I'm Still Thinking About The Mini Cooper Coupe

If you want a full visual tour, MaxMerc is your guy.
If you want a full visual tour, MaxMerc is your guy.
Screenshot: MaxMerc (Getty Images)

Sometimes, you look at a car, and you just wonder, “Why?” or “Who authorized this?” or “People thought this was a good idea for several years?” or maybe even “Who actually wanted this?” That is exactly how I feel about the Mini Cooper Coupe.

The Mini Cooper Coupe looks like it was designed for the two whole entire people on earth that looked at a Mini Cooper and said, “No, that is far too large. I need even less space, actually.” This is a car for someone who looked at every other coupe and turned up their noses, for those other cars are far too classy. This is the kind of car that can only exist in the time period it did, which is the early 2010s. This is the car for someone who loves their backwards baseball hats so much that they decided they wanted to drive one.

It’s not like the Mini Cooper Coupe is old, but it’s definitely a machine that did not age well. It definitely has personality, but whose personality would align to this? That I cannot say.

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The weird cockpit shape limited visibility, which was not a worthy compromise because it didn’t even look that great. You couldn’t put anything in it. I can’t imagine it was a comfortable fit for anyone over 5'5". You probably wouldn’t be able to see traffic lights.

The interior design was just a hot mess, too. Toggles, buttons, and switches galore—all without a coherent sense of order or organization. The Mini Cooper Coupe is one of the few cars in this world whose dashboard has actually made me wish it had an infotainment screen, if only to clean it up a little bit and put all the buttons in one place.

It was just a ridiculous little machine, and I don’t think any of the few thousand people who bought one gave one single, solitary goddamn about any of the Coupe’s issues because they were one of the few people this car was actually designed to appeal to.

It’s a wonderful, terrible car, one that has achieved the kind of ironic cult status in my mind that makes me want to own one. It’s like a Yugo. I don’t want one because it’s a well-made piece of equipment that represents the best of what automakers could achieve. I want it because it’s silly. I want it the same way I want those paintings that get really poorly restored. It’s not good, but it is very funny.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

I have a Cooper Roadster S, which is basically one of these with the option to substantially improve rearward—and indeed upward—visibility. It’s my daily driver, and I ordered it direct from the factory in the correct colour (British Racing Green with silver striping), the correct transmission (6-speed manual), and minimal electronics to distract from the driving experience. The only concession to comfort was the cold-weather package, since I lived in Colorado at the time and there’s something delightful about having the top down on a chilly night.

Why did I order it and give up my sensible, comfortable sedan? Because my test-drive was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a car, and left me grinning like an idiot. I was literally howling with delight as I punched that silly rocket-powered rollerskate of a car down the on-ramp onto the highway. I gave myself a few days to cool off and think it over, and then ordered one anyway.

And you know what? Best car I’ve ever owned, and surprisingly practical for nearly everything I need to do on a daily basis. The boot/trunk is big enough to easily hold tons of groceries, I usually either drive alone or with one other person, and it did really well in icy conditions with front-wheel drive. The only thing it can’t do is haul wood for my new fence, but $30 of filthy lucre thrown in the direction of the local U-haul magnate suffices to get me a large cargo van for the few hours I actually need one. The rest of the time, I’m zipping around in my silly little car, having the time of my life at 45mph.

Honestly, you can’t imagine how utterly *boring* most other vehicles seem to me after driving my car. They’re too comfortable, too isolated from the road, too full of electronics. I appreciate that it’s a matter of horses for courses when choosing the best vehicle, but I do wish that more people chose to have a little more fun with their daily driver.