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MINI COUPER

MINI's range continues to grow with the addition of the two-door Coupe. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

Yet another twist on the MINI theme, the chop-topped Coupe offers two seats, some very distinctive styling and a cosier cabin. While it may not be quite as elegant as some of its rivals it makes up with its attitude and dynamic ability.

Background

How far can MINI tease and stretch its brand? It's an interesting question. We've had the MINI hatch, Clubman estate, convertible and even a big MINI, the Countryman, in varying flavours ranging from modest One to maniacal Cooper S Works. Front-wheel drive, four wheel drive, manual, automatic, petrol, diesel - there seems to be very few niches yet unfilled. MINI believes otherwise and the brand shows no sign of putting the brakes on its rapid product proliferation. The MINI Coupe sees its BMW paymasters targeting customers who might otherwise be tempted by something like a Peugeot RCZ or an entry-level Audi TT. A step too far? We've said that before about some of MINI's other products and been forced to eat our hats so judgement is firmly reserved this time round. If the form line continues, expect these to be very popular indeed.

Driving Experience

Given that the Coupe shares its running gear with the more familiar hatch models, it won't surprise you to learn that it drives much like them too. Outputs range from the 122bhp of the MINI Cooper Coupe, to the diesel-powered 143bhp Cooper SD Coupe and 184bhp Cooper S Coupe. At the top of the line up sits the MINI John Cooper Works Coupe, and if you can say that without sounding like Colin Firth rehearsing for The King's Speech, you'll manage just fine with its 211bhp.

The driving position is good and low, the Coupe borrowing the Convertible's seat mounts. Taller drivers will need to be careful when getting in as the cut down windscreen means the roofline is a good deal lower than the hatch. Once tucked behind the wheel, you'll find scallops in the headlining to offer another inch of so of room for the coif. The so-called 'helmet roof' sits 29mm lower than that of the hatch. Although marginally heavier than the MINI hatch, the Coupe is a fraction quicker, and after a bit of head scratching we found out that this is due to the weight distribution shifting forwards a little and offering better traction to the driven wheels.

Design and Build

The Coupe's development has been part of a two model product introduction, the other being the Roadster, which shares the low-profile windscreen. The roof of this hard top model doesn't include any strengthening members, torsional rigidity instead provided by a toughened windscreen header rail and a transverse bar that's mounted above the rear axle. A strict two seater, the Coupe has a surprisingly big tailgate section which leads to a boot and a through-loading facility which offers 120 litres more carrying capacity than the hatch.

Otherwise build quality feels much as in the rest of the MINI range. The thirteen degrees of extra rake in the screen gives the car a more sporting appearance, but a quick straw poll of colleagues delivered mixed responses on the success of the styling. Let's just say that the Coupe is very colour sensitive. Choose the right colour, trim and wheels and it can look very special. Get it wrong and it can appear a little frumpy. What more of an excuse do you need to while away some time on MINI's online configurator?

Market and Model

MINI has kicked off the Coupe range with a bang, offering the Cooper model to mop up the volume sales and then three more specialist models. The Cooper SD is perhaps the most beguiling of the three, offering a powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine that sips fuel yet more than does the sporting pretensions justice. It's the same powerplant found in the BMW 118d and might just be the pick of the range. Of course, those preferring the verve of a forced induction petrol engine will beg to differ. The 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant developed in conjunction with Peugeot might just be the finest small capacity petrol engine around at the moment and it powers the Cooper S and the John Cooper Works Coupe models.

With prices around £2,000 over the cost of an equivalent MINI hatch, the Coupe squares up more closely to the Peugeot RCZ than the Audi TT. Six-speed manual gearboxes are fitted as standard across the range, with six-speed automatic transmissions optional on all models bar the John Cooper Works.

Cost of Ownership

The variable valve timing technology of the MINI Cooper's engine helps to improve fuel economy, depending on the route the driver is covering. The Cooper Coupe achieves 52.3mpg mpg (combined cycle) which isn't far off the showing of the 95bhp MINI One model. The Cooper SD does better still, with 60mpg a realistic average if you're careful with the throttle pedal. MINI reckons on a combined fuel figure of 65.7mpg but even with all the MINIMALISM fuel-saving technology built in, that would be hard to achieve day in, day out. The 114g/km emissions figure will mean cheap tax though.

Insurance is fairly reasonable, although it will pay to shop around for a decent quote as some insurers have taken to loading MINI Cooper quotes rather unreasonably. Servicing is an area where the MINI excels as the ground-breaking MINI tlc service pack for 5 years or 50,000 miles is still available.

Summary

The MINI Coupe is one of those vehicles that you've probably decided right from first sight whether you'll love or hate. Some will see it as a rather cynical attempt at gouging as much income as possible from the base platform but it's actually a more appealing thing than you might at first think. I'll leave it to you to decide whether you get on with the styling but as long as you don't have call for rear seats, it makes an interesting alternative to the garden variety hatch and the raked screen and 'helmet roof' feel more special when you're behind the wheel.

What's undeniable is that it shares the effervescent feel of the hatch and creates a more distinctive aesthetic statement. What's more, it's a good deal more practical than it first appears. It won't be for everyone but the MINI Coupe certainly has more than enough about it to carve out a profitable niche.

 


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