MINI Expands by Going Smaller

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2012 MINI Cooper Coupe.

The Mini Cooper has been a success since first going on sale nearly ten years ago. It brought the idea of a small premium car into the automotive world. Fun, affordable, and downright cute, the hatchback Mini was destined to become a fashion accessory on four wheels.

A convertible soon followed, and in recent years other variations on the car have been introduced. First the Clubman, which added more cargo space and a third door. Then the Countryman, kind of a chunky 4-door baby SUV.

Now we get yet another choice from the Mini brand. It’s called the Coupe, and loses a bit of utility for the sake of a rakish roofline. Gone are the square roof and rear seat, replaced with a sloping roofline and a trunk.

The Coupe started as a concept car on the auto show circuit some years ago, and public reaction was obviously positive enough for Mini to green light a production version. While the nose is right out of the company’s styling manual, that roof with its custom chopped look is quite distinctive.

Mechanically there’s nothing new, which is just fine. Base Coupes have a 1.6 liter four cylinder engine under the hood that produces 121 horsepower and fuel economy estimates of 29 mpg city and 37 highway. For just tooling around and looking cool, this one’s fine and starts at $21,300.

But of course if you want to have more fun in your Mini, the Coupe S is available, with an extra 60 horsepower and a host of other upgrades for an extra $3,300. And if you really like to put the pedal to the metal, the Coupe is available with Mini’s John Cooper Works package, though that will bend your wallet to the tune of $31,200.

No matter which variation you choose, you’ll be getting the Mini combination of crisp handling and efficient packaging. The difference in the coupe is that the interior stops short just aft of the driver and passenger seats. Where the Mini hatchback has seats for two more people plus ample legroom in front, the Coupe is a bit cramped by comparison.

And although the fastback roofline suggests a shortage of luggage space, there’s actually a fairly large cargo hold back there. That goes to Mini’s packaging efficiency in making the most out of a small platform.

I had great fun scooting around in a John Cooper Works Coupe, with way more power than most people will ever use. Since I’m pretty tall, I did notice a shortage of legroom and headroom compared to the other Mini models, but that won’t be a problem for most drivers. And in reality, the rear seat in the hatchback model is fairly small and not easy to access, so most of them go unused anyway.

The best part about any of the Mini models is that they’re crammed with features, either optional or standard, so you’re not sacrificing anything by driving these “economy” cars. Mini even integrates a full-function navigation system into its retro-inspired central speedometer face, along with a variation of the BMW i-Drive system. (BMW is the parent company of the Mini brand.)

When Mini showed the Coupe concept at the L.A. Auto Show a few years back, right beside it was a two seat roadster, also a concept. That one will become a production model soon as well, giving the Mini brand six separate body styles, not to mention the different sub-models of each.

You can now get a Mini, a bigger Mini, a much bigger Mini, a Mini with a folding roof, and now, a smaller Mini. Lots of Mini models: all small, all cute, and all fun.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz

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The ABC7 Auto Man

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