By KBB.com Editors
The Mini brand has made a "maxi" impact on the small-car landscape since its re-launch - by BMW - some ten years ago, and the 2012 Mini continues with the same emphasis on pure fun to drive. The 2012 Mini Cooper offers clever engineering, quality of assembly, terrific performance, exceptional fuel economy and unprecedented personalization. Other manufacturers have tried to catch up, but Mini remains the target and has even bumped the bar higher by introducing a variety of models, including the Convertible, the Clubman, the Countryman and, just recently, the astonishing 2-seater Mini Coupe (reviewed separately).
If you enjoy efficiency, expressive design and responsive handling, today's 2012 Mini Cooper is tailor-made for you. The handling seems almost go-kart quick, helped, in no small part, by a rigid structure. And, if you can tolerate a few stylistic eccentricities within its interior, you'll forge the kind of emotional bond with your Mini that hasn't been seen in the U.S. since the heyday of the Beetle. In its own idiosyncratic way, today's Mini is more than fun; it's functionally recreational.
Even in its stretched Clubman form the 2012 Mini Cooper does not provide an expansive interior. And, once inside, you note the seating position and roofline put you almost underneath adjacent vehicles. So, if you don't enjoy the cut-and-thrust of urban traffic, the Mini may not be your cup of English Tea. It's also not for the financially timid. Despite a reasonable base price, adding but a few of Mini's many options can quickly escalate the window sticker some $10,000! Finally, when introduced to the U.S., there was nothing in its competitive segment; today there are a growing number of legitimate competitors: The Fiat 500, Chevrolet Sonic(!), recently-announced Scion iQ and the always-desirable Volkswagen GTI.
Most changes for the 2012 Mini are related to customization. Mini Yours debuts, with emphasis on a "very premium and very exclusive" subset of options designed to provide even more personalization (and take even more of your budget). The end result is a little bit Mini - and a little bit of Scion.
Driving Impressions With a rigid body structure (even the Mini Cooper Convertible is structurally solid), supple all-independent suspension and responsive powertrains, the 2012 Mini Cooper Hardtop, Convertible...and Clubman can truly be ordered to suit your particular driving preferences. If your attitude toward driving is relatively passive, opt for the base engine and 6-speed auto; you can commute or shop with no chance of physical or emotional fatigue. Choose the Mini Cooper S or John Cooper Works version and every errand becomes a track day, with steering, braking and acceleration at heightened levels and your smile almost as wide as the car. Before upgrading suspension, wheels and/or tires, however, take a real look at your driving needs and driving environment; sometimes the quickest route across town isn't the most compliant.
Clubman Third Door
Within a wheelbase only three inches longer and an overall length only nine inches greater, the 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman stretches the minimalistic Hardtop into a passable alternative to real transportation. Making that expansive interior oh-so-easy to access is the third door mounted on the Clubman's right side, which makes entry into and egress out of the rear-seat area almost civilized. Brits, with their curbs on the opposite side of the road, are appropriately perplexed by the arrangement, but we find it a game-changer in the world of Mini motoring.
John Cooper Works Kit
Although John Cooper - the originator of the hot-rodded Mini - is no longer with us, his spirit lives within the guise of the John Cooper Works Mini Cooper S. The Tuning Kit - via a special air filter and reprogrammed engine management - increases the horsepower of the Cooper S by some 15 percent; also, chassis mods and lighter wheels improve the grip and handling response. The end result is a car completely appropriate to the track, while not so compromised that it can't be driven to work. You can add the John Cooper Works kit to the Convertible, Hardtop or Clubman.
