The drive is predictable, firm and reminiscent of a go-kart for kids.
Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Mini Coupe with specs, fuel economy and verdict.
The sixth distinct new-age Mini model makes its mark. Not since the Suzuki Mighty Boy has such outrage hit the bitumen.
In yet another variation on a theme, the Mini franchise has produced a pocket-book two-door model that appeals to anyone who wants to be seen. There is no classification for a buyer of this car and, indeed, probably competes with cars that tend to be a little on the quirky side of the street. Like the long-gone Might Boy and the Suzuki Move.
The Mini Coupe appears short, yet is based on the original hatchback platform, and wide, snub-nosed in arrogance and beetle-tailed - a rear styling quirk that looks like the proceeds of an incident with a large truck or a randy Land Cruiser.
Not a lot, but who can put a price on being distinctive? It's well built and the feature list is average. The option list is huge, but that's what creates the exclusivity of the car. The Coupe makes some sense for single buyers, even couples, but at $45,340 it's an expensive two seater and there's probably more than a few dozen rivals that'll do the transport aspect of the job better and cheaper.
But not as obvious. There's four models - Cooper, Cooper S, a diesel and a hot John Cooper Works - with the tester being the S with its turbo-petrol engine and auto gearbox. Price is $45,340, up $2350 on the manual gearbox, and includes 17-inch alloys, sport button, bi-xenon headlights, climate aircon and cloths seats. Options include leather ($1560), the must-have Harman-Kardon audio ($1500) and metallic paint ($900).
Different. As the platypus of the Mini family, the Coupe looks convoluted and even awkward, but hides a neat liftback to access the expansive room once used by folded rear-seat passengers. It's a better solution to the near-zero space offered by the hatch model's rear seat. There's a centre hatch to prod long objects from the boot into the cabin, a main glovebox and a secondary "secret'' dash compartment. The pop-up rear spoiler is merely a talking point.
The biggest surprise about the dashboard is that Mini hasn't changed it (though future models get window switches on the doors) and it remains a mish-mash of switch gear designs and locations set beneath an enormous, perspex-covered and highly reflective speedometer that harks back to the original Mini's folly. It's 2012 guys.
The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is a highlight here. It works well with the power characteristics of the S-model's turbo engine, is responsive and doesn't have the chasms of indecision that often plague Volkswagen's DSG system. The engine, made by PSA and seen on its Peugeot RCZ, is also a top-notch powerplant. The suspension is firm yet not too hard on the body, while the electric steering is nice and sharp.
This is a five-star car with four airbags (there's only two occupants) and all the BMW-inspired electronic aids. That 's stability and traction control, rear park sensors, a hill-holder and auto bi-xenon headlights and wipers. There's no rear wiper and no spare wheel as it uses run-flat tyres.
Predictable, firm and reminiscent of a go-kart for kids, the Coupe loses none of the precision of the other (except Countryman) Minis. It is a very enjoyable drive, the only distraction being the need to keep a few brain neurons free to memorise the erratic switch placement. The coupe roof crimps the cabin space a bit and thanks to a multi-pillared C-section, reduces visibility to the rear three-quarters - not helped in lane changing by the small mirrors.
It's not particularly quiet with some wind noise and even more tyre noise over coarse bitumen. But the engine cooling fan wins the gold medal for noise. It runs after engine switch and produces colourful language from neighbours when arriving home late at night. But I love driving Minis. The handling is so confident that you can change tack mid-corner, while the engine just keeps on giving.
An expensive way to get noticed.
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km, roadside assist
Resale: 55 per cent
Service interval: advisory/12 months
Safety rating: Five star
Spare: none (run-flat tyres)
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo-petrol 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Body: 3.7m (L); 1.7m (w); 1.4m (h)
Thirst: 6.7 1/100km; 95RON; 155g/km Co2
Toyota 86 GTS
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cyl petrol, 147kW/205Nm
Transmission: 6-spd auto, rear drive
Body: 2-door coupe
Thirst: 7.1L/100km; 95RON; CO2 164g/km
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-spd auto, front drive
Body: 2-door hatch
Thirst: 7.3L/100km; 95RON; CO2 168g/km
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 188kW/330Nm
Transmission: 6-spd dual-clutch auto, front drive
Body: 2-door hatch
Thirst: 8.2L/100km; 95RON; CO2 192g/km