CAR REVIEWS

2012 MINI Coupe S

2012 MINI Coupe S image

Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted September 19, 2012 12:36

The Attention Magnet

When MINI first announced that they were coming out with a coupe, I was a little apprehensive.

How were they going to pull it off? What would it look like? What would it be like to drive? Would it be any good, especially since we so love the “standard” Cooper S 3-door hatch?

Well, it's finally here. Let's find out for ourselves.

First off, the car looks strange. Well, peculiar is the more apt word. It's definitely a MINI with the same (albeit tweaked) front fascia as well as the rear. What's unusual is the roof which, to me, looks like a baseball cap worn backwards. Being an S, the Coupe rides on the larger set of wheels and tires. It does grow on you, and if you like attention, the Coupe is definitely for you.

Inside, they haven't done much to alter the dashboard, seats, gauges, buttons and controls for the new model. What they have added, or at least incorporated from the new Countryman S is the new MINI media player and screen at the center of that huge speedometer that dominates the dashboard. The media center is controlled via a multi-directional knob on the center console. I wish they moved some of the buttons around, especially the ones at the base of the shifter for better ergonomics, but since this car is all about retro style, I understand why they didn't.

Being a coupe means that this MINI is strictly a 2 seater. It's a snug fit inside, and the lowered roof does make a challenging ingress for the more vertically endowed amongst us (not me), but they did shape the ceiling to accommodate what looks like another inch or two of height for the driver. For cargo space, there's not much, but it's pretty respectable all considered. The Coupe is essentially a lift-back, and allows bigger cargo by removing the trunk's divider/cover.

Being a Coupe S means this car gets the punchy 1.6 liter twinscroll turbo engine. The turbo engine is good for 184 horsepower and 260 Newton meters of torque, plenty of power to accelerate the Coupe S from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.1 seconds. With a 6-speed automatic transmission, top speed is pegged at 222 km/h.

Driving the car around town, it's okay. If I remember correctly, this new Coupe S feels much stiffer than the Cooper S hatchback we drove earlier. It does get quite uncomfortable if you find yourself on one of our many, imperfectly-paved city streets. On an open highway or expressway, however, the Coupe S comes alive in a big way.

Enter a winding mountain road and the price you paid driving in the city is well worth it. The suspension does everything it can and more to keep the car on course. One thing they really didn't change is the handling and the short overhangs, giving the Coupe S cornering reflexes similar to a go-kart, albeit a significantly larger one. Brakes feel great, and the twinscroll turbo really kicks in when you floor it out of the corners.

The MINI Coupe S, exhilarating a drive as it may be, is not perfect. There are quite a few trade offs to achieve the Coupe form factor, and it's really up to you whether or not you'll like it... or are willing to live with the stiff ride around town.

Personally? I'd still choose the MINI Cooper S hatchback. For arrival factor, however, the attention the Cooper Coupe S gets is tough to match.