2012 Cooper New Car Test Drive
The Mini Cooper delivers agile handling, crisp performance and an interminably cute bulldog appearance in a tidy, efficient, front-wheel drive package, with plenty of space and comfort for front seat passengers.
The number of Mini Cooper body styles has expanded to include Hardtop, Clubman, Coupe, Convertible, and Roadster versions, all similar in terms of mechanicals, structure, front sheetmetal, and interiors. All ride on the same 97-inch wheelbase except the Clubman, a stretched version that rides on a 100-inch wheelbase.
The styling of the Mini Coopers was freshened for 2011 with new bumper, tail light and wheel designs. The front ends were also reshaped to meet new requirements for pedestrian safety.
For 2012, updates for the Mini Cooper models were confined to cosmetics, including a new line of trim options aimed at giving owners more opportunity to individualize their cars. Offered as a new collection of custom options called Mini Yours, the choices include a two-tone leather-clad instrument panel with fancy stitching; a two-tone leather steering wheel; Soda pattern Lounge Leather upholstery; 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels; and new interior and exterior colors.
The 2012 Mini Baker Street and the Mini Bayswater are special edition Hardtop models with expressive design features and exclusive equipment influenced by contemporary London style as the city prepares for the Olympic Games. Mini Baker Street is oriented around the fresh, youthful style of the brand, and comes with the 118-hp Mini Cooper engine. Mini Bayswater is focused on the sporting verve and agile handling for which the Mini is renowned and is available with either the Mini Cooper engine or the 172-hp Mini Cooper S engine.
The Mini Coopers are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine available in three levels of power output. All Minis are available with an optional 6-speed automatic.
The Mini Cooper models come standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. This engine works best with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, which adds to the sportiness and makes the Mini Cooper fun to drive. Acceleration performance isn't quick but it's adequate. The Mini Cooper delivers excellent fuel economy, earning an EPA rating of 29/37 mpg City/Highway, or 28/36 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required, however.
The Mini Cooper S models come with a turbocharged version of the same engine that generates 181 horsepower and a substantial 177 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the world's most powerful engines for its size. All the Minis are fun to drive, but in Cooper S trim they deliver exhilarating performance and nimble handling that's most easily appreciated on a twisty back road. With all that torque, this engine works well with the automatic though we still prefer the manual for sportiness. In spite of the significant performance difference, fuel economy is still excellent, earning an EPA-estimated 27/35 mpg or 26/34 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required.
The Mini Cooper Hardtop is quite practical when viewed as a two-seat car with cargo capacity. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive seats, and they are large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers. With its hatchback and folding rear seats, the Hardtop can haul reasonable amounts of gear. It has a two-place rear seat, but it is hard to climb into and offers very limited leg room. The back seats are best left for small children or, better yet, stuff.
Those who want more room might choose the Mini Cooper Clubman, which is essentially a small station wagon. The Clubman is 9.4 inches longer overall than the Hardtop, and 3.2 inches longer in wheelbase. The extra wheelbase converts to more rear legroom, making it more practical for rear-seat passengers. Access to the rear seat is eased by a third, rear-hinged door on the passenger side. The Clubman also features side-hinged swing-out doors at the back, for easy access to the cargo area, though they don't improve the appearance.
A wide range of styling options allows owners to personalize their cars, and it's a major part of Mini's appeal. The choices cover upholstery style, material and color; exterior graphics; trim pieces; ambient lighting; and exterior paint, including contrasting colors for the roof. Functional options include high-end features like adaptive Xenon headlights, rear obstacle warning and a navigation system. The basic Minis are reasonably priced, starting under $20,000. Check too many options, however, and the ticket can soar into luxury territory, approaching $40,000.
The most expensive Minis are the high-performance John Cooper Works models. The JCW models play on the brand's heritage as a multiple rally and touring-car racing champion in the 1960s. With 208 horsepower, 192 pound-feet of torque and ultra-firm suspension tuning, the JCW package turns the Mini Cooper into a little hot rod, just the thing for charging up the Monte Carlo stages. The JCW package is available for all models (except the Mini Countryman crossover). For 2012, the Mini Cooper JCW performance package includes the aero body kit as standard equipment.