The 2012 Mini Cooper's retro looks extend to the interior, which is highlighted by a large center-mounted speedometer. The look is stylish, with toggle-type switches, contrasting colors, backlit armrests in the doors and handsomely-sewn seats. However, the dashboard layout may confuse owners coming from more contemporary cars, as the knobs and switches can be hard to access - and many of them look basically the same. The Mini Cooper Hardtop uses its limited space well. Front-seat passengers have plenty of head and legroom, but rear passengers may find legroom and shoulder room more than just a little constricted. For those more socially proactive, the Clubman - with its longer wheelbase and third door - makes a more credible argument for carrying passengers or things. And, while giving up a degree of utility, the Convertible is just the ticket for maximizing headroom. Like the exterior, the interior can be personalized, with a range of seat upholsteries, dash trim colors and trim accents in metal, wood or carbon fiber. The most significant update for 2012 is Mini Yours, offering an instrument panel covered in a smooth, two-tone leather, two-tone leather steering wheel and Mini Yours Soda Pattern Lounge Leather.Exterior
Changes for 2012 included a revised front fascia with a larger lower grille and fog lights, new taillights and reverse lamps with optional rear fog lights. Mini Cooper S models also received functional brake ducts in the front grille. These mild mods were made to an architecture first introduced in the 2007 model year, when the Mini was once again enlarged. There are those critics that, while admitting the mechanical package is much improved, find the sheetmetal of 2007-and-later Minis slightly swollen relative to the original Second Coming, introduced to the U.S.as a 2002. The Mini Cooper Clubman has also received its share of criticism, with its odd (albeit functional) third door and split rear barn doors marked by a center post. The styling of the Mini Cooper Convertible is appropriately crisp, but when the top is raised the interior is almost cocoon-like and has significant blind spots that can be slightly troublesome while negotiating traffic. Like the interior, the exterior is fertile ground for customization.
Despite a higher base MSRP than many in the segment, the argument for purchasing a 2012 Mini Cooper is bolstered by a host of standard equipment. On the ground you enjoy the aesthetic and functional benefits of alloy wheels, while inside the seats adjust six ways (manually), the steering wheel offers three spokes and a leather covering and the engine is started by a start/stop button. Air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with six speakers, SiriusXM and HD Radio will provide you with programmed music, and the standard 6-speed gearbox allows you to shift gears the way you like.
According to the Mini website, there exist some 10 million combinations in building a 2012 Mini Cooper; we won't, of course, list all of them here. For convenience, many stand-alone options can be grouped together. The Technology Package combines a harman-kardon sound system with Rear Park Distance control, center armrest and Mini Connected. The Sport Package exterior mods include white turn signals, xenon headlamps, 17-inch conical-spoke alloys and black bonnet stripes, and also include a tauter suspension for even more aggressive driving. With a host of interior and exterior color combinations, along with wheels, rearview mirror caps and graphics, you can virtually dream it and they will build it.
Having received a slight bump in power in 2011, both Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S powertrains remain unchanged for 2012. Both displace 1.6 liters; the Cooper is normally-aspirated while the Cooper S benefits from Mini's twin-scroll turbocharger. Thankfully, with minimal curb weight, the Cooper's 121 horsepower is responsive when connected to the 6-speed manual, and still enjoyable (0-60 mph acceleration in under ten seconds) when connected to the 6-speed auto. The excitement increases exponentially with the John Cooper Works option, with horsepower rising to 208 and torque boosted to 192 lb-ft. The 2012 Mini Cooper - in any of its iterations - is one of the most entertaining ways of saving gas on the American automotive market.
2012 Mini Cooper
1.6-liter in-line 4
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
114 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/37 (manual), 28/36 (automatic)
2012 Mini Cooper S
1.6-liter turbocharged in-line 4 turbocharged
181 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/35 (manual), 26/34 (automatic)
2012 John Cooper Works Mini
1.6 liter turbocharged in-line 4
208 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
192 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850-5,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 (manual)
By JRM2 on Thursday, August 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Performance, economy, comfort, looks"
Cons: "Size for 3 or more"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"By far the most fun car for the money on the road. Great traveling car, particularly on the "twisties". Very stimulating driving sensation. More GO than most of us can or will ever use. Unbeleviably roomy and comfortable for two - even for 6+ footers. Late 1980's Porsche Carrarea performance in a spiffy 2010 econo-box. One of the truly great and memorable cars of this era."
