Tiny Terror

By David Goodspeed

The good thing about MINI cars is they don’t pretend to be anything they are not. The great thing about MINI cars is they deliver everything they promise. And the new MINI Cooper Coupe – specifically the MINI John Cooper Works Coupe – promises to be one of the funnest driving experiences on the road.

One thing about MINI Coopers is they are deceptively roomy inside but with this new Coupe, while seating area is aplenty, headroom is somewhat scarce, but what do you expect from an adult’s version of a go-kart?

The Coupe is a two-seater version of the Cooper but finishes with a non-MINIish boot. MINI Coopers have always been little hatches so some traditionalist may take odds with this but it works well in this application.

Atop the trunklid is a speed-actuated rear spoiler that rises when the speedo ticks over the 50 mark but there is a manual function should one wish to display it all the time.

The Coupe arrived last year as the first two-seater wearing the MINI moniker and thanks to some open-minded engineers it arrived with the John Cooper Works package as an option.

This car is a blast to drive, despite rather gastly blind spots. No problem, just keep everything behind you, and thanks to the very spirited nature of the turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four (generating 208hp) one can easily accomplish that feat.

While the rest of the MINI Coupe family offers automatic gearboxes, the John Cooper Works edition utilizes a six-speed Gertrag manual for a more spirited (read: traditional) driving experience.

The car rides on stylish 17-inch alloy wheels shod with run-flat performance rubber assisted by Tire Pressure Monitoring system. Braking duties come courtesy Brembo calipers on large ventilated discs.

A host of traditional electronic driving aids are thrown in including Corner Brake Control and Dynamic Traction Control and the JCW Coupe also gets Electronic Differential Lock Control to ensure the power gets to the pavement.

The chassis is tight, whether sitting still or rolling through some insanely fun S-curves. Weight transfer stays in check while the vehicle is well controlled via the electronic power assisted steering providing ample feedback and offering a level of precision not always associated with disconnected steering gear.

So mechanically there are a lot of things that make this MINI JCW Coupe a great little car but inside there is just as much offered to keep occupants comfortable and entertained.

MINI keeps with the traditional styling including toggle switches and obscenely-large center speedometer (now with navigation screen in the center of it). Seating is supportive and comfy and the cockpit places everything right where the driver needs it with good movement between pedals, shifter, and steering wheel. It’s all right there just like any good go-kart would have it.

Pricing is a story all unto itself. While most MINIs start near the low 20s, our JCW Coupe tester begins at $31,200 and rises to nearly 39 grand with all the bells and whistles it arrived with. That’s pricey for a vehicle in this size and segment.

That said, the new MINI John Cooper Works Coupe arrives in a very attractive package and is an absolute blast to drive. If you’re like me you will find yourself taking the long way to work each day to pay homage to Mr. Cooper.

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