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2012 Mini Cooper Coupe

MINI Coupé (06/2011)
MINI Coupé (06/2011) ka.plewka

People who consider Mini a niche brand will understand why the all-new Coupe was created.

This sporty two-seater is a rolling fashion statement that dares to thumb its nose at practicality and convention. It’s a car you would wear like an Armani suit or Vera Wang dress, which is for the label as much as the look and definitely not for everyday use.

As Minis go, the Coupe is the Mini-est. In the marque’s storied 50-year-plus history it has never built a two-seat model, much less a model that shuns the squared-off look in favor of a rounded roofline. Still, the car appears every inch a Mini, especially the lower body that looks as if it was lifted from the classic-Mini production line. In fact, the car’s basic proportions — length, width and distance between the front and rear wheels — are similar to the current two-door Mini Cooper. It likely didn’t make any sense to reduce these values since the Mini is already mini enough and most owners only rarely use the rear-seat as a passenger repository. The only key value that has shrunk is the height, due to the Coupe’s less upright windshield.

The Coupe’s signature design piece and easily the most controversial is its helmet-look roof that, for added emphasis, is painted in a contrasting color. The shape appears somewhat jarring and for many viewers will likely remain so. However there’s no denying the lid is a truly audacious feature that will cause people to stare wherever the Coupe goes. Edgy shapes such as this odd-looking top take guts to put it into production and the sculptors (and their bosses) at Mini are clearly risk takers. Although Mini is part of BMW, you’ll never see anything this offbeat on any of those vehicles.

In place of the squared-off liftgate on regular Minis, the Coupe features a large hatchback that opens very wide and very high to accommodate a reasonable amount of cargo. There’s also a pass-through for longer items. When the hatch is raised, a significant chunk of the roof goes up with it.

Built into the edge of the cargo door is an active spoiler (with manual override) that automatically extends whenever the Coupe exceeds 50 mph. The wing isn’t just a decorative adornment, as Mini claims it applies up to 88 pounds of downforce.

Running counter to the Coupe’s performance persona is the fact that it weighs some 55 pounds more than the Cooper. That’s likely because the Coupe is actually based on the Cabriolet’s (convertible’s) reinforced platform, minus some extra bracing behind the seats.

The interior with its large center information/audio-control pod is familiar territory for knowledgeable Mini fans, but the unique headliner has been scooped out to create some much-needed extra headroom for both driver and passenger.

The Coupe is certainly the sportiest of Minis and the suspension settings have been adjusted to reflect this characteristic. There’s also an available sport suspension package with extra-stiff shocks and thicker anti-sway bars for those enjoy shaking loose their fillings.

The powertrain lineup should also be familiar to Mini fans. Base models are fitted with a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, while the S features a 181-horse turbocharged 1.6. At the top of the scale is the John Cooper Works (JCW) edition that pumps out 208 horsepower from its turbo motor. The JCW also comes with an aero kit, Brembo-brand brakes, distinctive alloy wheels and a fancier interior.

Transmission choices for all consist of a six-speed manual, or optional six-speed automatic.

Coupe pricing begins at $22,000, which is nearly two grand more than a base hardtop. But as any fashionista knows, you pay more for trendy bespoke attire than for off-the-rack. For the no-boundaries adventurous, your Coupe carriage awaits.