. . . but take off your hat in the presence of the tastiest Mini
It’s a Mini, all right, with rather a radical change in shape. Good news is the new Coupe remains a top steer
RAIN is sluicing across the road and the roof as the Mini snorts its way up the mountain. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is appreciating the cold, dense air and the suspension and tyres are clinging tighter than the moss that’s made its home on the edge of the road.
Welcome to the Mini Cooper S Coupe, the brand’s sexiest styling effort yet. At $43,000, it’s as quick and surefooted a vehicle as you can hope for this side of an allwheel drive Subaru WRX.
Europe will have four variants of the helmet-headed Mini Coupe but in Australia we’re only getting the good stuff.
That means the Cooper S will start proceedings at $42,990 when it goes on sale in late February, with the John Cooper Works version another $8000-$9000 above that (BMW won’t announce the JCW price until closer to launch).
The money buys a great-looking twoseater with a decent boot— 280 litres — along with 16-inch alloy wheels, airconditioning and reverse parking sensors.
The Mini Coupe doesn’t break new ground, it just covers it quicker than most Minis before it. Brake energy regeneration helps drive the ancillaries, which kick in only when needed, and there’s an auto stop-start system, shift display and low rolling resistance tyres.
The smarts are in the way this car has been set up to sit on the road, regardless of the conditions or speed. A rear spoiler pops up at 80km/h and folds back below 60km/h. It’s there to aid the aerodynamics but there’s a switch if you insist on having it up when cruising past the shops.
Designer Anders Warming reckons the look was intended to mirror a ‘‘ backwards baseball cap’’. Every ipodenabled teenage rapper now wears a cap at some obscure angle other than front-on and is generally ignored for it. Not so the Coupe. People in passing cars and pedestrians stare when this Mini rolls past.
Inside is the standard Mini switchgear— a huge central speedo with displays on the bottom for audio settings. Chrome toggle switches control the interior lights and windows.
It’s based on the ‘‘ three box’’ structure— engine, passenger cell and boot— common on most cars but new to this formerly British brand.
The Coupe hasn’t been crashed in the lab yet but its siblings have earned a five-star rating and the extra work in the chassis should ensure this one is also a top performer. A ‘‘ tyre defect’’ indicator warns if the run-flat rubber has a problem. There are only four airbags but, with no rear passengers, there’s no need for more.
The only car that comes close to the Mini for chassis and suspension balance is the Audi TT— and it costs another $20,000.
The on-paper figures of Small cap, blue chip: The Coupe takes its styling cues from headwear and throws down the gauntlet to sportsters costing thousands more