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2012 MINI Cooper Coupe Preview

If you've never heard of such a thing, you're not alone. Many automakers nowadays use a similar tactic to set their products apart and above the rest. Just think about Kia, which sells the Soul as an ''urban utility vehicle''.

Beyond the fancy definitions and marketing gibberish, this MINI visually stands out with three-box styling, a helmet-shaped roofline and particularly-steep tail.

Its overall length (3,734 mm), width (1,384 mm) and wheelbase (2,467 mm) stay true to classic MINI proportions, although the lowered profile immediately makes the aspirations of this pint-sized coupe quite clear.

Performance or efficiency? Why not both?
All trim levels feature a 6-speed manual (standard) or automatic gearbox and 4-cylinder engine with direct injection. The base Coupe (121 hp, 118 lb-ft) will meet most people's needs, while the S (181 hp, 177 lb-ft) and John Cooper Works (208 hp, 192 lb-ft) models will certainly satisfy thrill seekers and driving enthusiasts, depending on their budget.

On the road, the little notchback promises exhilarating performance. The JCW sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds, whereas the entry-level model boasts a far less exciting, though still respectable time of 8.9 seconds.

Using MacPherson struts up front and a multilink setup in the back, with available stabilizer bars, the company brags about the MINI Coupe offering go-kart handling. An active rear spoiler integrated to the trunk lid will deploy at 80 km/h to optimize the aerodynamic balance between the two axles. At top speed, it will deliver 88 pounds of extra downforce.