- 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.
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.
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.
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.