When BMW announced that their new Mini Coupe would be priced at an 8 to 13% premium over the existing hatch on which it was based, we had to wonder who would buy the diminutive mite over the original. But when we factored in that Mini was pitching it against higher priced rivals like Peugeot’s more emotive RCZ and Volkswagen’s Scirocco and it did retain a small sense of logic, albeit fairly blinkered in this company. According to BMW’s manager of Group Automotive Communications, the Mini Coupe simply offers fans of the brand a fifth additional model line to personalise, allowing them to select from a range of colour and trim combinations to match their individual tastes.
With 25kg extra heft over the Mini hatch and 20 litres more boot space than the Countryman, the new Coupe basically throws out the useless rear seats, offering a sporty two-seater with more luggage room and a lower roofline. The looks actually translate quite well in the metal and one attracts far more attention in this, than you would in the standard Mini if that’s your game. With the Coupe’s new three box design offering a lower centre of gravity than the original two box design of the hatch, the chassis feels more planted but less agile through a series of turns, reacting slower to rapid changes of direction. It still exudes that exuberant Mini DNA though, retaining the sharp, kart-like responses of the hatch with a 60:40 (front to rear) weight distribution.
Much of the visual identity centres around the helmeted roof design and the electronic rear spoiler (which rises above 80kph and lowers below 60kph.) When we questioned BMW as to why a front-wheel drive vehicle would need more down force at the rear, the answer we got was that the 40kg of downforce on the rear is intended to create ‘more push’. By this we assume he meant ‘because it looks cool’ as it makes no sense to us, to add further understeer to a front-wheel drive car. Even so, lateral grip is good and the tyres did only noticeably scrabble for traction in the S derivative, under hard acceleration when exiting turns.
Of the two variants on offer for us to drive: namely the 90kW Cooper and the 135kW Cooper S (the JCW will be available soon,) the latter is the pick of the range and should provide better ‘push’ at altitude and sea level. Despite a wealth of additional features, like Mini’s Connected Drive, the interior looks dated now and well worth redesign. Unfortunately the Mini Roadster (due early 2012) looks to inherit the same design. Maybe the yet-to-be-revealed pick-up and limo versions of the Mini will be more fortunate, bringing the number of Mini offerings to eight. That must be some sort of record in platform sharing.