Opinion: Coupe Confessional

Owning a MINI Coupe has been quite an experience so far, and the news that the Coupe and Roadster are finished this month leaves this Coupe owner looking back, and confessing that he is feeling good about the future. 

My first confession is that I didn’t like the look of the Coupe at all when I first saw it in print. I wanted a Roadster and started saving for one. It wasn’t until after I saw a glistening black JCW Coupe with its Chili Red top and stripes on the showroom floor that it struck me what a massively cool car the Coupe is. My Motoring Advisor described it as “stout” as he shook the roof vigorously and the car barely rocked back and forth. Seeing it in person made all the difference in the world for me. I decided quickly that the limited rear visibility I experienced on the test drive wouldn’t be a deal breaker given all the other factors.

Speak to any Coupe (R58) owner and you’re likely to hear some stories. Mostly stories about what other people think about their car. From the moment the Coupe appeared as a concept, people didn’t know what to make of it. It wasn’t Aztek-ugly but it wasn’t exactly the legendary, square design that is a hallmark of MINI’s history. To some it looked weird; to others it looks racy, yet for some it was perfect.

MINI Coupe, 2012

Forgive me for I confess to having paid more than anyone should for a FWD compact car — or so the comments on Car and Driver’s site would lead one to believe. What inspired me to purchase the Coupe were a string of specific things I was looking for in a car. I wanted front wheel drive because it snows like mad here in New England and, as a California native, I don’t find RWD driving to be fun in snow and ice.

Oswin snow 2 1280x720

It had to have MINI Connected because I wanted to have the latest connectivity options and technology in the car (this ruled out the GP for me).

It had to be small and easy to park in case I drive into Boston or New York.

With no kids, no dogs and nothing to haul, rear seats weren’t important at all to me – in fact, I didn’t want them.  The bulk of my driving is just me going to work and back, and more seats just makes it easier for me to end up being the de-facto taxi for lunch at work.

I wanted my new car to be unique and eye-catching in style because I don’t want to drive the same car everyone else has — one of the things that attract people to the MINI brand in general.

It had to be quick and nimble, which the JCW treatment met with flying colors.

It had to get decent mileage over 30 MPG, which it does, and the Ford Focus ST did not.

Since it was going to cost as much as a luxury sedan, I wanted luxury amenities like a leather dashboard and premium seats and sound. The JCW checked all the boxes for me like no other car could, but it also tipped the scales with a hefty price tag that would leave most people scratching their heads wondering who in the world would pay that much for any FWD compact car? The answer to that for me was simple: exclusivity. They discontinued Laguna Green before I could place my order, but that’s now an extra rare Coupe color, as is the silver on silver option that someone in New England ordered during the brief window that was possible.

Laguna Green

The Coupe wasn’t selling well when I bought it and I knew that. This was a plus for me. I paid a premium for all of the niceties I had ordered, but also for a bit of exclusivity. I must have waved to hundreds of MINI motorers since I purchased the Coupe, but only a handful of times have I ever run into other Coupes. Now that production of these cars is over, their numbers will dwindle in coming years and the MINI Coupe will be even more rare than it is today. Those with a limited-time color have pretty rare cars. I’d like to find out how many JCW Coupes were sold in total. (If anyone knows, feel free to post in the comments below!) All of this said, the Paceman may end up being the most rare of modern MINIs given its short run, but I believe the Coupe will remain the most attention-grabbing MINI to date, even for those who find it unattractive.

Say what you want about the polarizing styling, the experience of pulling up to a gas station or even just parking in a lot in the R58 is usually over-the-top positive for large numbers of Coupe owners. For me, reactions have ranged from, “What is that?” to “Is that thing half as fun to drive as it is to look at?” to “Oh my gosh, what a cute car!” Nothing short of a puppy could be this much of an attention-getter. So why is it that the R58 gets so little love from some MINI owners, yet turns heads and garners thumbs up from others? It’s all in the styling — people love it or hate it with few finding themselves in-between.

Oswin MOT 2013 1280x720

The top of the car is definitely the conversation piece. Most Coupe owners I’ve heard from repeatedly are asked, “Does the top come off?” This question is asked so frequently that Coupe owner, James Day, created and sold t-shirts with the Coupe on the front, and the words, “No, it doesn’t come off” on the back. If people don’t think it comes off, they often think it is a hardtop convertible that tucks into the back somewhere. Regardless, the Coupe’s lid is an iconic design that has caused numerous journalists to describe it as, “ugly” or “a backwards baseball cap.” It even landed the Coupe on at least one list of the ugliest car of the year.

No it doesnt come off 1280x720

Ownership tells a different story. It seems the polarization extends to ownership as well. Some Coupe owners traded in their new car because they found the ride too harsh. Other Coupe owners are fiercely proud of their purchase and wouldn’t trade the ride for anything, although trading the run flats for some softer summer tires seems to be a popular and fun mod for Coupe owners.