By Cordelia Cooper on Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "precise handling; quick acceleration"
Cons: "a bit noisy compared to a "luxury car""
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have enjoyed every minute of driving this car! There's no way to compare it to a "luxury vehicle"...it is a "sports car" and rides/drives like a "sports car". Don't expect to have a perfectly smooth ride. Even though it is small, it is roomy in the front cabin. It handles very well, quickly, precisely, and very fast. It is also fun and quirky."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By John on Friday, August 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"The car is zippy and fun to drive, especially on a curvy road. Having a 6 speed gives you more power and control,but it can be a bear in stop and go traffic. Because of it's small size it's easy to find parking places. That said ,because of it's small size you have to be very aware of the cars around you as you are not always in their field of vision. People in Suvs and trucks often just don't see a small car especially if it's black and silver like mine. If you want a fun ride buy it. Just make it a bright color."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By JOHN on Friday, July 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,500overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I originally bought this used in May 2011 with 20,000 miles. It is fun to drive and gets a good mileage. I get about city and highway combined at 29mpg. My only complaint are the cost of service and the noise when hitting pot holes. If you're thinking of buying a Mini Cooper, buy it new. The service costs can be compared with BMWs and Volkswagen. You've been warned. For basic maintenance like oil change, do it yourself because an average oil change is about $120. That's not even going to the Mini dealership. The oil $40 (AMAZON sells it) + filter $10. That's only $50 if you do it yourself. Overall, it is fun to drive if you do not have a big family."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Americanitis on Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Styling, handling, "fun" factor, BMW engineering"
Cons: "Reliability, BMW parts/repair $, lousy stereo"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"This is a GREAT car if you can work on cars yourself OR if you buy a MINI Next/CPO or private warranty. This is an enthusiast's car, plain and simple. If you are not comfortable doing your own repairs and maintenance, or don't know anyone who is, buy a Ford/Honda/Toyota instead. This is an AWFUL car if you buy it out of warranty and have to pay someone else to fix it. Again, if you are not comfortable doing your own repairs and maintenance, or don't know anyone who is, buy a Ford/Honda/Toyota instead. This car is one of the best-looking and driving front-wheel-drive cars on the road, period. It handles like a go-kart, and accelerates better than anything this size has the right. It feels heavy and solidly-built, has 6 airbags, and inspires confidence in traffic, or driving in town. It gets great mileage (I have the S, and NEVER get less than 30 mpg driving it hard all the time, and on the highway, I get 34 mpg without fail). Women and kids love it. I love it. When I walk out to my garage in the morning to commute to work, it literally makes me smile every time I see it. I've had it for 2 years, and it still makes me happy. Mine has the lounge leather heated seats, and most other options including the sunroof. It is flat-out a beautiful car. I replaced the stock MINI Boost stereo with MBQuart/Rockford Fosgate stuff, and that was pretty much the only design flaw: the radio is AWFUL. The upgraded HK system doesn't sound much better either, so my advice is to find one with the base Boost setup and at least add a sub. I tore everything out and re-did the whole system, and it was worth every hour and penny to do so. I also lowered the car and swapped out the run-flat Dunlaps for regular tires. It rides and handles way better. I have a can of Fix-A-Flat, a mini air compressor, and AAA instead, as the MINI S doesn't come with a spare tire. The base Cooper does. Now for the bad. This car has some well-known design/engineering/manufacturing issues. 1. The N14 engine, found in the '07-'10 r55/56/57 MCSs was manufactured with a faulty timing chain tensioner. It apparently allows too much slack in the timing chain, and as a result, allows the chain to slap around against the chain guides. Eventually, the guides break, the chain stretches, and the engine WILL fail, catastrophically, as this is an interference-type engine design. For years, MINI/BMW claimed there was no such issue, until this past year, when they finally sent out a service bulletin to affected cars' owners to repair or replace the timing setup for free. Mine was repaired by MINI at no charge, but others whose cars failed prior to the service bulletin weren't so lucky. The internet forums are FULL of MCS owners who had to replace engines at their own expense until MINI fessed up to the problem. MINI has reimbursed these owners as far as I know, but I'm sure they lost more than one customer as a result. The 2011 and later MSC has the n18 engine, which doesn't have the same issue apparently. Google "Mini Cooper Death Rattle" for more info. If you buy one, MAKE SURE this repair has been done. If not, don't buy the car, period. 