MINI Coupe review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2011 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Big on thrills and low on compromises, the MINI Coupe said to be marque's most driver-focused car ever

For: 
Great drive, striking looks, bigger boot than hatch
Against: 
Two seats, costly options, MINI recall history

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There's nothing small about the MINI family. This Coupe is the fifth model to join the line-up, and with its firm suspension set up and light weight, it's described as the most driver focused version of the car yet. The simple two-seater layout is key to its appeal, as it’s designed to wrap around the driver to deliver an even more rewarding drive than the standard hatch. Aimed at our reigning class champion, the Peugeot RCZ, both petrol and diesel engined cars are offered. The diesel is great - it delivers strong economy and searing pace, along with MINI’s trademark handling prowess. In standard Cooper trim, the MINI gets a slightly softer suspension setup but our choice remains the Cooper S, which is well balanced and incredibly rewarding. The flagship John Cooper Works model is reserved for the most hardcore enthusiasts.

Our choice: MINI Cooper S Coupe

Styling

4

There's no doubt about it, the MINI Coupe is aimed at people who want to get noticed. As well as offering lots of bright colours to choose between, buyers can opt for bold racing stripes, and a two-tone finish to highlight the floating roof design. Flagship Cooper S and SD models get a prominent air scoop and make rivals like the Volvo C30 look understated. Inside, it's no surprise to find that the cabin feels a little cramped but the headlining features two scalloped panels to help accommodate tall drivers. Elsewhere, the cabin is standard MINI fare with an identical dash to that found in the hatch and convertible. It gets the usual oversized speedo, circular air vents and retro, metal toggle switches Quality is a plus point, too, with the car's trim and switchgear feeling reassuringly robust.

Driving

3.8

The MINI Coupe is by far the most driver-focused car in its class. It's a strict two-seater, and even the fuel-efficient Cooper SD offers 141bhp and a staggering 305Nm of torque from its 2.0-litre diesel engine. These figures mean the car is more than capable of leaving its rivals trailing, while top-spec John Cooper Works cars are even faster. Steering is ultra direct, while the low centre of gravity and stiff suspension mean the MINI is completely at home on track – where you'll find there's no shortage of mid corner grip. But there’s a price to be paid for the MINI’s sporting potential as the steering wheel pulls and fidgets as the front wheels hunt out cambers in the tarmac - the punishing ride and short wheelbase mean it can feel quite unstable over potholed surfaces. If the looks aren't for the feint hearted, then the handling is for the most committed enthusiast. It's great fun in short bursts though.

Reliability

3

It's fair to say the MINI's reputation for reliability is chequered. The whole MINI family has been the subject of a number of safety related recalls - one of which was for the potential for fire. The hatch managed a full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, so safety for the Coupe is likely to be top-notch. All cars offer stability control as well as front, side and curtain airbags as standard.

Practicality

2.9

The MINI Coupe has only got two seats, which means it's not much use for a family of four. The decision to ditch the rear bench has however had a very positive effect on boot space, which at 280 litres is bigger than the one offered by the standard MINI hatch. What's more, there are plenty of cabin cubbies to store CDs and drinks, and the large hatch makes loading bulky items easy.

Running Costs

4

With claimed fuel economy of 65.7mpg, the 2.0-litre diesel engined MINI Cooper SD is extremely efficient and quick, too. Helping keep costs down further is MINI's celebrated TLC servicing pack, which offers free scheduled maintenance for 5 years or 50,000 miles. The firm has recently launched a TLC XL pack, which for a further £275 extends that deal to 8 years, or 80,000 miles. The benefit of the package is that it means almost all MINI's have a full, main dealer service history, which protects the resale value of the car. Watch out when it comes to specifying your car. It's possible to go absolutely mad with the options list, pushing up the base price by thousands of pounds - none of which you will get back when you sell the car on.

Last updated: 5 Jul, 2012
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