So what does the future hold? Personally I believe, and hope, the Coupe will become a sought-after model many years from now after a period of depreciation. MINI enthusiasts who had kids at the time they were shopping for their first MINI, who found the Coupe attractive but too impractical will eventually be empty nesters. If they remain fond of the MINI brand they may seek out this model because they couldn’t buy it back in the day. Of course, predicting when a car will become a classic is like predicting earthquakes — it’s easy to be wrong. And no, by “classic” I don’t mean classic in the way the Shelby Cobra has become, but rather a classic among MINI enthusiasts. Only time will tell how history treats the Coupe and its Roadster sibling.

The next time you see a Coupe owner, give them a wave. Just don’t ask them if the top comes off.

  • DharmaMayonnaise

    I always thought they looked fantastic, just overpriced a bit.

    • Chris Harte

      They were only $300-400 more than their equivalent hardtop. A small price to pay for a higher top speed and being most rigid Mini model :).

      I was a big fan of the Mini24 styling. Would totally be interested in scooping up a JCW Coupe if the F56 JCW wasn’t looking so promising!

  • great write up!!! as a fellow coupe owner (2013 S), i’m in the LOVE IT group. our situations seem very similar so it fit my bill perfectly. The only thing I wish I would have done differently would have been to gone JCW from the start instead of making my S into a JCW via mods.

    Again thank you for such a great write up from a coupe owner’s perspective. I think our babies will become classics sooner than later; we are hot coupes in a hot hatch world. 🙂

  • Rick Roberts

    I have a 2013 Coupe S. I love mine. MINI Connected has been a disappointment and I regret getting that option. I think the old school speedometer would have been better. Next month will be our 2nd year. I can’t think why I would trade it before my insurance company makes me switch to a car with an AI driver.

  • Eric

    Coupe owners pleasure themselves…

  • hemisedan

    Kurt, much of what you have said i comparable to what I have found with my r59 too. While on vacation, this is rather ironic, the only MINI that we saw was a r58 coupe in the Black HIlls area. No Countryman, no Paceman or Clubman, or even a hatch. That is until we got much closer into Denver. One episode that was really funny is when while in Cheyenne I parked the car, close to a downtown hotel, a guy asked what kind of car the roadster was. I told him, then he said that our roadster is just about the neatest car he’d ever seen, looks good from all angles, even better than the doctors Ferrari. Now I wouldn’t go that far, and there are some views of the roadster that do seem a bit out of proportion, but it was a neat comment. He then said that he’d watch over the roadster while we were in eating so no kids would mess with it. Kind of funny at the time, I was more worried about him than kids

    But this is the kind of comments we have entertained many times during little vacations that we have taken with it. That was a 2500+ mile vacation, and except for the automatic transmission, it was a pleasure and fun to drive. Let’s see, a Pepper White Roadster with Chili Red Stripes in the mountains of Colorado, as well as the Black Hills, with the top down in October. And with snow in the back ground of a couple of pictures. Hate to see the r59, as well as the r58 go and too bad more didn’t take advantage of them while still here. Price probably had more to do with the lack of sales than anything, just my opinion.

    • minicooperracer

      I really need to take mine to the Black Hills! Love that area.

  • ulrichd

    Not my favorite design by a long shot but I applaud any manufacturer these days that takes a chance on something a bit different. I used to own a 2000 M-Coupe and boy did people love to hate that car.


      and now the tides have turned and the M coupe’s are getting a lot of attention and demand now. 🙂

  • minicooperracer

    I put a deposit on mine in March of 2011… Yes that was before they were available for purchase and I picked it up in October of 2011. Since then I have had numerous people ask about taking the top off and of course the people that hate the style as well as those that love it.

    I thought about waiting on the Roadster but I did not want to deal with a full roll cage in a small space and a lot of tracks require one for convertibles. I had ordered mine with JCW suspension however it was delayed a few times and I ended up just going with different camber plates and coilovers anwyay but even before that, I autocrossed on stock suspension for three years and it did great.

    My Coupe was a replacement for my 06 MCS that was going to just be a track car and I wanted just a different model. You can really get the Coupe to rotate like no other MINI and I am beyond happy that I purchased it.

    Along with many autocross events, we did head to Circuit of the America’s track last weekend for a little play time on the big course and when you are getting point by’s from M3’s and almost everyone else out there, you appreciate your Coupe that much more. Sadly in the rain and M5 met the wall last weekend but this little Coupe had a field day out there.

