2012 was a busy year for MINI and MotoringFile. The Coupe and Roadster were brought to market, the GP and Paceman made their debuts, and the Countryman continued to sell well. So in an effort to recap some of our favorite moments of the year, we’re bringing you our favorite reviews of the year. The JCW Coupe vs the Abarth, the Roadster, our long-term Countryman and even the GP at the track, we’ve got it all after the break.

MotoringFile First Drive: MINI Paceman

When the BMW X6 was introduced there was no one clamoring for a less functional, sportier version of the X5. Yet sales followed at a pace that made BMW look like geniuses, and other automakers took note. Now MINI has introduced its own crossover coupe in the MINI Paceman. Is the Paceman another answer to a question no one was asking? Or is it another brilliant move? [Read]

MotoringFile Video Review: 2013 MINI JCW GP

Six years ago a legend was born. MINI released the GP to a market that wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. The stickers, the lack of rear seats, a big wing received more than a few sideways looks from critics (us included). Despite the skepticism, the GP performed better than any MINI ever had, and crucially for MINI, it sold. Along the way, the car changed opinions across the automotive world (us included). Driving was believing as this “parts bin” car seemed to transcend the status quo and take MINI driving back to it’s simplistic roots.

Fast forward six years and we have a new GP. One that looks the part but, like the original, has garnered mixed opinions among the motoring press and enthusiasts alike. The critics point at 211 hp, down three from the original, and a set of graphics that some call garish. Yet there are signs that MINI did this second generation JCW GP even more right this time. With a coil-over suspension and six-pot brakes up front, for example. So what kind of GP is this? We flew to Mallorca in Spain, to Circuito Mallorca RennArena, to answer that question and get the story behind it all. [Read]

MF Garage: December Roadster Road-trip

It’s pitch-black, 43F and my top is down as I head into Michigan. This isn’t the sunny coastal drive that this car was made for but it’s doing this late Autumn Midwestern drive justice nonetheless. It’s no surprise that our Roadster has been a healthy dose of fun since we picked it up fresh from MTTS. From the weekend road-trips to the day to day, it’s proven to be a delightful combination of performance, style, and usability. And if you follow any of my Instagram feed you’ll know how often this car has been thoroughly tested on long midwestern jaunts. But this one was to be different. The goal was to go top down as long as possible through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and then finally to Wisconsin. And it’s December. [Read]


MF Garage: 1200 Miles in 12 Days in a JCW Roadster

Our first 12 days with MotoringFile’s long term JCW Roadster have been nothing but eventful. The first two trips (both to Road America) were spent top down and fully packed. From there it was daily commuting duty into and out of Chicago. Then just days later, we were off to western Michigan for a long weekend. Again, top down 100% of the time. In all, we’ve gotten to know our Roadster better and quicker than almost any other car we’ve tested. All of it. The exceptional? The not so exceptional? The questionable? What’s what? [Read]

MotoringFile Review: MINI JCW Coupe

Sometimes journalists are wrong. As I sit here at an outdoor table, at a cafe in a particularly stylish spot in Chicago, I’m watching people do double takes as they walk by our black JCW Coupe and its red top. I’m on my second iced coffee and every reaction I’ve seen has been positive. I’ve seen stylish women pointing and little boys taking pictures.

In a neighborhood thick with Ferraris, Porsches and the like, this little car is clearly the most interesting thing on the streets. It’s moments like this that make me realize that jaded journalists should be the last people anointed as the automotive taste-makers. Could the R58 MINI Coupe be on a slow burn like the original BMW Z3 M Coupe? After spending a week with the car, I’m beginning to think so. In fact, I think the car’s production life-cycle will come and go before the grassroots ground swell of positive reaction hits its stride. This is a car that will get popular with time, and by the time this little black and red JCW finds its way into the hands of its second or third owner, the R58 will likely be spoken of in reverential terms. [Read]

MotoringFile Review: 2012 MINI Cooper S Roadster

Kindchenschema. It’s a German word, but the idea is universal. Humans are intrinsically attracted to small things with large features — like a puppy or a baby. These things disarm us and give us a warm, happy feeling. According to the MINI Design team, it’s this idea that’s behind the design of the MINI, and perhaps never better exemplified than with the MINI Roadster.

However, it’s not just the puppy dog looks that attract me to the Roadster. To me it’s summed up neatly by one word: simplicity. From the moment I walked up to the Roadster, that was my first reaction. The look is easy to wrap your head around. Step into the familiar cabin, flip down the top and just toss it over your head. There is no pretense. There is no step two. This is a car that strips away the unessential and gives you the most pure experience possible. [Read]

MF Garage: 10,000 Miles of the Countryman

When the Countryman was first announced, pretty much everyone on MF hoped the earth would crack open and swallow it whole the moment it arrived. A MINI “SUV” needed to be sent back to whatever vile hell it came from. But a funny thing happened as we got to know the four door MINI: we started to like it. When I say we, naturally that’s a few of us at MF (not all), and some of you. So while opinions are still split on the largest MINI ever made, sales have been going quite well. The R60 now accounts for a third of all MINI sales this year worldwide.

That left us with questions. To better understand this car that’s created so much debate, we thought a long term review was in order. So did MINI USA, and we ordered our Countryman Cooper S All4 in the spring of 2011 for a mid-summer delivery. 10,000 miles later we have some answers. [Read]

MF Review: Fiat 500 Abarth vs MINI JCW Coupe

Ever since Fiat announced it was building an Abarth version of the 500, MINI owners have been raising their eyebrows. Sure, the basic 500 is a decent car but, as we found out last year, it simply doesn’t compare well to the MINI in either build quality or performance. Enter the Abarth — the car conceived to go head-to-head with the MINI Cooper S and (if you listen to Fiat) even the JCW. So instead of reviewing the 500 Abarth on its own, we took up Fiat’s JCW challenge. We threw it into the ring with the newly-release MINI JCW Coupe. Apples to oranges you say? There’s only one way to find out. [Read]

MF Garage: MINI Countryman Cooper S End of Term

It’s been one year and 13,000 miles since we first took the keys fob of the MINI Countryman Cooper S All4. This is a car more than a few MINI fans thought would destroy the brand. A car that we publicly criticized for existing before it even existed. And a car that earned our respect day after day while carrying passengers, groceries, luggage and MINI-like speeds through corners.

But lets back up. Along with all the initial opinions on the Countryman we had questions. In order to better understand a car that’s created so much debate, we thought a long term review was in order. So did MINI USA. Fast forward a few months and our 2011 Countryman Cooper S All4 was ordered and on track for a mid-summer delivery. A year later we have some answers.[Read]