Mini Coopers offer a great combination of style, driving fun, low operating costs and practicality. Engineered by BMW, Mini Coopers come standard with as much safety equipment as any small car available. After starting in the middle with the Mini Cooper Hardtop the brand grew to add the Clubman and Countryman. The Mini Coupe sets its sights smaller with two seats. Although this is a new car we wouldn't go so far as to call it a new car: The mechanical hardware, front sheetmetal, majority of the body structure and much of the interior are shared with other Minis, this one merely has a different roof and an odd trunk. A Roadster version has been introduced, also.
The Mini Cooper Coupe is based on the Cooper Convertible underneath so any style of top could be fitted and headroom is maintained. Like many Minis, the Coupe is available in three flavors: the most economical Cooper, the quicker sporty Cooper S, and the fierce John Cooper Works.
The three engines, the 121-hp four-cylinder, the 181-hp turbocharged S version of the same engine, and the 208-hp Works engines are proven in Coopers. The primary advantage of the Coupe S over the standard Mini Coupe isn't so much the 60-hp bump as the additional torque and wider range.
We found both the 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatics work well with both of the standard engines (121-hp and 181-hp). The 208-hp JCW engine only comes with a manual.
Fuel economy for the standard Mini Coupe with manual gearbox is an EPA-rated 29/37 mpg City/Highway. Even the Works hot rod rates an impressive 25/35 mpg.
Agility has always been a Mini hallmark, one frequently equated with kart-like handling. Only a used Lotus Elise can match the Coupe's sharp reflexes for the money, and the brakes square up the package. Minis are all about motoring fun, and the Coupe excels at this. Plus, you instantly become a member of the Mini club and on the road you can wave at other Minis.
Any Mini driver will find the cabin familiar, with a few additions and revisions. Recurring styling themes with unusual controls and instruments highlight the space and it remains functional and surprisingly roomy. Electronic options ensure your Mini will be up to date and often feel merely an extension of your smart phone.
With multiple colors for paint, roof, stripes, upholstery and cabin contrasting panels, some unique to the Coupe, ordering one to choice could make it unique. Mini offers more than 16 factory wheel choices for the Mini Coupe. You can easily run the price up to the $35,000, however.
The Mini Coupe's performance will likely attract drivers shopping the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK, and Porsche Boxster and Cayman, but we'd surmise some 370Z and Hyundai Genesis Coupe buyers might find the dynamics enticing too. Resuscitated and reinvented by BMW in 2001, the Mini Cooper line has grown and proliferated beyond the expectations of its parent company, and far beyond the vision of Sir Alec Issigonis, who designed the 1959 original.
The 2012 Mini Roadster is the sixth and most recent addition to the modern Mini lineup, a soft-top front-wheel-drive two-seater that's a first-ever model for the brand, BMW revival or original. It brings affordable sports car fun to a segment that previously consisted of one car, Mazda's MX-5 Miata. Although the Mini Roadster's price range soars higher than the Miata's, pricing for the next group of roadsters, all German brands, begins well over $40,000.
All the revivalist Mini variants were developed from the 2001 three-door Hardtop. However, the Roadster, as well as the recently introduced Mini Cooper Coupe, is more directly descended from the 2+2 Convertible. Coupe and Roadster were designed simultaneously, but the Coupe preceded the Roadster in the U.S. market by about four months, and immediately drew mixed reviews for its awkward looking roofline.
The Mini Roadster substitutes a conventional folding soft top for the Coupe's hard roof, yielding a look that's a little more conventional and distinctly more appealing. With the soft top stowed in the well behind the seats and the rear decklid spoiler deployed (automatic at 50 mph or more, but manually operable as well), the Roadster becomes a brawny little sports car with the active persona of a Jack Russell terrier.
Like other entries in the Mini Cooper collection, the Roadster offers three levels of engine power, all delivered by the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. With direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, it's on the cutting edge of current internal combustion technology. The basic version is naturally aspirated, whereas turbocharging adds thrust to the variations offered in the higher-performing S and John Cooper Works (JCW) models.
Two transmissions are available for the basic and S versions, a 6-speed manual and an optional 6-speed automatic. The latter offers a manual operating mode, but is a conventional automatic. The more powerful JCW model is limited to a manual transmission.