2. The N14 engine is prone to oil buildup/coking on the intake valves due to the design of the PCV system design. Oil blows out of the PCV valve, through the vacuum tube, into the intake manifold, where it becomes burned onto the intake valves as it's a direct injection motor and thus gas doesn't clean off the valves as it would with a conventional injection setup. This causes acceleration hesitation, can throw engine fault codes, and worsens gas mileage, to the point that some cars have become undriveable until either being treated with Sea Foam or similar engine treatments, OR by blasting the intake valves clean with walnut shells. MINI denies this is an issue even though it's well documented on various forums. Google Mini Cooper Carbon Buildup;" you'll find plenty of stories. Mine also has had this problem. Running half a bottle of Sea Foam through the vacuum line every oil change appears to take care of it, so hopefully it doesn't get to the point where the head needs to come off and valves need replacing. The dealers know about this too, and many use Sea Foam or similar products to treat it, but MINI's official position has been silence, as best as I can tell. You can check to see if a car has this issue: take it out on the highway, get it up to 50-60 in top gear, and floor the accelerator to about 70 mph. The car shouldn't stutter or miss. If it does, it has this issue and it needs to be treated. 3. The Dunlap run-flat tires run approx $400 apiece. That's APIECE. Add to that the cost of rebuilding the TPMS sensors, and you're looking at $1500 every time it needs tires. If you buy this car, invest in a AAA membership, and swap out the RFs for regular tires. It'll be quieter, ride better, and it won't cost you $1500 for tires. You're welcome. 4. BMW repair costs. The car is designed, engineered, and built by BMW. It is VERY expensive to maintain this car if you choose to do so at the dealership. Learn to do maintenance stuff yourself, find a friend who does and will, or find a local indy Euro car garage and become friends. Also, this is a German car, and as such, requires a higher level of maintenance than your average American or Japanese car. It's just the way they are. Things on this car are wear items where they really aren't on other cars. Control arms/bushings, etc., need regular replacing on German/Euro cars and not on Toyotas, for example. Also, order your parts from Rockauto or some similar site to save BIG $$$ on parts costs. 5. BMW recommends oil change intervals of 10K-20K with synthetic oil. I think 10K is probably pushing it for a small, high-compression turbo engine. Do 5k-7.5k to stay safe. I use Wix filters and Mobil 1 0W30 every 5k-7.5k (rec'd by BMW/MINI for this car) and have no issues. You're on your own if you go 20k miles between changes. 6. The car also has a well-known issue of the thermostat temp sensor failing. When it does, it fails so that thermostat is in the "open" position which means the car is driveable so long as you can stand the CEL (check engine light) being on. The problem is that the thermostat and sensor are molded into this ridiculous Jarvic-heart-looking device that costs over $100 just for the part and is a royal PIA to reach/swap out because it's buried under a bunch of other hoses and stuff.. Mine failed at 20K miles, which, according to my research, is fairly common. So that's pretty much it: it is a great car when it's all working right, and an AWFUL AND EXPENSIVE car when it isn't. It will make you smile every time you look at it, but it will break your heart too, multiple times, and expensively. If, like me, you can work on it yourself, go for it; you won't regret it. If you get an extended warranty, go for it. It is the BEST car I've ever owned. I love how it looks, drives, smells, sounds, everything, and the good things about it FAR outweigh its issues SO FAR. BUT if you are looking for utterly reliable transportation that happens to be cute AND cannot work on it yourself and don't have patience for the typical German maintenance/reliability issues, look elsewhere, as this ain't it."
23 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By Former MINI Owner on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Too many problems
Pros: "Fun to drive. Lots of power. 32 MPG average."
Cons: "Codes: P0300 and P0304"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I owned a 2008 Mini Cooper S (6-speed automatic) for 5 1/2 years. I ended up doing a trade in as I didn't have the heart to stick a private party with my problem. A problem from day one (with only 10 miles on the car): The driver's side power window was always flaky. On occasion if I'd close it, it would automatically come back down a few inches. After 30,000 miles the major/costly problems were: 1. Excessive oil consumption. It got worse over time and in the end I was adding one quart every 1,000 miles. 2. Dead battery. The dealer charged me $300. I was told they have to enter new info into the computer...you can't just buy a new battery and replace it on your own. I still question this. 3. At 33,000 miles, four new tires at the dealer...need run flat tires. $1,100. 4. Windshield replacement. A nationally known company told me with MINI they only use OEM parts because they have had too many fit problems in the past. $600+ 5. Two flat tires. Tire shops don't want to deal with run flats. Back to the dealer and their solution was to replace not plug the tires. Tires cost $275 each! 6. Carbon buildup, more than once. 7. Failed fuel injector. It filled #4 cylinder with fuel and fuel was actually coming out of the tail pipe. $1,400 Possible damage to the catalytic converter...ouch! 8. It ran rough after starting it in cold weather. On one occasion I got the low power light. 9. Numerous check engine lights, both red and yellow. NOTE: Red means park the car and get it towed. 10. Stretched timing chain. (dealer wanted $2,000 to fix it) After some research on the internet, I have since learned that the R56 Gen 2 Mini Cooper S, from 2007 to 2010 with the N14 engine is "problematic." Happy Motoring!"
25 people out of 31 found this review helpful