MINI has taken the wraps off of the all-new 2012 MINI Coupe, a pint-size subcompact two-door that takes the successful MINI formula and adapts it into a two-seat runabout that promises to offer the tightest handling and best overall performance from the company to date. The 2012 MINI Coupe is targeted squarely at buyers who are intrigued by the company’s styling, but who prize speed and panache over practicality.
The 2012 MINI Coupe abandons the long, flat roof that is a characteristic of the MINI Cooper, the MINI Clubman and the MINI Countryman and instead replaces it with a swept, bubble-like “helmet” top with a rear glass that slopes down to the briefest of horizontal trunks – a first for MINI. Also intriguing, especially when seen in profile, is the roof spoiler that is built-in to the 2012 MINI Coupe, a distinctive aerodynamic add-on that works in concert with the vehicle’s active rear spoiler which is located on the trunk lid. The latter extends from the Coupe automatically when speeds surpass 50 miles per hour in order to improve the automobile’s stability.
The lightweight design of the 2012 MINI Coupe, combined with its range of reasonably powerful engine choices ensure that speeds requiring the use of the trick rear spoiler will be encountered on a regular basis. The base MINI Coupe comes with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine featuring the VALVETRONIC management system and capable of producing 121 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. Next in line is the MINI Coupe S, which ups output from the same motor to 181 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque thanks to the addition of a turbocharger and a direct injection system. This power boost allows the Coupe S to hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just 6.5 seconds.
The fastest of the three initial 2012 MINI Coupe variants is the John Cooper Works edition, which tunes the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine to produce 208 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. This drops almost another half-second from the Coupe S’s sprint to 60 mph, with both performance-oriented models also featuring a top speed of 149 miles per hour. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual for all versions of the automobile, with the Coupe and the Coupe S also benefiting from the availability of a six-speed automatic. Helping to keep the 2012 MINI Coupe pointed in the right direction at all times is a rigid body and chassis structure that teams up with a long list of electronic driver’s aides, including Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control and an electronically-locking front differential that enhances grip when accelerating both in a straight line as well as through the corners.
The 2012 MINI Coupe’s interior is not as roomy as that of its MINI Cooper cousin, but extra storage space has been carved out behind the two front seats, and the vehicle’s trunk has also been designed to offer versatile hauling of unusually-shaped luggage including a center-mounted pass-through. Access to the trunk is through the vehicle’s large hatch, which lifts up the entire rear glass as well as the full trunk lid. Interior equipment includes a full complement of comfort options such as automatic climate control, a harman/kardon sound system and the MINI Connected system which provides mobile Internet access through the vehicle’s entertainment and navigation features. The MINI Coupe can also be ordered with adaptive HID headlights and parking assistance technology.
The 2012 MINI Coupe is undeniably an attractive addition to the MINI lineup, in terms of both looks and driving dynamics. With a starting MSRP of $22,000, the vehicle features a roughly 10 percent premium over the MINI Cooper, but with only half the seating and practicality. MINI is optimistic that the MINI Coupe will serve as an accessible halo car that will draw even more enthusiasts to the brand, and that its styling and performance will place it head and shoulders above more lukewarm Euro two-seaters, like the Smart fortwo, in the minds of American buyers.