IF you’re not a Mini fan look away now. The relentless march of the Mini brand has taken a further step towards automotive world domination with the introduction of its fifth model in the mini lineup, the Mini Coupé.
According to the marketing guys at Mini, a two-seater Mini is just what the world needs. And they should know because they’ve built two million Minis since they introduced the “new Mini” back in 2001. That’s a lot of Minis. BMW made a great driver’s car in the Mini Hatchback with its famed “go-kart-like feel” and now it’s introducing a two-seater with even go-kartier like performance. The company aims to entice the kind of buyers that would otherwise go for an Audi TT, Peugeot RCZ or VW Scirocco. Already the exercise feels a little silly. Because the roof that sits atop the Mini Coupé like a coin pressed into a blancmange affects the driving experience, and the spoiler which deploys at 50mph to increase grip seems unnecessary. And even now I am unable to decide whether the car is attractive or not.
I’m certainly having a Mini adventure in the Mini Coupé John Cooper Works I’m driving. In and around the mountains of Innsbruck it’s snowing surprisingly early in the year, even for the Austrian Alps. It’s disappointing to say the least. I’m driving the new Coupé like a nun.
And my view is limited and not just because of the sleet and snow. That opinion-dividing roof has led to some compromises in terms of visibility. The design of the C-pillars obstruct the view out of the rear side windows as does the headrest of the passenger seat. It means when I look over my shoulder I can’t see the road at some junctions. I find I’m dependent on my co-driver letting me know when it’s safe to pull out. It feels a bit like I’m driving an over-designed van. Albeit a fast and fun one. Except I’m not having so much fun. And in this weather I’m certainly not going fast. I can’t even tell you where I am. Somewhere in Austria, Italy or Germany. I’m feeling a little grumpy.
Though later on some drier roads I find the Mini Coupé John Cooper Works is really very good. Mini claims better handling than the regular Hatchback thanks to a good deal of work on the suspension and damping – much of it at the Nürburgring – plus a 10mm drop in ride height. With a 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 149mph, this car is now the fastest Mini in production. It certainly feels like it. Its 211bhp 1.6-litre engine makes a quite lovely noise in Sport mode and the car can be thrown around enthusiastically.
The car drives very, very well but is it sufficiently better than the hatchback to justify abandoning the rear seats? Possibly not. But then if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t require a car to be too sensible at all, then this car could offer a lot of fun for the money.
JOHN COOPER WORKS
0-62MPH: 6.4 SECS
TOP SPEED: 149MPH
CO2 G/KM: 165G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 39.8
VALUE FOR MONEY