By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/3/2011
The fifth new model to be spun from the current Mini platform, the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe is billed as the quickest, fastest, most agile iteration ever. In addition to being the firm's first-ever 2-seat offering, the new Cooper Coupe is also the most distinctively styled. Sharing many basic mechanical and powertrain components with its siblings, as well as the established Mini Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works performance hierarchy, the new Coupe arrives on the scene as an admitted niche player. Its mission is to reach both current Mini owners as well as conquest other young, adventurous, single and mostly male buyers seeking a lower-priced alternative to cars like the Audi TT Coupe, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class and Porsche Cayman.
If you're a Mini fan willing to trade off a measure of utility for a serious bump in profile and even better dynamics than the Mini Hardtop – or just someone with a serious need for a 2-seat sports car that won't bust the average budget – the new Cooper Coupe could well find a place in your garage.
Even among Mini partisans, the 2012 Cooper Coupe's unique roof configuration is a point of visual contention. If an extra pair of seats takes real-world priority over a slightly more intense adrenaline rush, the Mini Hardtop still offers you an affordable and practical alternative that exacts only a modest fun-to-drive penalty.
Driving the marque into an entirely new market segment, the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe raises the dynamic bar for the Mini family and sets the stage for what the automaker promises will be an expanded lineup destined to include no fewer that 10 different body styles within the next 10 years.
The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe offers three distinct levels of enthusiast appeal that each takes a mini step beyond its respective Hardtop cousin. Familiar powertrain lineups deliver similar straight-line performance, with the turbocharged Cooper S and John Cooper Works models providing throttle-induced exhilaration that goes well beyond a baseline Cooper variant. And with its 149-mph top speed, the JCW Coupe is the fastest as well as the quickest production Mini model. Enhanced structural reinforcing and some subtle weight shifting elevates response to steering and braking inputs on all 2012 Cooper Coupes, while slightly stiffer suspension tuning makes them even more adroit corner carvers, and that's no small feat. However, opting for a JCW model does exact a palpable increase cabin noise and ride harshness on rough or uneven road surfaces. A final caveat: The Coupe's smaller greenhouse also compromises side and rear sightlines, particularly when the spoiler rises up at speeds above 50 mph.
Standard on all models, this console-mounted performance enhancer can increase steering effort and quicken throttle response at the touch of a finger. It also engages more aggressive shifting on models equipped with the Steptronic automatic transmission and adds a bit of snap, crackle and pop to the exhaust note of the turbocharged Cooper S and John Cooper Works models on deceleration.
Dynamic Traction Control (DTC)
Standard on the John Cooper Works Coupe and available on all other models, driver-selectable DTC expands the capability of the standard Dynamic Stability Control by offering a third, even more enthusiast-oriented driving mode. It also incorporates Electronic Differential Lock Control that helps prevent the inside front wheel from spinning during hard acceleration out of corners when the DTC and stability control are switched off.
Melding plenty of familiar Mini bits with a selection of dedicated trim elements, the cabin of the 2012 Cooper Coupe also embodies its own higher-profile identity. Although the view forward from its well-formed sport buckets is pure Cooper Hardtop, all Coupes feature specific color and accent combinations, including unique Carbon Black primary trim and an Anthracite headliner that has concave contours to enhance headroom. The rear seat gives way to a removable parcel shelf above a fixed bulkhead with a 14x8-inch lockable pass-through opening that leads to the Coupe's 9.8 cubic-foot trunk. Direct access to that impressively scaled stow space comes courtesy of a large, single-piece decklid.
The Mini Cooper Coupe is the first Mini based on a traditional "3-box" body configuration. Although most basic dimensions (as well as its entire front clip and doors) are shared with the Hardtop, more steeply angled A-pillars, a unique steel "helmet roof" with integral air-channeling element, a hatch-style decklid and restyled rear quarters give the slightly lower-slung Coupe a more aggressive appearance – particularly the hot John Cooper Works version that also gets a bespoke body kit. All three variants feature an auto-deploying decklid spoiler and dedicated wheel/tire packages, with the Cooper Coupe wearing conventional 175/55 tires on 15-inch alloy wheels, the Cooper S shod with 195/55VR16 run-flat rubber and the JCW Coupe rolling on low-profile 205/45WR17 run-flats.
The basic feature set of the new Mini Coupe family mimics the roster of goods in the Mini Cooper Hardtop lineup. All three versions come with a full array of power assists, keyless remote entry, multifunction steering wheel, on-board computer, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/HD/Satellite Radio, antilock disc brakes, Dynamic Stability Control and six airbags. Beyond its enhanced powertrain and stouter suspension, the Cooper S adds items like upgraded/dedicated interior trim bits, sport seats and foglights, while the John Cooper Works cranks up the visceral volume with even more power, tauter chassis tuning and Dynamic Traction Control, as well a dedicated body kit and special trim pieces.
Like all Minis, personalization is the name of the game in the 2012 Cooper Coupe. Topping its conventional extras list are leather upholstery, specialized exterior/interior color and trim, Mini Visual Radio, Mini Connected telematics - with and without Navigation – a premium harman-kardon audio system, automatic climate control, adaptive xenon headlights, sport suspension, power folding mirrors, rear Park Distance Control, and rain-sensing wipers. Also available are Cooper/Cooper S Sport Packages, a Technology Package, and a John Cooper Works Package that adds JCW body-kit bits, Dynamic Traction Control and 17-inch wheels/tires to any model. Completing the individualization process for the Cooper Coupe is a near-endless array of accessory items.
Motivation for the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe triumvirate is standard Mini fare, starting with the Cooper's 1.6-liter naturally aspirated 121-horsepower in-line-4. Stepping up to Cooper S spec nets a turbocharged/intercooled version that turns out 181 hp, while the range-topping John Cooper Works Coupe packs an extremely enthusiastic 208 turbocharged horses. Both turbo engines feature broad, flat torque "plateaus" ensuring great mid-range response, plus an "overboost" feature that can increase maximum torque output for short periods to further quicken acceleration. The standard transmission in all Mini Cooper Coupes is a super-smooth, 6-speed manual with the Cooper and Cooper S also offering an optional paddle-shiftable 6-speed Steptronic automatic. Each Coupe variant is marginally quicker than its Hardtop counterpart, with 0-60 mph times registering at 8.3, 6.5 and 6.1 seconds, respectively, for the Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works models.
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
114 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/37 mpg (6-speed manual)
28/36 mpg (6-speed automatic)
The entry-level 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe starts at around $22,000, while the Cooper S Coupe opens around $25,300. The John Cooper Works version commands close to $32,000. Those price points each slot roughly midway between their Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible siblings but commence well below the least-expensive Audi TT Coupe, M-B SLK or Porsche Cayman models. Historically, Minis have done an above-average job of holding onto their value over time, a situation helped by a cult-like following of loyal owners and the presence of an impressive 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty that includes all required maintenance for the first three years/36,000 miles as well as roadside assistance. The John Cooper Works' added fun factor notwithstanding, Cooper and Cooper S versions have tended to fare better in the residuals department, and there's no reason to expect the Mini Cooper Coupe to start any new precedents in that critical area.