What’s it like?
Mini’s aim with the Coupe was to create a car that went one better than the hatchback in terms of overall driver appeal. However, the need to use as many carry over components as possible in a bid to make the new car profitable mean the mechanical package is virtually the same – and in many respects the way it drives, too.
The low roof makes entry a little more difficult than in the hatchback, but the seats are set low enough to ensure even tall drivers can be accommodated without any head room issues, thanks in part to a scalloped out headliner.
Although the driving position is unchanged over the hatchback, the more heavily raked windscreen and lower roof gives the Coupe a more sporting air from the driver’s seat. The drawback? Vision, not least to the rear which is restricted by the shallow glass.
Performance wise, there’s little to criticise. The turbocharged 1.6-litre engine in the Cooper S version driven here for the first time develops 177lb ft of torque between 1600rpm and 5000rpm – including a peak of 192lb ft between 1700 and 4500rpm, providing the Coupe with a good turn of speed out of the blocks and tremendous flexibility on the run.
Mini claims 0-62mph in 6.9sec and top speed at 143mph. As with the hatchback, though, it is the in-gear acceleration that impresses the most. Plant your foot at low revs in low gears and you’re treated to solid acceleration that is all part of the Coupe’s eager nature.
Although the roof has no load bearing function, a substantial transverse beam mounted above the rear axle helps provide a level of stiffness approaching other Mini models.
First impressions, after an extended run around an Austrian driver training facility in a pre-production prototype, suggest it has succeeded, although the difference in character between the two from behind the wheel is not great. There are subtle improvements in dynamic terms, less initial roll on turn in and a more securely planted rear end when you lift off mid corner among them, just don’t expect it to provide a vastly different driving experience to its much loved sibling.
The interior of the Coupe mirrors that of the cabriolet up front – right on down to the height of its seats. The rear, however, has been completely revised, with the rear seats making way for a parcel shelf and a handy load through feature that can be accessed from the driver’s seat. The boot is 120-litres larger than that of that of the hatchback at 280-litres thanks to the lack of rear seats, but a cross member running through the floor means the load bay is not flat.
Should I buy one?
If you can live with the striking looks and driving appeal is a priority, it’s certainly worth considering. Pricing is yet to be announced. But the Mini Coupe retains all the fundamentals that have made the hatchback such an outstanding success over the past decade or so.
It’s tremendously entertaining, and with all that space up back is highly practical by two seater standards. Be warned, though, a Roadster version is also planned to join the Mini line-up in early 2012. It, we suspect, may be even more fun.
Mini Coupé Cooper S
Price: na; Top speed: 143mph; 0-62mph: 6.9sec; Economy: 48.7mpg; CO2: 136g/km; Kerb weight: na; Engine, type, cc: 1598cc turbocharged petrol; Power: 181bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 177lb ft at 1600-5000rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual