Coupé a scoot for racer-boys

2011-11-18 13:31

The Mini is the cool kid of the motoring world. Its looks are constantly evolving yet it still remains true to its classic form.

The newly launched Coupé is distinctively Mini. Already 52 years old, it has come a long way since its launch in 1959. The Coupé is the fifth model in the range with the Roadster to follow early next year.

Launched with three derivatives, the Mini is available in the Cooper, Cooper S and the range-topping John Cooper Works (JCW) model. All three models house a 1.6-litre engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with an optional automatic six-speed transmission.

With strong resemblance to the relaunched Mini from 2001, the latest addition to the family is probably the sportiest in the stable. It has a swooping roof with a spoiler which makes it resemble a helmet.

But I liken the comparison to a youngster wearing a baseball cap backwards.

The launch took place in Cape Town around the Franschhoek Pass and Grabouw areas to get a proper feel of both the Cooper and Cooper S models.

Being the first two-seater Mini, the rear has been somewhat modified to provide a larger boot. In the place of rear seats, the boot panel has been brought forward and houses speakers for the sound system and a nifty parcel shelf to reach into the boot from inside the car.

The omission of rear seats also enables the high-opening tailgate, making it easy to load and store bigger items.

It still has the huge retro rev counter and speedometer in the centre console, with an enhanced cockpit to tie in with its sporty looks.

And as popular as Minis are, the drive is very harsh on the road and I doubt other women would like that much. It’s even worse in the Cooper S, but feeling every bump in the road thanks to the sporty suspension.

It’s loads of fun to throw around corners with its model-specific chassis setup and handles racer-boy or -girl driving quite well.

Although it has a rigid body, it is comfortable and not once did I feel like the car was going to let us down in tight bends or at high speeds.


We did some track time at the Killarney Grand Prix Circuit for the second day of the launch. The car goes, but, because we only had half a track to play on, we hardly reached high speeds.

There’s also an ambitious growl and I have to admire the car wanting to sound like a rally car.

However, there was some serious wind and road noise coming through which didn’t allow me to enjoy the musical notes of the exhaust.

The active rear-spoiler raises automatically once you reach 80km/h and looks quite funky when driving.

In the Cooper model my driving partner and I tried to knock in one of the frame panels to decrease the wind noise. I couldn’t tell if the road noise coming through was just because of the tyres or because of poor insulation.

The auto model was a bit disappointing and shouldn’t be an option with the car having such a sporty nature. It was constantly searching for gears and doesn’t even have paddle shifts mounted to the steering.

The interior is draped in rich materials in the Cooper and with leather in the S model, but some of the colour-coded plastic panels could have contributed to the rattling noises we experienced.

If you have an iPad, you can plug it in to the Mini Connected. The latter allows Facebook and Twitter feeds in traffic, web-radio and Google local searches.

Although Mini South Africa says they have no direct competitors, it’s most likely to compete against the VW Scirocco, Honda CR-Z and the Peugeot RCZ.

There are also a variety of style options to make your Mini describe your personality.

You can choose from three roof colours: jet black, chilli red and pure silver along with optional stripes and door and seat colours.

The loyal Mini enthusiasts will love this little number and no doubt it’s a super-fun car – but I wouldn’t spend this kind of money on the Mini.

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