A rival for the Peugeot RCZ, the strict two-seater MINI Coupe is the sportiest model on offer in the MINI range. The suspension has been lowered to further sharpen the brand's famous ‘go-kart’ handling, and it has engines designed to deliver strong performance to match its streamlined dimensions. It has a curved roof that was apparently inspired by the shape of a racing helmet – although it looks more like a backwards-worn baseball cap – and it won’t be to everyone's liking. The back seats have gone to accommodate the new look, replaced by a 280-litre boot, doubling the storage capacity of the standard hatchback. The Coupe comes in Cooper, sporty Cooper S, Cooper SD diesel and performance-focused John Cooper Works specifications, dropping the standard hatchback's base One model. The entry-level Coupe is therefore the Cooper, which comes with a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine. The Cooper SD is fitted with a 141bhp 2.0-litre diesel that also offers superior fuel economy, and the top-of-the-range JCW is powered by a 208bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol that is capable of taking the JCW from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds. Inside, the Coupe is identical to the hatchback, apart from the missing back seats, so it's well constructed with lots of neat retro touches.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
We’d immediately recommend the 2.0-litre MINI Cooper SD diesel model for the best balance of performance and economy. It returns 65.7mpg while still offering a very sporty feel. Meanwhile, the base-level 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine returns 49.6mpg and emits 133g/km of CO2, which isn’t bad at all for a car with sporting ambitions. Plus, MINI's five-year/50,000-mile TLC service pack will help keeps costs down even more thanks to free scheduled maintenance. Splash out a further £275 and you can extend it to eight years/80,000 miles.
Interior & comfort
As you approach the MINI Coupe, it looks like it's going to have trouble fitting a small child inside, let alone grown-ups. But this is where losing the two back seats has worked wonders, creating plenty of space for both driver and passenger. In fact, it's surprisingly comfortable to sit in. Not so much once you get going, though – the stiff suspension bounces you around a bit on bumpy roads, while the performance-focused John Cooper Works model really does crash about over potholes. In all honesty, unless you are truly committed to a pure driving experience and don’t mind pointedly feeling every bump or dip in the road, we’d recommend avoiding the sports suspension on the lower-spec models.
Practicality & boot space
First off, unlike many MINIs, the MINI Coupe actually has a usable boot. The 280-litre storage space is considerably bigger than the one in the standard MINI hatchback and you also get a ski hatch in the rear bulkhead that makes loading awkward-shaped and longer items easier to carry. The stylish roof is shaped so that the two passengers get loads of headroom, so comfort is top-notch, too. Like all MINIs, the circular speedometer mounted in the centre of the dashboard is the main focal point, while the bucket seats hold you tightly and give you good support. Some of the plastics are a bit hard and rough, especially on the door trims, but there won’t be many little children riding inside to try and pry it off.
Reliability & safety
MINI isn’t going win any prizes for reliability, but its turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are also used by Peugeot and BMW – and have proved both reliable and economical. Plus, there's no denying that the Coupe feels really well constructed, appearing robust and tough enough to take any abuse that most speedy drivers will throw at it. But there have been some safety-based recalls that chequer its record and are probably behind MINI coming 28th in the manufacturer rankings in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with no MINIs cracking the top 100 cars. The Coupe hasn’t been tested by crash safety body Euro NCAP as yet, but recent MINIs have been getting the top five star score, so expect the Coupe to follow suit. All models get front, side and curtain airbags and electronic stability control as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
There's no doubt about it – if you love to drive, you’ll probably love to drive the MINI Coupe. Easily the most driver-focused MINI on offer, it has razor-sharp handling, extremely responsive steering and firm suspension that ensures it's always involving and often very exciting to drive. However, the shortened length of the car means you will have to make constant steering corrections to keep the Coupe going where you want it to go, especially on uneven surfaces and bumpy roads. Luckily grip is excellent, particularly through corners. We’d recommend the 1.6-litre Cooper SD diesel for the best blend of comfort and performance, while only the bravest should consider the top-of-the-range JCW models, which are even faster.
Price, value for money & options
It may not be the cheapest car you ever buy, but resale values on the used market alone will mean you can be sure your money will be reasonably well spent on a MINI Coupe. You should be able to recoup as much as 50 per cent of the purchase price after three years of ownership. The John Cooper Works model costs nearly £3,000 more than the hatchback JCW, so you may look elsewhere in the range initially, but for those happy to pay a premium to turns heads, the Coupe is a good investment. All models are well equipped, and come with two-tone paintwork and alloy wheels as standard. The entry-level model comes with a stop-start, follow-me-home headlights that stay on for a defined time after you switch the engine off, DAB radio and brake-pad war indicator as standard. As with all MINIs, approach the options list with caution – it may be easy to personalize your MINI Coupe but the costs rack up quickly.