Just Another Coupe? | Mini Cooper S Coupe

BY Azfar Hashim

While some opined that Mini's Coupe is another marketing exercise, driving it proved to be more than just that

Photos: Low Fai Ming

'Flamboyant'. Normally, you do not associate such a word with cars.

But this time around in the case of Mini’s latest fashion accessory, the new Coupe shows off so much sheet metal style, it takes only those with keen eye for something different and brave to truly appreciate.

To the point that you can’t help but wonder whether the French had a hand in designing the Coupe.

Anyway, Mini has always been known to push the boundaries in product range. Just look at the Clubman and Countryman: who the hell on earth needs a wagon Mini? Who, in their right mind, would want to get a butch Mini? But Minis are quirky and stylish, and their marketing gurus have brilliant minds; at the end of the day, it will still move out of the showrooms and onto the roads.

So it seems like a natural progression then — hatchback, cabriolet, wagon, SUV and now (cue drum roll) a coupe. A coupe so different, it stands out from the crowd.

Defying all odds, the Mini Cooper S Coupe you’re seeing here does look out of proportion — particularly around the roof area, or in the words of Mini, the “Helmet Roof”. But somewhat, just somewhat, it gives the Coupe character.

This being the turbocharged Cooper S model, the face gets an array of air inlets to ensure (a) the engine bay gets appropriate cooling and, (b) provide good aerodynamics. To some, it might not look that far from the hatchback, but only a glimpse of the spec sheet will reveal a lower roof; added on by a more slanted front windshield.

17-inch alloys wrapped in 205/45 R-17 performance-oriented Continental RFTs (run-flat tyres) come standard too, bringing its aesthetic appeal a notch up.

Despite being a strict two-seater, the Coupe gets for itself a surprisingly large cabin; both driver and passenger get good amounts of head and legroom, the former all thanks to a sculpted interior roof lining that provides extra space for your expensive hairdo. Speaking of expensive, also worth mentioning is the sound system courtesy of Harman Kardon.

The instrument cluster is no different from the hatchback, although I was hoping Mini would make it different and much more special — perhaps make it more driver-focused by shifting the speedometer directly ahead of the driver. Thing is - and I’m sure you would agree - seeing a cluster that is similar across the board (be it the Clubman, Countryman and hatchback) does get a little boring. Which is the same, exact problem BMW and Audi has. The speedometer is big and cool, true; problem is the passenger can see it as well, and will nag incessantly (if you’re unlucky) whenever you breach our national speed limit. Bummer.

Unlike Audi’s TT, Peugeot’s RCZ and VW’s Scirocco, you cannot place any passengers behind, even if it’s your least favoured cousin. Which is probably just as well, as it means there’s no excess weight back there; which then equates to more driving fun. Think of it this way: two less screaming passengers when you push the laws of physics…

The chairs remain comfortable enough, providing adequate lumbar and thigh support. Boot space is excellent for a coupe of this stature: at 280-litres, you can load up one luggage bag, and still have extra space for shopping bags. In case you need lo lug longer items (say, your long board, hockey sticks or even standing lamps), simply bring down - what I call - the doggy door behind the rear seat.

Under that bonnet is the well-utilised 1.6-liter twin-scroll turbocharger engine that was developed together with the French PSA Group. The goods are still delivered effortlessly, gunning all the way to its 6,500rpm redline as and when you want to; its century sprint timing of 7.1 seconds shouldn’t be a big surprise. Along the way, go past 80km/h and its automatic rear spoiler will pop up.

All that 184bhp and 240Nm worth of torque is delivered to the front two wheels via a 6-speed ‘box. In true Mini tradition, torque-steer is omnipresent, even more obvious whenever you put pedal to metal. For more impact, select the ‘Sport’ button and you’ll hear crackles from the exhaust as you rev high and swap gears — good for scaring off those pesky, lesser hatches. It demands to be driven hard and fast; you need lots of will power to leash all those power here where the boys in blue are waiting to get more acquainted with you. Cruising along feels as though you’re meditating though.

Driven hard through a series of bends, you can’t help but notice the well-controlled body movements as you change directions with the tyres clawing down onto the tarmac. However at the same time, you will still be left wishing for more feel at the helm. Don’t get me wrong though; weight and feedback is good as you know where the car is heading, but it somewhat feels rather artificial and less engaging.

At the end of the day, the Mini Cooper S Coupe makes a very serious case for itself on all fronts. It’s so much more attention grabbing than a Scirocco, feels faster and more engaging than a TT, and will take probably another twenty years before someone calls it ‘aging’ - just like the RCZ. As for how it fares against the current competitions I've mentioned, that will be another story for another day. But for now, the Coupe remains the most flamboyant model in the Mini range — despite some minor shortfalls, you will still love it…