Coupe full of fun

MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, side
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, front
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, rear
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, action
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, cockpit
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, front, action
MINI Coupe, side, upright
MINI Coupe, front, action, upright
MINI Coupe, active spoiler
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, boot
MINI Coupe John Cooper Works, shelf and boot hatch

LOVE it or loathe it the great British MINI is about to take on its most dramatic look yet.

The MINI Coupe is a radical departure from the norm and a car which almost defies convention.

It is the first two seat MINI, the first with an active rear spoiler and the first with what car designers call three box construction.

Basically that means it has a boot but whichever way it is viewed this is a MINI like no other.

With a steeply sloped roof and dramatically raked windscreen the coupe is sleek on top but chunky below.

The effect is emphasised by short overhangs front and back and while the coupe is more than an inch lower than the MINI hatchback it is slightly longer.

For those wanting to make a statement out on the road the coupe is compelling kit and in the style stakes it will be running against the likes of the Peugeot RCZ, the VW Scirocco and Renault's Megane CC.

MINI says the coupe also has the Audi TT and even the Porsche Cayman in its sights and with the high performance John Cooper Works models costing in the region of £30,000 once they have been personalised with extras that's a fair comparison.

The MINI Coupe had its world premiere only a few days ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show and will be on sale from October 1 with four models priced from £16,640 for the Cooper version, £19,775 for the Cooper S, £23,795 for the John Cooper Works and £20,510 for the diesel engine Cooper SD.

Thanks to the array of MINI's trademark option packs it is possible to customise the coupe to the extreme and with sports stripes running front to rear and roof colours different to the main paint job each model can be almost a one off.

Conservatism is going to be an unlikely trait of those who will be attracted to this car.

There's a cosy feel to the cockpit and despite the low roofline there is good headroom - but there is a compromise when it comes to side and rear visibility.

Behind the seats is a handy storage shelf and a hatch to the boot which itself is surprisingly accommodating.

In fact there is more cargo space in the coupe than in the Clubman estate and it is possible to fit in four suitcases with room left over.

The coupe feels tailor made for touring and to drive it is as much fun as any other MINI.

Uprated damper settings and stiffer suspension produce a ride which is sportier than that of the hatch but the brand's characteristic go-kart handling remains.

We have just tried the diesel and range topping JCW coupes and although the former is good and economical it is the performance version which suits best.

Rapid acceleration - 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds thanks to boosting which gets 211bhp from a 1.6-litre engine - a top speed of almost 150mph and pin sharp response from the throttle and steering will satisfy even the most enthusiastic of drivers.

Switch the coupe into sports mode and the experience is even more rewarding.

Average fuel economy of nearly 40 to the gallon is not to be sneezed at either - and that's impressive for such performance especially as the JCW is the one coupe not fitted with a stop/start system.

The Cooper SD not only has stop/start but additional energy saving devices which see its CO2 emissions reduced to 114g/km compared to 165 for the JCW - and the diesel is good for an average of more than 65mpg.

Despite its economy the SD is no slouch at 7.9 seconds 0 to 60 but the two-litre diesel with its 143bhp does not sound as refined as the potent petrol engine which gives the JCW the edge.

Driving the coupe is great fun and the feelgood factor is enhanced by a glimpse in the mirror of the rear spoiler which pops up at 50mph and folds away as the speed drops below 37mph.

For posing effect it can be operated manually at lower speeds but above 50 it is critical to the car's aerodynamics and will be deployed automatically.

The spoiler wasn't a feature of the original coupe design but was added by the MINI engineers after wind tunnel testing showed a need for added downforce.

The coupe is the fifth member of the MINI ‘family' which in the past ten years ago has become something of a global phenomenon for parent company BMW and its factory at Cowley in Oxford where the MINI is built.

Since it first appeared back in 2000 the hatch, convertible and Clubman have notched up more than two million sales, a figure aided recently by the arrival of the larger Countryman.

The coupe is pushing the MINI style even further and there's more to come.

Next up is a roadster and that's bound to give fans of Britain's best loved little car another shot of MINI mania to keep them happy for years to come.

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