Long-Term Car: Public Perception And The Mini Coupe

By Brandon Turkus

March 21, 2012

I enjoy social experiments. I’ll put something in front of people, and weigh their reaction to it, whether positive or negative, and answer any questions they may have. This is particularly fun when working at a car magazine, where we have a group of vehicles that changes on a weekly basis. There’s always fresh new sheetmetal in the parking lot, some of which won’t be on sale quite yet, and won’t become a common occurrence on public roads for at least several months (if not longer).
These social experiments have been the most fun with our long-term Mini Cooper S Coupe. The Mini has been on US roads for almost 10 years, and is more or less an accepted sight at this point. Still, I’ve been pelted with questions when driving my personal Minis as well as driving this new version. It’s a popular car with people, and the unusual design of our long-term Coupe seems to be particularly intriguing.
The first question that I get or assumption that I overhear is about the roof. It seems, for some reason, that people think the two-seat Mini Coupe is, in fact, a convertible. Frankly, I’m baffled at how they arrive at this conclusion. The long, wrap-around rear window and baseball-hat spoiler would seem to make a hardtop convertible completely impossible in this form, and that’s before we look at the space limitations of the Coupe and the space needs of a stored folding hardtop. I’m not an isolated case here, as other Winding Road editors have had similar experiences.
The sheer level of attention for this car is more impressive than in any other Mini I’ve driven. People are intrigued by it, because it’s a serious deviation from a shape that’s become quite familiar over the past decade. Surprisingly, based on the chatter from the media during the launch (which could best be described as mixed), the general perception of the design has been quite positive. Most people like the way the Coupe looks. I’m guessing part of this has to do with the rather low-key paint scheme. The Eclipse Gray/Black paint and eighteen-inch black-and-silver Bullet wheels do a good job of hiding some of the styling details, particularly the small rear window between the B and C-pillar. Were it a more outgoing paint scheme (like the Chili Red and Silver scheme that was nixed by EIC Miersma), I think the public opinion would be a bit more negative.
As the warm weather continues and summer arrives in force, we’ll be cleaning the Mini up, and perhaps taking it to some of the impromptu car shows that pop up around Metro Detroit during the summer. We’ll be sure to get the reactions of the enthusiast crowd, and see how they contrast with the general public.
—Brandon Turkus, Online Editor
+ Long-Term Car: Windy City Road Trip
+ Long-Term Car: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe At The Sno*Drift Rally