Respectable fuel economy is a strong suit for all Minis, and the Roadster is no exception. Standard and S models both carry EPA ratings of 27 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway or 26/34 mpg City/Highway for the Mini Roadster S automatic. The numbers fall only slightly with the JCW version, to 25/33 mpg.
The Mini Roadster's soft top is stretched over a span of sheetmetal at its leading edge, which serves as a tonneau cover when the top is snugged down behind the seats. Top stowage doesn't subtract from trunk capacity, which is respectable by small roadster standards. The top secures to the windshield header with a single latch, and is easily raised and lowered by hand, though a power option is available.
Even in larger scale versions such as the Clubman wagon and Countryman crossover, Minis place a high priority on fun-to-drive, and the Roadster arguably delivers more of it than anything else in the growing lineup. It's quick on its feet, responsive, and eager, and the snug two-seat cockpit provides the sense of intimacy, driver engagement, and open air motoring that make roadsters so entertaining.
There are caveats, practicality foremost among them. Like any small two-seat convertible, the Mini Roadster's strong suit is driving entertainment. Considered as an all-around automotive implement, though, the elements that make it appealing as a driver's toy limit its usefulness for more mundane motoring chores such as hauling multiple passengers, bulky cargo, or both.
The suspension tuning that makes the car a blast to drive on a smooth stretch of twisty country road renders its ride quality distinctly unpleasant when the pavement is punctuated by warts, potholes, and sharp bumps. Also, wind noise stifles conversation above about 60 mph with the top up.
Nevertheless, the Mini Roadster rolls onto the sports car stage as an appealing new entry at the affordable end of the two-seat spectrum, with the same blend of sassy styling and snappy handling that separates all Minis from the herd.
The 2012 Mini Cooper models are powered by 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines, with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic with Steptronic manual shift control ($1,250) is optional on most models.
The Mini Cooper Hardtop ($19,500) is powered by a non-turbo version of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. It comes with leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, power windows with auto-down, cruise control, remote keyless entry, outside temperature display, a cooled glovebox, rear wiper, 15-inch alloy wheels and AM/FM stereo with a single-disc CD player and six speakers. For 2012, both HD and satellite radio are standard, with a one-year Sirius subscription.
Cooper S ($23,100) turbocharging raises output of the engine to 181 horsepower and peak torque to 177 lb-ft. The Cooper S also has a firmer suspension, 16-inch wheels and unique exterior details.
The JCW Hardtop ($29,900) is the raciest model of all, with a 208-hp version of the turbocharged engine, even firmer suspension, larger brakes and 205/45R17 run-flat tires. The JCW models are manual transmission only.
The Mini Cooper Convertible ($24,950) is equipped comparably to the base Hardtop, except for its power-operated soft top and standard 16-inch wheels. The Cooper S Convertible ($27,950) and John Cooper Works Convertible ($35,100) approximate corresponding Hardtop models in standard equipment and performance.
The Mini Cooper Clubman ($21,200) has a slightly longer wheelbase than the Hardtop, with an equal increase in rear seat legroom. It also has a short, third side door on the passenger side for easier access to the rear seat, as well as the swing-out double doors in the back. The Clubman is also offered in S ($24,900) and JCW ($31,400) models.
For 2012, a new line of Mini Yours options is available for further personalization. Personalization is a key component of the Mini brand, with an extensive list of factory- and dealer-installed appearance options that includes exterior graphics, paint combinations, various chrome baubles and special interior colors, upholstery and trim.
Most factory options are grouped in four major packages. The Sport Package ($1,250) includes suspension, wheel/tire and other performance upgrades, as well as competition stripes, depending on the model. The Convenience Package ($1,250) adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror and proximity key. The Premium Package ($1,750) includes a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control and a high-power Harman-Kardon audio upgrade. The Cold Weather Package ($500) adds heated front seats, power folding mirrors and heated washer jets. Many of the items from the various packages are also available as stand-alone options. Other significant stand-alones include a limited-slip differential ($250), xenon headlights ($500), adaptive headlights ($600), Rear Park Distance Control ($500), and navigation ($1,750).
