The MINI Cooper is the type of car that will get you the attention of onlookers but with a pricetag most mere mortals could afford. The modern MINI, currently in its second generation, has proven a hit with both sexes, and that’s easy to see why when you consider that the car not only looks good but it can be downright sporty in some trims.
If sporty dynamics are your thing, then we recommend sticking with the hard-top. If you prefer driving with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair however, there’s also a 2012 MINI Cooper Convertible
. Both offer plenty of personality whether you choose the base Cooper, turbocharged Cooper S, or the aggressive John Cooper Works model, but we strongly suggest opting for at least the Cooper S as the naturally-aspirated Cooper will almost certainly leave you wanting more.
The MINI Cooper was updated for 2011 with new features and a refined engine lineup so for 2012 it’s essentially unchanged.
The base engine is a naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 121 horsepower on tap. It can be matched to a six-speed manual or automatic and we recommend the manual as you’ll have a lot more fun playing with the revs. The mid-level trim is the Cooper S, which gets a turbocharged version of the Cooper’s 1.6-liter engine and 181 horsepower to play with. Rounding out the range is the 208-horsepower John Cooper Works (JCW), which not only gets the most power, but a host of performance upgrades to go along with it. While the Cooper S does offer an automatic in addition to a manual, the JCW is manual only.
Being so small, the cars also have stellar fuel-efficiency. The Cooper is the most frugal, returning as much as 28/36 mpg city/highway with the automatic. Opt for the manual and you can add 1 mpg to both of those figures.
We find the entire Cooper range to be light, nimble, balanced, and entertaining to drive. Steering feel is very good for a front-wheel drive car, with minimal torque steer even in the more powerful models. There aren't many cars in the Cooper's class that offer this much fun, and the excitement just grows as you add more power and move up the range.
Note, if you rarely carry more than one passenger, it’s also worth taking a look at the two-seater 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe
and Cooper Roadster
. And just be wary that MINI’s third-generation Cooper is just around the corner
For an in-depth review of the 2012 MINI Cooper, including a closer look at its styling, performance, safety and quality, head over to our sister site The Car Connection