This year, Mini celebrates 10 years of retro done right. BMW had quite the task to live up to when they resurrected the vaunted nameplate of a tiny car that was both transport for the masses and a rally champion. However, we can all safely say: job well done, tea and crumpets all around.
But you can't just keep churning out a single model and expect to run a car company. For instance, people who loved the original are going to want something bigger. Enter the stationwagon-ish Clubman and the small-but-roomy Countryman crossover.
But that's not the only group you've got to cater to. With 10 year's worth of Cooper hatchbacks on the road, picking out white bonnet stripes and Union Jack mirrors might not be enough to set your new Mini apart from the crowd. Maybe what you're looking for is a Mini that's even less practical. Something with a little more style. Something you won't see a dozen of every day.
Well good news then. Mini has you covered. Design-Before we get carried away, it's worth noting that style is a highly subjective thing. I may not be the most stylish person in the world, but my first thoughts upon seeing the Mini Coupé in the metal for the first time ran something along the lines of, "My eyes! The goggles do nothing!"
This is not a car for everyone. The choppeddown roofline is purported to resemble a backwards baseball hat, and we all know you can't wear your baseball hat backward in a job interview. Unless you're applying to be a baseball umpire. From some angles, the Mini Coupé works well; some of the cutesy nature of the regular Cooper has been replaced by a bit more aggression. However, from other angles it looks like an elephant sat on it. One solution is to drive around everywhere with the retractable spoiler always fully raised (it automatically deploys at 80km/h).
Environment-If you've sat in one Mini, you've sat in them all. Some things I like, such as the aero-look switchgear to raise and lower the windows. Some things I don't, like the cartoonish gauges that seem designed to let your passenger know how fast you're going, but keep things a mystery to the driver.
As a result of this focus on a retro-feel, many of the controls in the Mini Coupé can take much longer to get used to than would normally be the case. It's much more difficult to adjust the temperature without removing your eyes from the road than it would be in an equivalent BMW 1-series, for instance. My advice: set it and forget it.
And then there's the other drawback of a sleeker look. The cabin of the Mini Coupé is as tight as the inside of a racing helmet, and will doubtless prove an impossibility for taller drivers. You also lose the back seats, and while the rear hatch opens wide, there's not a great deal of space for luggage or larger objects.
What's more, the combination of incredibly stiff suspension and short wheelbase bring forth all kinds of creaks and rattles. The back parcel shelf wiggles about so much, your passengers will think you're transporting a case of maracas. Visibility suffers too, with large rear blind spots and a pillbox forward view. Being first in line at the traffic lights will have you craning forward to see if the light's gone green yet.
Performance-But when the light does go green, look out!
Luckily, the other major facet you'll find in any Mini has been well-preserved in the Coupé: it is more fun than a barrel of chocolateflavoured monkeys.
An entire raft of clichés apply where a Mini's handling is concerned, but I've always felt the best way to describe how a Cooper takes to the corners is to liken it to driving around inside a Jack Russell terrier. It's not really a go-kart, although there is an element of hummingbirddartiness to the steering; instead, it scrabbles through a turn with puppy-dog enthusiasm and not a small amount of torque steer.
The Cooper S Coupé, while chopped down from the regular Cooper S, is no lighter than its conventional-looking cousin, and the chassis is only slightly stiffer.
On the other hand, the screwed-down roof lowers the centre of gravity somewhat, and the Coupé already has impressive underpinnings from the standard Cooper.
Depress the sport button just forward of the gear shift, and unlock an overboost function that adds a further 15 lb/ft of torque to bring the total to 192, a healthy figure for such a diminutive car. It also firms up the steering, sharpens the throttle and uncorks the exhaust. Really, why would you drive your Mini in any other mode?
Whatever you think of the Mini Coupé's looks, trust me, the drive will win you over. It's just such a pitch-perfect car to drive, especially with the six-speed manual, and if the "pop-poppop" accompanying a perfectly rev-matched downshift doesn't plaster an acre-wide grin across your face, consult your physician: you might be dead.
Features-As you might expect, all this fun comes at a cost, and it's not inconsiderable. The as-optioned price on my Cooper S tester had climbed solidly into the mid-30s: WRX territory, or as much as a fully-loaded Camry. Not very good value by the pound.
The base Cooper S Coupé starts at $31,150, to which various options such as the $1900 Sport Package (stiffer suspension and 17" alloy wheels) can be added. I like to play a fun game on the Mini.ca configurator trying to see how much money can be spent customizing a car. A few clicks will option up a Cooper S Coupé to North of $45K.
Still, features like Bluetooth are standard, and there's nothing wrong with having a very nicely optioned small premium car: many expensive things are purchased by the gram. Also, probably only the Sport Package could be considered a must-have.
Despite a driving experience that is at its best when flitting about with your right foot fully flexed, the Mini Coupé returned excellent fuel-economy, thanks to its light weight. Transport Canada's usual over-optimistic figures are 7.7L/100kms in the city and 5.6L/hwy. Expect to see somewhere in the 9-10L/100km range if you're primarily zipping around town.
Green Light-Thrilling steering; fizzy exhaust note; willing turbocharged engine.
Stop Sign-Poor visibility; limited practicality; strange instrumentation; odd appearance.
The Checkered Flag-A fun-to-drive tyke that's much more engaging than more powerful-and more expensive-machinery. Though if you want one that's slightly more practical and easier to see out of, you'll find the regular Cooper S works just fine. email@example.com