The last working day of a very busy week and I reach home all tired and worked up, looking for ways to ease off. Sipping some soft drink and watching that random music countdown show on TV, I was just beginning to unwind and get lazy when I received a phone call from the Mini Cooper guy over here. I was told that they would be dropping off the 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe with me for the weekend. I thought, “Wow! This is going to be a fun weekend.” About an hour later, the phone rings again and I know that there is something small, fast and fun in the parking lot. I rushed out, and my first reaction was, “‘Gosh! This is so small,” especially after driving the Mini Countryman some weeks back. Anyway, the keys were with me now and I could feel my excitement overpowering my laziness!
One look at the Cooper Coupe and you feel the demise of that feminine feel that is present in the entire Mini product range. The low-slung roof, the steeply raked windshield, the black roof and the small boot lid on the rear all hint at a more masculine touch to this Mini. The car is just 2 inches shorter in comparison to the regular Mini, but it is the slanted windshield (almost thirteen degrees lower I think) that creates this visual appeal. All other dimensions remain almost the same. The signature features of the Mini brand like the chrome-ringed round headlamps, the rounded shape of the hood and the positioning of the wheels. Now this is something I love on the Mini. The wheels are placed at the extreme corners of the car which results in no overhang and this directly shows in the handling prowess of the Mini. The roof of the car also has a rounded feel to it and is a welcome change from the boxy-feel of the older Minis. The roof’s smooth slant to the boot section is hindered by a spoiler which rests on the rear glass. Along with adding a sporty look, this spoiler has an important function of channelling the airflow to the active spoiler which is hidden within the boot lid and pops up above 80kmph to provide extra down force. In all, the design is a clever blend of ‘Mini-ism’ and modernism.
I decided to step in and see how this new Mini fares on the interior. The doors are big, typical of a coupe and allow you to slip into the seats pretty easily. Now, this is a proper coupe with only two seats, no miniscule rear seats into which you can fit nothing but shopping bags or maybe your Chihuahua. Between the seats you get a cubby hole to store all your knick-knacks. Everything else like the steering, gear lever and all other controls come to hand easily except for some switches for the door locks and power windows which feel like they have been placed too low. There are a lot of colour changeable ambient lights within the car which can be adjusted to suit your mood. The clocks and controls maintain the typical vintage Mini feel. The front visibility is good even with the raked front glass and inspired confidence. Push the engine start-stop button and the engine responds eagerly with some ‘phur-phur’ notes from the exhaust. Yes, it sounds good. I decided to stop digging into the Mini and get some sleep because I could feel my eyes getting watery and I was yawning every five seconds.
I woke up early the next morning and decided to put my right foot to work immediately. I jumped into my ’lightning blue’ Mini and pushed off to a long drive to enjoy the weekend holiday. The 280 litre boot was enough to swallow my camera and equipment comfortably. The Mini Cooper S Coupe is powered by a 1.6L engine with a twin scroll turbo that delivers 181bhp at 5,500rpm. That’s some nice figures for a car with such dimensions. The acceleration is brisk, capable of pinning you to the seat pretty effectively. The car pulls along with ease until a speedo indicated 230 kph and the engine has this peculiar ‘i-am-powerful’ snarl which can be quite of an attention grabber. One of the biggest things I noticed would be the poise and sticky nature of the car even at 230kmph. You don’t feel the slightest hesitation from the steering, brakes or suspension at any point from standstill to the top whack. To make things even more exciting, there is small button with ‘sport’ written on it. Sharper response, handling and suspension, that’s what it means. As expected from a Mini, the steering is perfectly weighted with the right feedback that urges you to play a game of dart with the car.
’Aim-shoot-bulls eye’; this is what describes the handling of the Mini at any speed. Brake hard and you start thinking, why doesn’t’ every other car just copy-paste the brake feel of this car. It is just lovely and so confident and inspiring. The stability control system also plays its part in keeping the car in its tracks. The 16” wheels with run-flat tyres give you that added bit of safety. For people who don’t like hearing the raspy engine going through its revs all day, there is a top of the line Harman Kardon audio system that will satisfy any music listener. The BMW i-drive inspired controls on the Mini are easy to learn and operate. All these ensure that you spend most of your time driving and enjoying the car rather than trying to understand the controls and complexities.
On the whole, a very good package for a wannabe TT and SLK owner. This car can give you a feel of driving the biggies. Worth the price (come on, you may find alternatives) but not that shape with a Mini badge and good on performance. Mini has created a new segment of cars the customer is not so familiar with. We will have to wait and see how the market responds. And, here is something you need to get accustomed to; drivers in big SUV’s looking ‘down’ at you and wondering ‘Damn, that car looks good and goes like a scud.’ Yes, it is a Mini and it goes like one. That said, I was definitely not the happiest person in the world when handing back the keys.