Safety features include dual-stage front impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and full-cabin head protection curtains. The Convertible has a pop-up rear rollover bar. Dynamic safety features include Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and full-feature antilock brakes (ABS), with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Cornering Brake Control. All models with the manual transmission feature Hill Assist, which activates the brakes when starting on an uphill start to prevent the car from rolling back. Adaptive Headlights became available for the first time on Minis in 2011. This technology allows the headlights to follow the line of upcoming corners for better illumination of the road surface. Rear Park Distance Control obstacle warning is optional. The 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe is offered in three versions.
The Cooper Coupe ($21,300) is the base model. It uses a 121-hp 1.6-liter engine and front-wheel drive. It includes leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, power mirrors, locks and auto-up/down windows, 175/65HR15 tires on alloy wheels, six-way manual front seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, pushbutton start, adjustable-color ambient lighting, trip computer, floor mats and AM/FM/CD/HD/satellite radio with one-year subscription. A 6-speed manual is standard; a 6-speed automatic is optional ($1250).
The Cooper S Coupe ($24,600) uses a 181-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter and close-ratio 6-speed gearbox, and adds 195/55VR16 tires on alloy wheels, sport seats, fog lights, larger front brakes and a larger fuel tank. A 6-speed automatic is optional ($1250).
A John Cooper Works Coupe ($31,200) gets a 208-hp version of the S engine, larger brakes front and rear, the S fuel tank, 205/45WR17 tires, Works aero package, dynamic traction control and red cabin stitching. The JCW Coupe only comes with a strengthened 6-speed manual gearbox.
Laid end to end the 13 order pages for a Mini Coupe are longer than the car, and the assortment of body, roof and accessory colors, wheels, upholstery and trim combinations can be mind-boggling. The following gives glance at some of the choices.
Optional on all Coupes are leather upholstery; metallic paint; Cold Weather Package ($750) with headlight washers, heated seats, washer jets, and power-fold mirrors; Premium Package ($1,750) with alarm, comfort access, chrome line cabin trim, auto-dimming inside mirror, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, automatic climate control; Technology Package ($2,000) with center armrest, rear park sensors, harman-kardon audio; Mini Connected ($750) with navigation system; Sport Suspension ($500); Bluetooth and USB/iPod ($500); adaptive headlights ($100); rear fog lights ($100); black headlight housings. There are myriad choices in mirror caps ($250), instrument panel finishes, wheels, stripes and wallpaper, with a further set of custom parts through dealers.
Mini Coupe and S models offer a Yours Soda pack of 17-inch wheels, mirror caps, Laguna green metallic paint, scuttles and tattoo. They also offer Sport packages that add stripes, white signal lenses, dynamic traction control, plus sport seats and fog lights on Coupe and xenon HID headlights on S. The John Cooper Works pack adds 17-inch wheels, aero kit, dynamic traction control, red-stitched shift and brake handles, and JCW door sills.
Safety features standard include six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes with cornering brake control and brake hold. The 2012 Mini Roadster is presented in three trim levels based on engine performance: the Mini Roadster ($24,350), the turbocharged Roadster S ($27,350), and the high-performance JCW ($34,500). (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice. Destination charges add $700.) A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard; a 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is available for the base and S models ($1250).
Standard equipment in the Mini Roadster includes air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3-compatibility and a one-year satellite radio subscription, power windows and mirrors, a trip computer, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels with run-flat all-season tires, ABS, stability control, front and seat-mounted side airbags, reinforced windshield framing, and two fixed rollover hoops behind the seats.
Besides a healthy horsepower increase, the Roadster S adds a fancier set of 16-inch wheels, sportier seats, and foglights. Opting for the JCW adds even more pace, plus 17-inch wheels, aero body add-ons, piano black interior surface trim, and traction control.
A huge range of styling options allows owners to personalize their cars, and it's a major component of Mini's appeal. The choices cover upholstery style, material and color; exterior graphics; trim pieces; exterior paint, including contrasting colors for the roof. Functional options include high-end extras like adaptive Xenon headlights, and rear obstacle warning, a helpful feature when the Roadster's top is up. Leather seat options range from $1000 to $2250. A power top is an option ($750), and a wind-blocker is available ($250) for top-down motoring.
Safety features include front and seat-mounted side airbags, the rear rollover hoops, a reinforced windshield frame, electronic stability control, and antilock brakes standard. Dynamic Traction Control with electronic locking differential and rear park assist are optional.