Review: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe

Brendan McAleer
by Brendan McAleer
review 2012 mini cooper s coupe

We have at least two dandies on staff who make Beau Brummel look like Christian Audiger, what with their Zegna blazers and tailored shirts and handmade shoes and watches that aren’t also calculators. In the ordinary course of things, I leave it in their capable, well-manicured hands to wax eloquent on the concept of style.

As far as I’m concerned, clothes are just something which keep me from

(a) freezing


(b) being arrested.

However, even with such a clear disclaimer to my limited scope where fashion is concerned, I feel it necessary to point out at least one simple rule: if you walk around all day wearing a baseball hat turned around backwards, you’ll look like an idiot. Or Fred Durst.

Wait, that’s redundant.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Mini’s latest model exists not because it is materially better-handling or faster or even lighter than the Classic Cooper from whence it sprang, but because it is stylier. Like, they put more style in it.

I hesitate to cast too many aspersions, being somewhat fat and definitely ginger, but I’d have to say the results are a bit… mixed. Surely you, dear reader, who are possessed of eyes, can come to your own conclusions on the matter. I think it looks like someone sat on it.

Still, from many angles the MINI coupé is actually not too bad looking. If you put up the deployable spoiler for instance. Or look at your feet.

And if getting attention is your thing, then good news! I once actually returned to my tester to find two ladies having an impromptu photo-session with it. Admittedly, it was a bit more Absolutely Fabulous than America’s Next Top Skeleton: apparently Grandma’s a Limp Bizkit fan.

But enough nattering about the looks, let’s jump in the little tyke and take ‘er for a rip!

First: who designed this interior, Flavor Flav? Or possibly Fisher-Price?

Second: who cares? Everything you’ve heard about one Mini interior, you’ve heard about all the others. They’re cartoonish and fiddly and whatever the exact opposite of ergonomic is. Blergonomic.

Add to that the cut-down cockpit of the Mini coupé and embrace the added impracticality of rear blind-spots like an Imperial Star Destroyer and a pillbox front view. Is the light green yet? Better stick your head out the window to check. I am not an overly tall person, but when first in line at the lights, I learned to follow the lead of the cross-traffic.

Ticking off a few more demerits, cargo space: pretty negligible. Ride quality: nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Mix in a back parcel shelf that rattles like an Army of Darkness can-can line and you might think I’ve little love lost for the two-seater Mini. But you’d be wrong.

Like a dream. Like a go-kart. Like it’s on rails.

When it comes to handling clichés, take your pick and apply it to this latest member of the MINI range: the Cooper S coupé. Just don’t expect to make any sense.

This ain’t no go-kart: it grips over bumpy pavement rather than skittering sideways like a skipped stone. And as for going around a bend on rails, Thomas the Tank Engine would flop over on his flank at half the g’s that a Cooper S coupé pulls while scrabbling through a corner.

Depress the Sport button (why should you even have to?) and thrill to the declarative *pop-pop-pop* of improperly combusted fuel. It’s a cheery flatulence that must surely be artificial in some way, given our draconian emissions laws, but try to keep the grin off your face. I dare ya.

No chance. Inasmuch as the Mini coupé is uneasy on the eyes and of greatly reduced practicality, it absolutely wins you over with puppy dog enthusiasm, rorty exhaust note and hyperactive steering. It’s such a hard car to hate, so why would you?

But here’s the thing. Last time I attended fat camp…er… a manufacturer-sponsored car launch, I sat enthralled as a fellow journo listed off the number of interesting ways in which his personal Mini had broken.

These ranged from the “minor niggle” category – wonky signal lights, to the “just take all my money You Bastards” column – supercharger failure, thousand-dollar seat repair, ECU-fritzing. Mini is fairly ho-hum when it comes to any reliability survey you might care to mention. It’s almost as though BMW, with typical German humourlessness, has engineered a little of that British Leyland crappiness charm into each and every little happy-faced Cooper.

And it’s not like I can pull out the old standbys like, “more fun than cars costing twice as much”: this thing is more expensive than a WRX, and not exactly well-optioned. I didn’t play the same game on the US configurator, but in Canada, you can spend upwards of $45K if you tick all the boxes. There’s stuff more expensive by the pound, but not much that’s legal.

So: costly, unreliable, largely impractical, not particularly attractive and somewhat uncomfortable. Can I really recommend this latest Mini?

Not unreservedly, but – well, I suppose it depends on your constitution. It really ought to say on the brochure, “we can offer you nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat – but it’ll be worth it.” It’s not going to be a Honda Civic, but then, it’s not going to be a Honda Civic.

We enthusiasts complain incessantly about the lack of soul of the modern motor car. About how we’d all exchange a little of that relentless Japanese reliability and economy for a spark of frivolity, a frisson of joy, a soupçon of liveliness. Well, with a Mini, that’s what you get.

Frankly, the only things that would make the Mini coupé better, to my mind, were if it was slightly larger, perhaps a useful hatchback. Maybe if it had two small seats in the back, just in case. Maybe if it looked a little more like the original Mini, and –


Oh, I see.

MINI provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

Join the conversation
2 of 80 comments
  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Apr 18, 2012

    Finally, a Suzuki X-90 for snow-free climates. Should do well.

  • Barrystevenlewis Barrystevenlewis on Aug 05, 2012

    I lease a 2010 Mini-Cooper S convertible. I love driving the car but the fun is nixed by an in-car computer system that controls everything but fails to do anything well (you will NOT override this system!). Mini-Cooper, the company, tells me I'm the problem, not their poorly written software. I've disconnected the in-car phone system, the gps is worthless, the map might succeed as day-glo art but fails miserably in telling you where you are and the first 2 summers i leased the car (4 year deal) the top malfunctioned; now the trunk is having digital meltdown at odd, irrational times. All i wanted was a small convertible with a stick shift--and lease it. Toyota and Honda wouldn't let me lease in the Northeast; Mini would. So I went with Mini. But the computer system has ruined my enjoyment. And the company's refusal to back their product is typical of a company that values marketing hype over actual service. I'm not impressed with their 'cute' website; just give me a car that works.

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines.
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.