biggest letdown comes from a lack of composure over small imperfections.
Braking: Even though the Coupe weighs a touch more than its hatchback equivalent, four-wheel disc-brakes (with ventilated front rotors) provide strong, secure stopping time and time again.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Dual front and thorax airbags, ESP, EBD, brake assist, ASC+T traction and stability control, corner braking control, load-limiting seat belt pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Service costs may vary, consult your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Peugeot RCZ 1.6T Automatic ($54,990) - Peugeot’s little coupe can stop traffic with its jaw dropping looks but, despite sharing engine development with MINI, the RZC auto puts out a lot less power.
It’s a pleasant drive, but neither as quick nor the handling equal of the Cooper S Coupe. (See RCZ reviews)
BMW 120i ($49,680) - You’ll pay a little more and the engine is not as feisty as the Cooper S, but the entry-level BMW coupe can muster up driving thrills thanks to a sporting rear-wheel-drive chassis (unique in this class).
Better still, if you need to carry more than one friend the 120i has a rear seat. Not a huge one, but, being more than zero it has the MINI Coupe done for seating. (See 1-Series reviews)
Audi A1 1.4TSI Sport ($42,500) - It may not be a coupe per-se but the A1 is conceptually close to the MINI range.
The range-topping A1 features a cracking turbo and supercharged engine that pairs with a superior seven-speed DSG gearbox. Handling is a close second to the MINI and refinement a touch above. (see A1 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Would you buy the MINI Cooper S Coupe for its willing engine and keen handling?
And, while the Coupe’s boot is ok, you can’t fit much inside that tight cabin (so choose your friends carefully).
It’s pricey - especially if lined up alongside Toyota’s new 86 - but what makes the case for this little belter is its unique looks and roller-skate charm.
Strangers won’t understand it, and your Mum definitely won’t. But, take the wheel of the Coupe and you’ll be grinning from ear-to-ear as soon as you barrel it into a corner.
- MINI Cooper S Coupe - $42,990 (+ $2350 for auto transmission)
- MINI Cooper S Roadster - $45,500 (+ $2350 for auto transmission)
- MINI Cooper JCW Coupe - $52,600 (no auto)
- MINI Cooper JCW Roadster - $55,100 (no auto)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
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