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Review: 2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe

Cars, Reviews  /   /  By Danny Chang


  • Smile-inducing
  • Go kart handling
  • Decent MPG even with spirited driving
  • Smooth-shifting 6-speed manual transmission


  • Ungraceful roofline
  • Bad visibility

The MINI Cooper Coupe is the first sports coupe of the modern MINI line-up. It only seats two people and has a more rakish windshield. It also has a funky roofline that looks like it’s a detachable hard top. Incidentally, MINI does offer a roadster (soft top) version of the coupe, but not a foldable or detachable hard top.

The John Cooper Works (JCW) edition is the high performance racing line of factory-built MINIs, with more power and tighter suspension tuning. They also have distinct styling cues that set them apart from more pedestrian Coopers. The JCW Cooper Coupe is the top-of-the-line sports car of the entire MINI line-up.

Driving Impressions
The standard Coupe has 121 horsepower, the S has 181 horsepower, and the JCW has 208 horsepower. Amazingly, all this comes from a 1.6 liter four banger. The JCW benefits from a twin scroll turbocharger, intercooler, and direct injection. The 192 lb-ft of torque is available from a wide band of 1,850 to 5,600 RPM. Again, amazing.

Mated to a Getrag 6-speed manual transmission, the MINI Cooper Coupe JCW is a blast to drive. The manual transmission is a short throw and very smooth shifting.

2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe 2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe 17-inch alloy wheels and Brembo brakes 2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe rooftop spoiler

The suspension is tuned very tight, and there is an available Sport setting that’s too tempting not to engage. When MINI says Go-kart like handling, they’re not kidding. The Coupe JCW edition drives like it’s on rails. This car is so fun to throw around curves that I went through the cloverleaf interchange between Highways 101 and the 85 here in Silicon Valley over and over again.

A drive on the curvy highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California is a must if you ever get to drive one of these. Even with all my spirited driving, the JCW Cooper Coupe managed a 23.5 mpg average, not far from the EPA estimates of 25 city and 33 highway MPG.

While I generally think highly of MINI designs, I am somewhat lukewarm on the styling of the Coupe. The top half just looks disjointed from the body. The greenhouse shape looks ill thought-out, and the roof line just doesn’t make much sense. It just looks like an afterthought.

I don’t like how the rakish back window meets the body, where the upright line of the trunk just drops straight down to the bumper. They should have made the headlights a bit more aggressive to set the Coupe apart from the other MINI models.

2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe

On the other hand, I do like the roof spoiler that juts out above the back window. The speed-activated spoiler is also a nice touch. The center mounted dual exhaust also looks cool. Okay actually the look is growing on me. Actually no, the MINI JCW Cooper Coupe still looks weird. It is not MINI’s best work.

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  1. J.A.Booker July 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm Reply

    Its just one obnoxious, horrifing bad looking car!!!!!!!!!!!!..But it has all the good stuff; twin tubros,,6 speed , 208 horse power etc.

    • SpecTroll July 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm Reply

      Yoh you, yah you! It has 1 (one) turbo that is twinscrolled…

      • Derek Mau July 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm Reply

        Don’t know how I missed this during editing. Thanks for pointing out the error. It now says powered by a twin scroll turborcharger…

  2. richard roy franklin July 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm Reply

    hi,there is no supercharger,try turbo!

    • Derek Mau July 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm Reply

      You are absolutely right. The article has been corrected.

  3. Ric Csarak July 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm Reply

    Totally Awesome–Love It–Thinking of trading my 2003 MINI JCW COOPER S!!

  4. Vladimir July 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm Reply

    I like it, nice car.

  5. JetJetson July 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm Reply

    That’s just the little Red Dragon I’m looking for. mHmm, Now where to get the Gold to purchase one.

  6. Merc from Cyprus July 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm Reply

    Roof highlights. But how ridiculous it looks.
    But it would be interesting to ride.

  7. scott July 6, 2012 at 1:06 am Reply

    If you are a larger person, ie. I’m 6’3″ 275lbs. It fits like a glove… a small one.
    With that said, this is one fun little ride, tho I would not take it for a 1k mile trip 😛

  8. Gary sargent July 6, 2012 at 2:29 am Reply

    I think the mini J C W Is different and some what cool looking , I agree about the rear roof line,being a design mistake, but that could be changed In future models, over all I would really like one in the next line up when some young designer makes positive changes,what about prices , my brother has a Mini, and I have driven It I think these are awesome little cars and I am looking at this and the Fiat 500 Abarth, or Gucci,the american market Is slack In this type of car …..

    • Derek Mau July 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm Reply

      @Gary –

      A base MINI Cooper Coupe starts at $21,300. The top of the line JCW is $31,200 and gets even pricier when you starting checking off the optional equipment boxes.

  9. Frank Spero July 6, 2012 at 6:43 am Reply

    i think it sucks good idea but assinie looks get rid of that roofline in the back after looking at it from the front the back is a big let down

  10. kent evans July 6, 2012 at 9:02 am Reply

    quanto costa, per favore?

    • Derek Mau July 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm Reply

      Base price for the JCW model is $31,200. As tested with a full compliment of option, $38,450.

  11. Quillen R Ely July 7, 2012 at 5:57 am Reply

    Why in the world have you changed the style of a mini cooper. It use to be cute and now you have put the most riduculous front end on it. I want a mini cooper but not if it looks like the new one.

  12. Jon Canales July 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm Reply

    I just had a baby and I relly want a 4 seater of on of these but can’t afford one I love the clubman call me seeing as in this car has my initials in it I would really appreciate one 13866312000

  13. Thanasis July 11, 2012 at 8:26 am Reply

    Super car my men very nice!
    If you sell it! I pay 10000€

  14. eBay Motors July 11, 2012 at 10:19 am Reply

    Thanks for your comments everyone! We noticed that many of you have a standard icon here and wanted to let you know that your avatar here can be simply updated using where you can plug in an icon of your face, your favorite car/truck, etc.

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