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5 Reasons to Drive the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe

by Michael Waterman

Image of a 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe

Is it a Fiat or some exotic VW? No it's the 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe, Mini's first two-seat sports car that is essentially the same size as the standard Mini Cooper but with a very different look that transforms the Coupe into Mini's most sporty- looking ride.

During a week driving the Coupe, I saw expressions that ranged from surprise to shock to delight to jealousy to derision as people tried to figure out what to make of this little car. So I decided to capture my impressions and share 5 reasons to drive the 2012 Mini Coupe.

Reason #1: The Coupe is Fun to Drive

Many Mini drivers describe their adoration for their cars because they "handle like a go-kart." If a go-kart feel is what you seek, you'll find it here. The Coupe's electronically assisted steering is precise and driving this car in the twisties is a sheer joy.

Press the Sport button and the turbocharged Mini Cooper S Coupe zips down the road, always eager to zoom to higher speeds. Performance was impressive, even in the higher gears. Impressive enough, in fact, that a little boost of speed coming down a residential hillside resulted in my first traffic ticket in 10 years.

As the cop wrote up my infraction (only five-over the speed limit, thanks officer), I told him the Coupe has a six-speed transmission mated to a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 181 horsepower. That enables the car to move quickly, reaching 0 to 60 in about 6.5 seconds at sea level.

I hoped that dazzling display of statistics would impress him enough to write a warning.

It didn't.

Reason #2: The Coupe Turns Heads

The Mini Cooper Coupe doesn't look like any other car on the streets today. In particular, it's the only car I know that sports a manufacturer-termed "helmet." But what else are you going to call the roofline. It looks just…like…a…helmet. And so it is.

Like coffee and haggis, it's an acquired taste.

To my eyes, the styling of the Coupe works better on the Mini Roadster, which is the same car—minus the helmet. That's the two-seat Mini I would buy. But Mini has plenty of fans that love the Coupe. If you're a Coupe fan, know that you'll get noticed when you motor down the road. Just be sure you go all out with a multi-colored paint job and bold racing stripes. While the choice of Eclipse Gray Metallic paint on my test car is the only way to ensure a uniform look on the Coupe, it's a bit bland for my tastes. This Coupe should be bright red or blue with a silver or white roof, adorned with racing stripes and possibly a Union Jack flag on the hood. Don't make the radical choice of choosing the Coupe and then suddenly turn conservative with your styling on us. The Coupe begs you to go bold or go home.

Reason #3: The Coupe is a Relatively Affordable Sports Car

No Mini is ever going to be cheap. However, the Mini Cooper S Coupe is a relatively affordable sports car with a base price of $24,600.

My test car boasted all kinds of upgrades. The Grey Metallic uniform paint job costs $500. The Mini Connected system with voice command, Bluetooth and a navigation system commands $1,750 while the Sport Package with its 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights and dynamic traction control adds another $1,500. The sports suspension is $500 and I would suggest you forego that one because it makes an already rough ride that much rougher.

After all the options were tallied, my test car came in at $32,400. Again, not inexpensive, but also not horribly expensive for a two-person cruiser that's loads of fun to drive.

Fuel economy is decent, too. The EPA expects the Coupe to return 35 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in the city for a combined average of 30 mpg. That's exactly what I achieved after driving 248 miles in this sporty little roadster.

Reason #4: The Mini Cooper Coupe is More Spacious Than You Expect

The most common comment I heard from friends as they approached the Mini Coupe is that they weren't sure if they would fit inside—especially if my friends were over six-feet tall. Once they opened the door, adjusted the seat and dropped it down to the lowest level, they could see well and fit comfortably.

Sightlines aren't great, with rear visibility already small and becoming smaller when the spoiler rises up from the tail whenever you cross 50 miles per hour. But you get used to it quickly.

This two-seater will never fool someone into believing they're sitting in a spacious sedan. But the Coupe does boast a comfortable cabin for two. Behind the two seats, space is even more impressive. Lift the hatch and you'll find 9.8 cubic-feet of space, which was enough to fit suitcases, a few extra bags, a fly rod, fishing gear and waders. That was more than enough space for a weekend getaway.

Reason #5: The Mini Cooper is a Two-Person Getaway Vehicle

This is where the Mini Cooper Coupe shines the brightest. Park the car in the garage all week, then take it out for a weekend trip where you find a place within an hour or two from home, throw your bags in the back, find a twisty road to get you from here to there, and you're guaranteed to have a great time along the way. The ride can become a bit harsh over time and the seats are stiff, but if you're looking for a two-person getaway vehicle for weekend fun, the Mini Cooper Coupe is a great option.

Consider a Mini Cooper Coupe Lease

The Coupe is one of these cars that could be great fun for a few years, but I don't expect you want to own forever. That's why I recommend you consider a lease, which is a great way to get into a fun car for an affordable price. Drive the Coupe for three years worth of weekend getaways. Guide it down some twisty roads along the way. Then turn it back into the dealer and buy a much more practical four-door sedan–or even the four-door Mini Countryman or Mini Cooper S–when you've worked the two-person, small-car bug out of your system.

2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe Photos Copyright 2012 Waterdog Media, Inc.

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