The high-strung S version of Mini’s new two-door is fun to drive, but it’s one of the least practical cars on the road
Sometimes it’s fun to be able to hit the open road and just drive. The Mini Cooper S Coupe is excellent in this role. But for those of us who don’t have the luxury of excess time and money for fuel, we need to have a car that can do more than just drive. We need to be able to carry extra passengers and cargo—and the Mini Coupe does neither of these things very well.
The fanboys will argue that the Coupe has a slight edge in handling over its hot-hatch originator, and the small trunk has an ideal luggage-to-person ratio. But, really all of this is pretty much meaningless when you consider that the Coupe just isn’t as practical as its four-passenger, folding rear-seat, nearly-the-same-price sibling.
The only benefit the driver of this new Mini ‘S’ Coupe will have over
the guy piloting an older, hatchbacked Cooper, is that he will never be
called upon to be D.D. for a group of friends. Still, there’s bound to be some people out there who really only need two seats and actually love the unique “hair-piece” look of this latest, strangest Mini model.
The Mini Cooper S Coupe is rocketed forward by a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. That might not seem like a lot of power, but in a car that only weighs about 1,200 kg (2,645 lbs.) — and that only carries one other person, remember — it’s quite the loud, manic rocket.
The tiny wheelbase and super sensitive steering make for an exhilarating, if at times hair-raising, experience. With the standard six-speed manual transmission, the Cooper S Coupe goes from 0-100 km/h in approximately 6.9 seconds (7.1 with the six-speed automatic) to a top speed of 230 km/h, and fuel economy numbers are estimated at an average of 5.8 L/100 km. This pint-size, potent British/Gerrman car starts at a very-pricey-for-its-size $31,150, though our tester with “Punch” heated leather seats and Dynamic Traction Control was just shy of $34,900.
The ride in the Mini Cooper S Coupe is remarkably stiff, but not unbearable on most roads. You do feel every bump, but that’s part of the charm of driving this Mini for a select few. The sharp ride, combined with a low seating position, provides a sense of confidence on the road: wherever you point this little devil, it will go.
While some may shake their heads at the exterior design (love it or hate it), the inside is comfortable, well-built and looks great, though there is a ton of lower grade plastic that rattles and squeaks in the bulkhead behind the seats. The round gauges and toggle switches from the other Mini models look and work just as good here, and there are plenty of tiny cubbies and holders to store things in.
As mentioned, its lack of a backseat and shoebox-sized trunk automatically makes the Coupe S far less practical than its four-seat sibling. But the quirks extend beyond this, too.
The eccentric exterior design of the Coupe makes for tough outward visibility from the driver’s seat. The side windows behind the B-pillar are tiny, and the view of the passenger-side blindspot is dominated by the headrest. The rear window is also pretty tiny, even when the active rear wing is tucked away (it automatically raises up at 80 km/h and lowers down at 60 km/h).
A tall driver will also need to come to a stop well back from the white line in order to see the stoplight ahead turn green, which raises questions about how functional this car would be in its ideal setting: the city. Still, like most German cars, the seat is highly adjustable and there is plenty of headspace—even for the aforementioned tall driver.
That huge central speedometre aside, the only other instrument gauge also cleverly mounted to the steering wheel, ensuring it is always within view, no matter how the wheel is adjusted.
A note for any bass guitar players out there: you’ll need to drive solo and stand your instrument up in the front seat footwell: the small hatch between the cabin and trunk isn’t wide enough for a hard-shell case.
Sure it’s fun as heck to drive—like a go-kart with a roof—but sadly all the good things about the Mini Coupe come only in the driving department, and not because they’ve removed the two back seats. For those looking to stand out though, the Coupe (which can also be had in a less powerful, cheaper $25,950 standard model, plus a convertible version's coming) certainly has its appeal. Buyers looking at the Coupe should also consider the cheaper-but-slower Honda CR-Z, the upcoming Fiat 500 Abarth, which will seat four and go for about $30,000 when it arrives next year—or a traditional, four-seat Cooper S with those folding rear seats….