As with the aesthetics, the 2012 MINI Cooper's engine and package range largely carries over from last year. That's a good thing, however, with recently up-rated engines, tweaked handling, and a continued focus on fun.
The base Cooper comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower. That's good for some minor pep, but fans of speed will want to upgrade to the Cooper S, which packs a turbocharged 1.6-liter four good for 181 horsepower. The extra 60 horses only come at the expense of 2 mpg city/highway (27/35 mpg in the Cooper S) when outfitted with a manual transmission.
The John Cooper Works model takes things up another notch, deliver 208 horsepower from more turbo boost, while livening up the suspension as well. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available on all but the John Cooper Works model.
Each step up the Cooper line brings with it crisper suspension tuning and larger alloy wheels as standard equipment, but all Coopers are light, nimble, and ready companions on twisty roads. The ride quality in the Cooper S is hurt somewhat by its standard run-flat tires, while the John Cooper Works model is a bit rougher still.