From the Fleet: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe
FROM THE FLEET are brief synopses of manufacturer-supplied rides that happen to end up in my laneway – John LeBlanc
Like in the fashion industry, if the seasons have changed, it must be time for a new Mini model to hit the runway. Last spring saw the new arrival of the VW Golf-sized Countryman—the largest Mini, yet. And now, for this fall, the Mini collection gains the new two-seat Coupe lineup—the smallest modern Mini yet.
Below its window line, the Mini Coupe is a near carbon copy of the Cooper 2+2 hatchback. The naturally aspirated base (121 hp) and turbocharged Cooper S (181 hp) and JCW (208 hp) versions of the 1.6-litre four are equally familiar. However, with the $25,950 base Mini Cooper Coupe, $31,150 S Coupe and $38,400 John Cooper Works Coupe, like the rest of the industry, Mini gets away with charging more dough for two less seats and a tinier rear hold.
As you can read, most of the differences between Mini hatch and Mini coupe are due to the new model's sweptback roofline. As there is a convertible two-seat Mini Roadster arriving for next spring (did you have any doubts?), the hardtop Coupe’s roof has simply been welded over that car's cabin. Other differences from the more upright Cooper hatch include a steeper windshield and a rear spoiler that pops up around 80 km/h. Inside, the accommodations for the driver and passenger are text-book Mini. But try to shoulder check or back up and the lower coupe-roof hardware gets in your view.
In a straight line, BMW quotes virtually no performance gains with the Coupe. That’s either a marketing or engineering miracle. With additional chassis reinforcements and rear- spoiler hardware, the Coupe weighs more than the hatch.
BMW says my press loaner S Coupe’s shocks and springs are stiffer than in the S hatch. But out on the road, the Coupe drives much like the donour car. Torque steer is there when you hammer the gas in a turn or off-the-line. And as usual, the car punches above its price class when it comes to attacking twisty roads. Massive grip, tight steering, and negligible understeer (which can be negated with a simple throttle lift), blesses the wee Coupe with A-to-B road manners that would shame many German roadsters (some even starting with the intials B-M-W) at twice the price.
So, decision time: Why buy a Mini Coupe?
While the base Mini Coupe goes up against the likes of the Honda CR-Z hybrid, the better-performing S is a different (more aggressive) beast.
Like I said, just like the hatch.
So, in the end—with no meaningful performance gains—the decision to go Coupe or not comes down to a couple of lifestyle questions: Can you do without the hatch’s vestigial back seats? Do you want the season’s latest fashions?