Human beings can be a fickle bunch, especially Americans. Case in point: The five-door hatchback is unarguably one of the best arrangements for an automobile, providing ample room for adult-size occupants and their random detritus without being so large as to significantly impact fuel efficiency or make it difficult to fit into tight places.
And yet we consistently flock to ever-larger vehicles with the biggest, most powerful engines available. We opt for SUVs and crossovers in lieu of wagons and hatches; we ogle over sloping rear greenhouses, high beltlines and severely raked windshields. In short, our decisions are often dictated more by style and perception than the realities of daily life.
But we're not here to condemn style-conscious consumers. We're equally as enamored with the latest fashion-forward trends as the next red-blooded enthusiast. But we still have to wonder how far the ooh-it's-pretty attention spans of car buyers will go before a lack of usability begins to hinder purchase decisions. To help answer that question, we took to the roads in and around Nashville, Tennessee in the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe.
Since we're already talking fashion, let's dissect what sets the new Cooper Coupe apart from the rest of the Mini line. Most obviously, there's a completely new roofline and greenhouse that's defined by what the automaker calls a helmet. Seriously. While we don't normally attach the term 'helmet head' with amorous thoughts, it's at least a striking design that won't be mistaken for anything else on the road. At the front of the greenhouse is a windshield that's raked 13-degrees more sharply than the regular Cooper; at the rear is a sloping backlight punctuated at the top by a backwards-facing brim. It's all far removed from the upright look of the standard hatchback and its near vertical rear window.
The rest of the car carries all the cues expected of the reborn Mini brand, including the large oval headlamps, tall slab sides and short front and rear overhangs. Up front is the familiar double-decker grille flanked by a pair of fog lamps, and the bulbous hood includes an air intake on models equipped with turbocharged engines. The rear is dominated by the slick new spoiler that automatically raises itself at 50 miles per hour. Though the unit automatically stows itself at 37 mph, there's no way to manually lower it, a functionality drivers may want, as it distinctly impedes rear visibility. You can, however, manually raise it at slow speeds or when stopped via a toggle in the cabin. Again, fashion before form.
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