Ever since Mini returned to the marketplace in 2001 under BMW's guidance, the brand's been getting bigger, both in offerings and vehicle size. It started with the second-generation Mini, which was bigger in almost every dimension than the first. Larger still was the Mini Clubman, and then came the Mini Countryman, a four-door, all-wheel drive crossover. The 2012 Mini Coupe isn't exactly reversing that trend, as it's roughly the same size as the present Mini Cooper, but it sure looks Mini-er.
The Mini Coupe (first previewed in concept form at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show) is the first modern two-seat Mini and the first to use a three-box design -- engine compartment, passenger compartment and trunk. The design effectively is carried through and lends the Coupe a handsome look. The Mini Coupe features what Mini calls a Helmet Roof, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a roof that looks like a helmet. Mini was able to achieve the helmet through the use of wraparound glass, which not only looks good, but gives you the impression the vehicle would be just as aerodynamic backwards as it would forwards, like Porsche 928s of yore.
Helping the Mini Coupe achieve that look are unique A-pillars and a windshield that's raked more than the standard Mini's. In back, the Helmet Roof opens up with an "extremely high-opening tailgate," according to Mini, which allows access to the cargo area. The Helmet Roof also features an integrated rear spoiler, which at low speeds directs the air down the wraparound glass. At 50 mph and up, an active rear spoiler automatically rises out of the trunk lid and works with the roof-mounted spoiler to reduce lift and further improve aerodynamics and grip. Enhancing the aggressive look and sportiness of the new Mini Coupe are a pair of center exit exhausts (they're polished stainless steel on the John Cooper Works model) and a lowered suspension that allows the Coupe to sit an inch lower than the standard Mini Cooper hardtop. The Coupe is also one inch longer than the hardtop, which helps its handling and will probably soften ride quality over rough roads.