– Fun handling
– Fun engine
– Fun gadgetry
– Price not fun
– Practicality not fun
– Firm ride not fun
There was a time when there was only one “new” Mini, a quaint little hatchback with two doors and a couple of engine options. Then came the soft-top Cabrio, which was still fine. Then came the three-door Clubman, which didn’t do too well, but still had some precedent in its history. When the Countryman debuted, the history books were well and truly discarded, and Mini became a badge more than an idea. Joining the ever-expanding line-up this year is the Mini Coupe.
The Coupe isn’t really breaking any “Mini” rules, but rather, bending them. Based fully on the Mini hatchback, the only difference is a lower roofline with sharper-raking front and rear windshields. Everything else is almost exactly the same, as far as we can tell. It does get a roof spoiler and a pop-up rear boot-lid spoiler, although the “boot-lid” is actually a liftback hatch.
Even the interior is exactly the same, with black leather upholstery, beige leatherette door inserts, a soft-touch dash and padded door panels, just enough to make it feel somewhat premium. Below-the-belt plastics remain hard, and the controls remain quirky. Every power function has a toggle switch instead of a regular button, starting from the electric windows all the way to the roof control.
The manually-adjustable sports seats have good side-bolstering, and there is good space up front. One big difference from the hatchback is that there is no back seat at all in the Coupe. But this means the cargo boot is rather sizeable for a car this size. The access is big thanks to the lift-up tailgate and stylised “buttresses” above the compartment can be removed for even more space, while there is even a net to hold down small items, and a pass-through hole into the cabin. But the floor is not flat, and things kept on the carpeted shelf behind the seats just fly around when driving fast. At least there are two cup-holders.
Gadgetry included a BMW-style multimedia-nav system with a visually attractive interface and a little rotary-knob controller. The stereo was pretty decent, but the nav system takes a good while to get used to. Other features included smart keyless entry and starter button, working Bluetooth, HID headlights, fog lamps, and a basic automatic a/c that worked well, but then again, we tested it in the middle of March. Front and side airbags are standard, as are the usual power-operated accessories.
Our Cooper S has the direct-injection 1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder motor that makes 184 hp at 5500 rpm, and 240 Nm of torque from 1600 rpm to 5000 rpm, with apparently an overboost function that kicks it up to 260 Nm from 1700 rpm to 4500 rpm when floored. It felt more muscular on the roll, and actually gave the impression of a fast car rather than just a quick car, even when saddled with a 6-speed automatic. There is a solid kick from the get-go, squealing its tyres as it takes off, with a bit of obvious torque steer so the steering wheel needs to be held tight.
Of course, the Mini is a noisy car, and all that buzzing from under the bonnet makes it feel faster than it really is. Our 0-100 kph runs netted a time of 7.2 seconds, pretty much the same as every other Cooper S hatchback we drove. Gears can be manually changed via paddle-shifters, though they aren’t particularly instant in their responses. We burned petrol at a rate of 10.4 litres/100 km, fairly frugal considering how much we pounded on the throttle.
One would expect a Mini to be easy to drive in traffic, and it is, especially with an automatic. Parking would normally be tricky due to the terrible rear view, but the beeping sensors on this tiny car make it easy. The ride quality is firm, but not too jarring and easily bearable on the daily commute. But on some under-construction roads, potholes feel like craters, while road noise from the firm run-flat tyres is prominent at anything more than 120 kph. Still, we feel the wind noise is lower in the Coupe compared to the hatchback, thanks to that aerodynamic profile.
It is noteworthy that the pricey Coupe retains the go-kart handling that defines every Mini. It takes corners with ridiculous ease, with only a tiny hint of body roll. The low-profile 205/45 rubber wrapping the 17-inch rims rarely ever squeal while taking sharp turns, and grip limits are so high that the stability-control nannies are hardly bothered. The Coupe even seems to let its tail out slightly on certain curves, but it pulls itself in line without the electronic nannies interfering. Braking is fairly strong, with the four-wheel-disc brakes bringing the car to quick easy stops. Everything that is going on around the car can be felt through the steering. The drive is very involving, but also a bit compromised by an ever-so-slight delay in throttle response in normal mode, although the issue reduced when driving in ‘sport’ mode.
The Mini Coupe Cooper S is, expectedly, one of the most fun-to-drive cars in current existence, right alongside its siblings. It isn’t a whole lot more expensive than the regular hatchback, so it becomes a question of whether you want to give up a little more practicality with a little more style. And we emphasise the ‘little’ part, because the Mini hatch isn’t that practical to begin with, while the coupe styling isn’t really noticed by ordinary bystanders, aside from other Mini owners who kept driving circles around us while staring. The Cooper S is priced right up there alongside a Ford Mustang GT, so you’d have to really want a quirky go-kart handler to appreciate its value.
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