FIRST DRIVE

. . . but take off your hat in the pres­ence of the tasti­est Mini

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

STYLING

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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

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