Friday 26 May 2017

Is this the manliest MINI?

The new Coupe is the most agile car yet from the iconic maker, says Shane O'Donoghue

Many a time has it occurred to me that the MINI hatchback can be treated like a coupe. After all, its rear seats are not the most commodious, the boot is tiny and it's more expensive than the average small three-door hatchback. Where then does the new MINI Coupe fit in?

Well, the rear seats have been ditched for a start. That's just as well, as that funky new roof (MINI's designers cringingly refer to it as the 'helmet roof') is about 29mm lower than the regular car's and it slopes sharply to the rear.

Bizarrely, this has freed up a load of luggage space -- 120 litres more than the hatch. Not only that; it's easily accessible and there's a hatch to the cabin if you need to squeeze in a snowboard or two. That hints at the target market.

It's clearly a car for the young (and young at heart) with no kids and a bit of disposable income. Sounds just like the stereotypical MINI hatch customer to us.

So what more does this car offer other than a bigger boot?

Personality is the answer to that question. Ever since BMW reinvented the MINI it has had character, but the Coupe is the most extroverted model yet.

Just look at it. A more sloped windscreen leads into that madcap roof and then into a big spoiler that wraps around the car. There's an active spoiler on the little 'boot' at the back too, which rises up at 80km/h.

Allied to all that, there'll be the usual dizzying array of colours and trim options, but MINI is keen to ensure that all cars sold stand out on the road, so the roof must be had in a contrasting colour. You may as well go the whole hog and get the racing stripes too. I'm not joking. This is not a car for those who want to go unseen.

Nonetheless, it's not all mouth and no trousers. You can choose between Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW) variants, along with the diesel-fuelled Cooper SD. So that means a minimum of 122hp, rising to 211hp. The SD is likely to be the most popular version in Ireland thanks to its Band A emissions.

As you'd hope, the 'go-kart' handling is enhanced further. Most of the time it drives much like a regular MINI, which is to say it has direct, responsive steering and excellent body control. The Coupe has another layer to its ability though that'll appeal to driving nuts such as myself.

It's likely that the Coupe will cost about €2,500 more than the equivalent MINI hatchback. That's no small amount of money, but the Coupe is no half-hearted effort. The Audi TT, VW Scirocco and Peugeot RCZ all have a serious rival on their hands -- as does the MINI hatchback.

Sunday Independent

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