Here’s a vehicle with a turning circle of 10.7 metres over a wheelbase of just under 2.5. Its front-drive DOHC 1-4 16V engine emits 181 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 177 ft/lb of torque from 2,000. But that engine is turbocharged and the 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupé has a curb weight of just 1,215 kilograms (add another 15 if you choose an automatic transmission). Translation? You’re a pinball, held in place by 3-point seat belts.
It looks like a Mini.
The Coupé is the first Mini model with no back seats. Instead, just two height-adjustable sport seats. If you’re a fan of the brand, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not, this may be the ride that converts you.
The design is all Mini with a touch of attitude. Its best viewing angle is a profile. The Coupé sports that characteristic Mini snub nose. It’s an endearing brand hallmark that always produces a smile. But the pumped-up rear is all testosterone. The chrome roof extends back over the rear window like a reversed baseball cap. The contrast is charming. Inside, it features the ubiquitous and uniquely Mini round dials, buttons and sundries in all the right places. It’s small but well designed, so that you never feel squeezed; there’s enough cabin space to comfortably accommodate two basketball players.
Mind you, with each brand extension, Mini runs the risk of stretching the experience too far. But given its size, this Mini Cooper S Coupé has less to prove than, say, the Countryman, which was really pushing it. That said, both of these new models still feel like Minis behind the wheel. Meaning?
More importantly, it drives like a Mini.
It’s that go-kart feeling which is about far more than diminution. A key is the placement of the wheels. They stand at the four corners of the car, like legs on a table, adding greater stability and making you wish all roads were a constant procession of turns. It accelerates at 0 to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds — put your foot down and you’re quickly reminded that this is a BMW in sheep’s clothing — but being fast on the straightaways isn’t as important as accelerating in turns. The Coupé’s agile.
An active rear spoiler emerges automatically when you exceed 80 km/h, increasing control, pinning you to the road. Independent multilink rear suspension provides the extra flexibility required for more spirited driving.
Also contributing to the Mini “feeling” is the precise rack-and-pinion steering. The system centres itself automatically if you loosen up on the wheel towards the end of a turn. Meanwhile, the 6-speed transmission shifts satisfyingly from gear to gear, with a pleasant roar. If you’re considering this car, go with the standard transmission.
The extras increase the pleasure but are not essential to your enjoyment.
The base model comes with 16″ tires but the $1,640 Sport Package adds an inch on twin blade spoke alloys and a finely tuned sport suspension that massages the gluteus, maximally. You’re already feeling like a part of the road, so why stop there?
DSC, dynamic stability control, comes standard with all Mini Coupé models but DTS (traction) doesn’t. Both these came with a few other helpful goodies as part of the $1,000 Special Launch Edition Package.
Mini has great names for its colours. This Coupé was ‘Chili Red.’ Meanwhile, as part of the $500 Style Package, the interior trim was decorated a beguiling ‘Piano Black’ that highlighted the Coupé’s curves, lining the inside and out with chrome. The effect? “LOOK AT ME!!”
2012 Mini Cooper S Coupé
Base MSRP: $31,150
As Tested: $35,790
Image courtesy of Insert Magazine.