  • Bob Lavoie

    I owned my special ordered 2012 JCW Coupe in Metallic Orange for about 3 years 2 months before I traded for my current special ordered F55S 4 door nearly 3 months ago. It was a tough decision I just had to make. I really enjoyed the Coupe after having had an ’08 Cooper S hatch for 4 years. It visited the MOTDragon event twice in the 3 years…note one of attached photos. Early during my ownership, I blacked out all of the chrome…headlight & taillight rings, grill border, door handles, winged hood/truck lid badges (bonnet/boots for you across the pond) & beltline! Being a 2012, only 6 speed manual was available which was also what I preferred. Also HK sound, Nav, Xenon, rear view detection system…even added carbon filer hood scoop & hatch handle. By the time I finished all the options, it was just short of $40K. But during the 3+ years of ownership, I just couldn’t get one big negative out of my mind…the poor rear visibility! The rear quarters produced huge voids in visibility along with the small rear window…especially with the wing up in place. Although single most of that time, I found that travels with my future wife as of 3 months ago were quite tight regarding carrying capacity. Thus my interest in the new F55S 4 door came about…in Thunder Gray with black roof. It cost only a couple K short of what I paid for the JCW Coupe but it had many more options that weren’t even available on the Coupe such as all LED’s, rear camera, upgrade Nav, etc. I really enjoy its wide range of driveability from the lean Green mode thru the Normal & beyond to the Sport mode. And I even opted for the 6 speed auto with paddles instead of the manual I had on my 1st 2 MINIs. Lots of changes from the JCW Coupe which I’ll miss for its very special uniqueness, performance & eye catching looks. But my F55S has quickly become a very enjoyable & practical MINI while still being lots of fun to drive. My wife &7 I are looking forward to this year’s MOTD only 5 weeks away.

    • Kurtster

      I just keep telling myself that if I had an Aston Martin Vanquish I’d have limited rear visibility too. 😉

    • hemisedan

      I think that it was you mentioned the UPGRADED NAV in a post. Can anyone tell me what the difference in the 6.5 NAV system versus the 8.8 larger NAV other than the size? What’s the difference in all the various things that either can do?

      • robble

        The f56 nav is much nicer than the r56 nav.

  • This California Native thinks RWD in snow is the only way to go!

  • This is the interior I wanted with a Laguna Green exterior…discontinued before I could order. http://gtcarlot.com/interiors/Mini/Cooper/2013/69996627/69974495.html

  • artguy

    I’m the guy with the silver/silver coupe. Ordered it at MINI of Peabody quite a bit earlier than the “able to order” date. I am of the opinion that white silver with the silver roof looks way cooler than if it had a black roof. We had no idea if MINI would actually produce the car in that combination, as it wasn’t supposed to be an allowable combination. I guess I’m going to have to hang onto this one, since it’s quite possibly the only one of its kind in the US. 60K miles and still going strong! JCW tuning kit, alcantara steering wheel and spoiler added. I STILL get stared at 3 years later!! 🙂

    • James Nolan

      I’d love to see some pictures of it, sounds like a fabulous combination. I’m not old enough to afford a new mini at the monent- TBF my little classic likes to swallow all the money I do earn- but the coupe is definately at the top of my list in a few years when I’m perusing the used car lots for a reliable little everyday car. Let’s hope the prices stay reasonable.

    • robble

      There is one white silver with silver roof S coupe in Hawaii also.

  • Chris

    This has absolutely been the best car I’ve owned. I honestly have never felt an issue about rear visibility. The small windows help and if you can’t see in the blindspot, hit the gas!! By the way, mine is for sale on Cars.com – http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/632221214/overview/ Got my eye on something else, will miss this Coupe very much!

  • Paroxy

    I purchased a used 2012 Cooper S Coupe a few years ago so I got a great price. It was love at first sight when I saw it on the car lot. Even after years of owning it my heart would still swell whenever I looked at it in the driveway. Sure backing out of parking spots without getting hit required a little luck, and buying oversized items at Walmart required hiring a friend with a larger car, but I didn’t mind. To me it was the perfect car and I easily resisted any temptation to modify anything on it. My customers loved talking about it and asking if the roof comes off.

    The wife didn’t appreciate it like I did and after a year of nagging (about not having back seats), I traded the Coupe in for a factory JCW hatchback (also used). This one has tons of energy compared to the Coupe, the clutch feels nicer, the suspension is strangely smoother, and its has the all features I was missing on the Coupe… but this one still doesn’t pull on my heart strings like the Coupe did. The Coupe felt more refined, more reserved. To me it feels like I traded a BMW for a Civic, an adult’s car for college kid’s car.

    I’m still not 100% sure if I made the right choice….

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/28c1c117f610a609a002c06930e18b098dbe562da4eb9376d2eef3175219dd68.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/38e795b57f3030dbdd89f7aa32389748f03ae486fb551886e5cc1c25630579e3.jpg