MINI Coupé – the sportiest MINI yet!

The MINI Coupé is the fifth car in the MINI line-up and judging by the column inches dedicated to the probably the most controversial. The styling of the first two-seater sports car to carry the iconic winged roundel has been the aspect that garnered all the attention, both positive and otherwise. The Coupé is the first MINI to do away with the two box format (one ‘box’ for the engine and another for the cabin) that Alec Issigonis first applied to the original Mini in 1959. In its place is a three box layout with separate engine, cabin and boot spaces. The most controversial aspect of the car however is the roof, which MINI say is modelled on a baseball cap worn backwards; obviously a case of trying to capture the ‘yoof’ market.

As controversial as the car has been it is actually surprising that it has taken this long for MINI to produce the Coupé. The rear seats in the MINI hatchback offer so little legroom that they are little more than glorified parcel shelves and the boot is miniscule (pardon the pun) so to sacrifice the rear bench in favour of more boot space would appear to make perfect sense.

MINI reckon that in John Cooper Works spec the Coupé can take sales away from the Porsche Boxster which seems like a tough ask but the rest of the range is aimed squarely at the Audi TT, Peugeot RCZ and Renault Mégane Coupé. As such the Coupé line up is resolutely ‘sporty’ with only Cooper badged cars offered and with our current emissions based road tax system the Cooper SD is expected to be the biggest seller.

Offering 143hp and 305Nm from its 2.0-litre diesel engine the SD is good for a 0-100km/h time of 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 216km/h. Yet thanks to standard start-stop, the aerodynamic body and a long sixth gear the Coupé only emits 114g/km of Co2 meaning road tax of €104 (€160 from January 1). Thanks to the large dollop of torque the SD offers plenty of in-gear acceleration, enough to spin the wheels in the lower gears despite the traction controls best efforts, but once you get going the slick six speed gearbox and the power offered by the engine allow you to make brisk progression.

Outright speed, even in barnstorming JCW spec, is not what the MINI is famous for though. Since BMW first revived the name it has been the handling prowess, commonly described as go-kart like, that has set the MINI apart from its rivals. And the Coupé offers the same handling as its more conventional sibling. There is a great weight to the steering wheel while cornering and you are constantly bombarded with information through both the wheel and your backside. It may not offer the kind of mid-corner adjustability as some of the hot Renault’s driven recently but it remains planted, on-line, as if it is on rails.

But there in lies the problem!

In everyday situations the hatchback offers the exact same cornering ability. When pushed to the ragged edge the Coupé’s lower centre of gravity and better weight distribution would give it a slight advantage but you would have to be on a racetrack to push either car that hard. In the real world the two-seater just does not offer anything over and above what the four-seater does and to justify the premium (the Cooper SD hatchback starts from €26,000 while the Cooper SD Coupé kicks off at €28,500) attracted by the Coupé there really needs to be a tangible difference.

There is no doubt the Coupé will sell – it offers the same high quality interior, same stylish good looks and same thrills as the rest of the aspirational brand I just wish it offered more than the hatchback does.