From £16,320
Ultra-torquey diesel Mini Coupe Cooper SD looks much like hardcore JCW but gives a calmer, more civilised drive

Our Verdict

Mini Coupé
Can the Mini formula work on a two-seat, overtly sporting coupé?

Does the Mini Coupe stretch the brand too far, or can it make a convincing case for itself?

  • First Drive

    Mini Coupé Cooper SD

    Ultra-torquey diesel Mini Coupe Cooper SD looks much like hardcore JCW but gives a calmer, more civilised drive
  • First Drive

    Mini Coupé Cooper S

    If you can live with the striking looks and driving appeal is a priority, it’s worth considering
19 September 2011

What is it?

As far as the Mini Coupe is concerned, the question should be what is it for? That's the problem with extending a brand with its roots in a couple of very recognisable shapes. Devising a new one seems to be missing the point.

Or so the purist might think. The success of the oversized, extremely impure Mini Countryman shows the buying public is less troubled by such sensitivities. So, a coupe version of a regular-size Mini could just work, especially if you think of it – as the Mini people intend – as a sports car. Which the original 1960s Mini-Cooper never was: the whole point was that it was better than most sports cars of its day.

So here's the new 'three-box' Mini, the first Mini notchback (in shape at least, although functionally it's still a hatchback) since the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet. The newcomer's curious roof looks like a baseball cap worn backwards, a fact hard to reconcile with the Mini people's assertion that two golf bags will fit in the biggest boot yet found in a Mini-sized Mini. This culture clash vies in surprise value with the marketing department's prediction that the majority of buyers will be male. It must be the stripes, a delete option along with the two-tone paint.

What's it like?

We've already tried the John Cooper Works Coupe, finding it fast but curiously unsatisfying mainly because of BMW's wrong-headed insistence that a truly sporting car must have rock-hard suspension. This time we're in a more mainstream Coupe, the SD which is effectively a Cooper S with a 141bhp, 2.0-litre BMW turbodiesel. The idea of an engine that big in a Mini seems ludicrous, but the official CO2 figure of 114g/km makes perfect sense especially when allied to a 7.9sec 0-62mph time.

Clearly the suspension here is calibrated differently from the JCW's. It has to accommodate a heavier engine, and is also more yielding (less so with the optional Sport settings). There is much talk of a 'go-kart feel', but the SD does have enough give in its springs to transmit messages of slippage and body roll. These make it easier to detect what the Coupe is doing in a fast, slippery bend, of which there were plenty as the rain, and some snow, fell on the Austrian test route. Sharp bumps still thumped through the test car's optional 17in wheels, but the Coupe's structure feels indestructably robust.

The SD's wet grip is impressive, with terrific bite from both ends so inputs from the quick, precise steering have an instant effect. The electric power assistance feels artificial, as ever, but here the Sport mode doesn't have the heavy, viscous, rubbery motion encountered in EPAS Minis to date. The self-centring is artificially strong, though, so the normal mode remains more natural-feeling.

Normal gives a softer accelerator response but it's a small price to pay, given this engine's huge and even spread of torque. Overtaking is the matter of an ankle-flex in this car, with downshifts merely optional. The idle is quite noisy, but the note is smooth once you're on the move. Stop-start is standard along with other Minimalism (the Mini version of Efficient Dynamics) features.

Should I buy one?

Owning a Mini Cooper Coupe brings compromises. The view aft through the slit-like rear window is minimal, made worse when the retractable rear spoiler rises at 50mph, and the over-the-shoulder vista is non-existent. Obviously there's no rear seat. Does that make it a sports car? Probably not, just as neither an Audi TT nor a Peugeot RCZ is a sports car. But that doesn't make it any less indulgently entertaining.

John Simister

Mini Coupé Cooper SD

Price: £20,510; Top speed: 139mph; 0-62mph: 7.1sec; Economy: 65.7mpg (combined); CO2: 114g/km; Kerbweight: 1175kg; Engine type, cc, installation: 4cyl, 16V, turbodiesel, 1995cc, front, transverse; Power: 141bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 225lb ft at 1750-2700rpm; Gearbox: six-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
25

22 September 2011

Amazing figures! 141bhp really is enough to shift this car when there's loads of torque. 65mpg is pretty impressive too. They should put the 204bhp 23d version of this engine in this car. And the Efficient Dynamics one as well. Imagine the torque steer!

It's unfortunate that this car is unforgivably ugly.

22 September 2011

[quote Autocar]As far as the Mini Coupe is concerned, the question should be what is it for?[/quote] Quite - I must be getting old as I just don't see any point at all in this car. Wilfully ugly, compromised interior, unexceptional performance on any front - just why?


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

22 September 2011

I don't like this Mini to look at, but my concern with the review is Autocar's view on what constitutes a 'sports car'. For example, I found the current Audi TTS wonderfully entertaining to drive and have heard that the 2.0TFSi version is pretty similar. It is smallish, sporty, handles well, etc so why isn't it a sports car? Surely the parameters are personal rather than specific - it's not like deciding whether a car is a saloon or a hatchback - but I'd be interested to know how Autocar decide.

Anonymous

22 September 2011

What an ugly car... Like Fidji said, the engine figures look really good but I really think it's a pointless, ugly car. However, seeing as it's a Mini, it'll sell like hotcakes.

22 September 2011

This and the coming convertible remind me of the Vauxhall Tigra, a very popular car. Of course the coming Mini Coupe and Convertible are premium models and they will appeal to both sexes. I know what u mean about the styling, but when you look at some of the crap on the roads that won't stop it selling lol

23 September 2011

Why have this when an MX5 is so much better in every respect .

A truly tasteless ugly car .

23 September 2011

[quote Old Toad]Why have this [/quote]

Never before has there been a niche too far than this..... until they they produce the Mini cross-over coupe-cabrio open-wheel dragstar of course?

23 September 2011

[quote Sports888]This and the coming convertible remind me of the Vauxhall Tigra, a very popular car.[/quote]There has been a Mini convertible available for years. Popular Vauxhall Tigra? Surely you mean very rare, sold only a few Tigra ?

23 September 2011

I think Mini has gone too far with the coupe. I think they have extended the Mini range far enough already. They now seem to have decided that more variants is better, no matter how ugly it turns out to be.

But people will still buy it, because it's a Mini innit? And therefore must be cool.

23 September 2011

I'm sorry, but I forget. What model is this? The MINI Emperor's New Clothes? I would rather chew my own arm off.

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