Well, what do you get when you leap $10K in price from the Hyundai Veloster and the Volkswagen Beetle? You get a much sportier chassis, for sure, a much more energetic powertrain, and the best steering of the trio. You also get an incredibly harsh ride and lots of torque steer. This car scores high on performance and style, very low on value and utility. The equivalent Mini Cooper hardtop (the original, base car) is just as good to drive but has enough room for four people in a pinch or, say, four wheels and tires so you can drive to track day and swap them out. That said, I just checked the trunk again and this Mini does actually have a decent amount of cargo room.
Is the toggle switch new with this car? I don't recall using it on my drive in Vienna, but that was all on the track and we really didn't use many secondary controls. In any case, it's intuitive and it reminds me of similar multi-layered menus in other BMWs.
Harman Kardon stereo is great. Seats are great.
While sitting in the coupe on the first floor of the parking structure, I've just been accosted by an AATA bus driver, who loves this thing, says "they got it right. it's very sporty." Plus a woman and a couple who just got out of their stock Mini hardtop. The woman part of this couple asked, "Is it a convertible? Does the top come off?" It's interesting that this is her perception. The man was impressed that there's a movable rear wing "Oh, that's like on Porsches!" I told them that there is a roadster version coming next year and that I think it will be more popular.
All four people, though, thought this car was super cool. Interestingly, all are in their forties and fifties, so they're the sort of people who can afford to spend $33K on a vanity car.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
It's a poor man's Porsche! Say what you will about the size and utility of this lil baby. The styling of this car is well thought out, each piece relating to another. Kickin' sound system worth its weight! With some creativity and removal of the rear shelf, you might be surprised what you could potentially fit in this car. Not removing anything I had $200 worth of groceries in the back, and by the looks it could have held another $300-$400. If you're interested in getting a roof rack for your activities you might want to carefully reconsider your options. Mounting our camera rig atop for photos proved that the roof is softer than it looks. At $33k, though, I'd almost rather go buy a supersport bike. It have the same room for passenger. The price is the only thing I can find wrong with this little number!
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
I had an interesting experience during my night with the Mini Coupe. While I was parked in a fairly empty parking lot giving the three-box Mini a full once-over, two very loquacious gentlemen from Alabama came over to check out the car. Sadly, due to their heavy southern accents, ex-New Yorker me had a bit of trouble understanding all of their questions about the funky-looking two-door. It is actually a good parallel to my own thoughts on the Mini: while I do understand the design language the Coupe's designers are speaking with, I am continually tripped up by the specific nuances on this particular model. Case in point: from having been told, I can see that the roof of the Coupe was supposed to be inspired by a backwards baseball cap; would I have come to that conclusion on my own? It's doubtful. That being said, the Coupe is a tidy and generally well-done package. The rear three quarters are on the lumpier side thanks to the wide hips and tight-fitting "baseball cap," but with the spoiler extended, the proportions are balanced well.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The Mini Cooper Coupe is all about style. Why else would someone purchase (or engineer) a car that has two fewer seats, much poorer outward visibility, and an inflated price tag compared with the regular Mini Cooper hatchback, which is basically identical to the Coupe below the window line?
As much as I want to not like the Coupe (because it dilutes the Mini brand even further), I can't say that I blame Mini for building it. Surely this won't become the best-selling model for the marque, but it is clearly a distinctive, attention-getting car that has been blessed with a sizable helping of cool. And it's easy to forget the numerous variants based on the Austin/Morris Minis of the 1960s and '70s, so there is a precedent for such diversification.
I drove the Coupe mostly on wet roads, and torque steer was almost overwhelming. On wet or dry roads, the Coupe rides very harshly -- blame the run-flat tires and the sport suspension. Handling, as with the regular hatchback, is spectacular and immensely fun, even with the optional and less involving (but very, very good) automatic transmission.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I drove the Mini Coupe, Hyundai Veloster, and Honda CR-Z all in the same week. The Mini would be my first choice to drive but last to own. Its steering, in typical Mini fashion, is absolute perfection - pinpoint accurate, go cart quick, and naturally weighted. I diverted into a deserted parking lot on my commute home just so that I could slalom around and enjoy the responsiveness some more. The powertrain is likewise developed for the enthusiast's palette, providing its ample power with a sense of urgency. The six-speed automatic bangs off shifts so quickly, especially in sport mode, that I could scarcely believe that it's a torque converter rather than a dual-clutch transmission. More than the CR-Z and far more than the Veloster, the Mini lives up to its design from behind the wheel.
Alas, there's more to a car than the driving experience. The ride, for instance. Does it need to be so harsh? My head was literally banging against the headrest as I drove over some expansion joints. Mini calls the Coupe's roof a Helmet design, which makes sense, since staring out of it reminds me of wearing a full face racing helmet that's two sizes too big for your head. You see nothing out back and almost nothing looking ahead. My time with our Cooper S Countryman has also led me to become a bit skeptical of Mini interior design. I continue to admire the fact that Mini interiors don't look mass-market - as the Veloster's and CR-Z's sort of do - but there's just not enough quality backing up the look, and cheap plastics simply won't stand up to a stiff suspension over thousands of miles.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
At the risk of sounding like a stick-in-the-mud, I don't get the appeal of the Mini Cooper Coupe. In essence, Mini has taken the hardtop Mini Cooper and removed two seats, made it a little taller and a little heavier, added a goofy-looking roof, decreased utility, and increased the price by $1300 to $1800 (depending on model). I suppose the reasoning is that it gives Mini a new, sportier-looking model that doesn't look remotely like anything else on the road. To my eyes, however, there's just a bit too much going on, with black plastic cladding along the lower body, red painted body panels, a silver roof, blacked-out pillars, and a white racing stripe. It appears I'm in the minority, however, if reports of my coworkers being stopped by passers-by who praised the car are any indication. As for the interior, the absurdly large centrally mounted speedometer detracts from the overall cabin environment, and the tiny controller that operates the digital settings and instruments is not at all intuitive. The seats are relatively comfortable, but the sightlines are not very good, with fairly sizable blind spots at the rear thanks to the thick C-pillars.
Despite my reservations about its styling, the Mini Cooper Coupe S drives much like the regular Mini Cooper S, which is to say with excellent agility and power, although its ride is not exactly plush and can at times border on harsh. The steering and braking feel are both excellent, and once underway this car is actually quite a bit of fun to drive. If only I could get over its styling...
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor