By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
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 2011 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.
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)
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)
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)
The 2012 Mini Cooper's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is little changed for 2012, starting around $20,000, while the sportier Cooper S is around $25,000. Though well equipped, the Mini is pricey for a small car, and it's easy to get a Cooper S well above $30,000, which is the price point where the John Cooper Works starts; it is just under $31,000. The Clubman, in any of its variations, is approximately $2,000 more expensive than the Hardtop, and the Convertible is $2,500 more expensive than the Clubman. In this collective, the most expensive - and expressive - Mini Cooper is the John Cooper Works Convertible, with a base MSRP of $35,800 - plus however much you spend to make it yours. To see what consumers are actually paying for their Minis, check out KBB's Fair Purchase Price. While they are priced higher than other small cars, all Mini Coopers should continue to command much better-than-average resale values.
By Chris (PA) on Monday, May 20, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Extremely fun to drive, surprisingly spacious"
Cons: "Pricey for its class"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The 2011 MINI Cooper hatchback is a great model year for an updated classic. The interior is surprisingly spacious and comfortable, and doesn't ride too low to the ground. This vehicle brings fuel efficiency and a large fuel tank to the driving experience, leaving you with more time to just enjoy the drive. Handling is great and there's just enough power on the base model to have a little extra fun on the open road. The "sport" button included on all BMW models around this time adds some extra power, and the heightened steering sensitivity is great for cornering on winding roads. If you like driving manual transmission, the hill assist feature is great for hilly regions, and extremely helpful for beginners. I haven't had any problems with the vehicle, but it's only 2 years old at this point. Everything seems pretty solid, so I don't anticipate anything coming up any time soon either."
By Spin (CA) on Sunday, May 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, head room, and quality control."
Cons: "Air conditioning vent obstructed by steering wheel"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've had my Mini for a year now and I enjoy it more now than I did when I first leased it. The first thing I noticed compared to other similar cars is the handling. On the test drive I was blown away. Taking corners at 60 mph with ease and driving over big speed bumps at 60 mph with little jolting. The doors close and seem solid, there is plenty of head room and I'm 6 foot. There is only one thing I don't like about the car that I think about all the time, is how can they design the left air conditioning vent behind the steering wheel, the cold air gets blocked by the steering wheel, just bothers me. Other than that I have no complaints."
By Sunshine (MI) on Wednesday, May 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "Has a little character. Rattles and such."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Fun to drive, great pep to get you merging on the freeway in a jiffy, good gas mileage, shifter, door handles, other parts all solid metal unlike most economy compact cars (plastic and they break over time). Did I mention an absolute joy to drive??"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Eris on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, unique interior"
Cons: "pricey, bumpy ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I've had this car for 2 years now and the only problem I can say I've had is a slight rattle in the driver's side door (what MINI doesn't have a unique noise these days?). I love my little car. I drive about 10 miles to work every day through suburban roads in the DC metro area. It's not the most comfortable ride, but the driving dynamics MORE than make up for it. I find my base version has just enough pep to get me around town in a fun and timely fashion! I was worried about reliability initially, but so far so great! I have a lot of people come up and talk to me about my car, or make "The Italian Job" comments, hah. Owning a MINI has definitely been a unique experience, one I can't say I've had in the past with "regular" vehicles."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Carla (GA) on Sunday, April 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great to drive, corners like a dream, very Eco"
Cons: "Limited leg room in back seat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this car new, off the rack when we were stationed in HI. It is perfect for traffic driving, small parking places and tight turning. It came with run-flat tires which I HATED. Mine barely lasted 20,000 miles before I had to replace 2. Then another one developed a leak, so I had to replace 2 more. That is the only issues I have ever had. With the back seats folding down, you can get a ton of luggage or whatever you need in the back of the car."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Madge G. (MI) on Saturday, March 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Easy to drive, fun, great gas mileage"
Cons: "Expensive repairs, short lived clutches"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I just purchased my second manual shift Mini Cooper S. There are drawbacks, to be sure, but I am willing to put up with them because I love the car so much. The great things about this car: easy to get into little spaces, peppy, cute, fun to drive, and if you don't need the back seats (I usually don't), the rear area with seats down is as good as my husband's Jeep Cherokee cargo space. I have an easy time merging onto the highway because of all the turbo power (I'm a professional woman in my 50s, so not interested in hot rodding, but it is nice to be able to speed up quickly when necessary). Front seats are great for tall/long legged people. Gas mileage is fantastic, which is a nice feeling despite fact that the turbo takes premium gas only. The Mini is just sort of "me" and makes me happy on most days. Downsides (and there are lots, I admit): the clutch wears out quickly and is not covered under warranty unless "broken." This is a $2,000 problem, and for me it happened at 40,000 miles. Google about the longstanding problems with Mini clutches. This needs to be addressed! Another downside is that this is not a car that gives you a smooth, luxurious ride. It just isn't that kind of car, and if that's what is important to you, the Mini isn't the car for you. I personally don't care, but on the highway especially, the car is loud. You get used to it! Another drawback is that because car is noisy, the Bluetooth doesn't work well. Many times I have to switch to talking directly on my phone. In the snow, it isn't great (but neither was my big Ford Taurus which like my Mini, didn't have 4 wheel drive). The knobs don't always make sense (it is a quirky car, as I said). Oh, and the windows fog up in the winter (more so than other cars I have had). Still, the Mini has been my favorite car of all I have owned. To be certain, there are flaws. But it is a classic car that doesn't go out of style, and the "gimmicks" offered in other cars from model to model year just don't really apply to the Mini (I like it that the car doesn't change much from year to year, but of course if I wanted, there are tons of ways to accessorize and decorate it). Can't help feeling a lot of affection for this car!"
16 people out of 17 found this review helpful