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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
No matter which flavor of 2012 Mini Cooper you might be interested in, you can expect thrilling handling and quick responses to driver inputs.
The Cooper S has a zero-to-60 time of 6.6 seconds and achieves an estimated 29 mpg average fuel economy with the manual transmission.
While the base engine already had Valvetronic variable intake timing and lift, that technology is new to this year's turbo
Electronic power steering has allowed the crafty German engineers to add anti torque- and anti bump-steer to the Cooper's repertoire, and the modifications were obvious when compared to last year's model.
The turbocharged Cooper S and Clubman S gain Vanos variable valve-timing for the intake valves, and a bonus 4 hp brings the total to 181.
Car and Driver
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.
Fun, nimble, and engaging, the 2012 MINI Cooper is one of the sportiest front-drive cars on the market.