Our cars: Mini Coupe - January 2012

Article 8 of 11 See all
Mini Coupe John Cooper Works

Week ending January 27
Current mileage 7450
Driven this week 200 miles

For me, the Mini Coupe is right up there with the Range Rover, VW Touran and Seat Alhambra for one specific use - being a camera car.

As resident videographer, I spend lots of time sitting in the boots of hatchbacks and estates, while being driven around test tracks. The usual criteria for these cars is soft suspension and a large boot - preferably one with a split tailgate, so I can position the camera a bit further out without having the rear pillars obstructing the lens's view.

For that reason, I was initially sceptical about squeezing myself into the back of the Mini. However, I found that the wide-opening hatch leaves enough left/right vision for the camera, while the low-set suspension allows for some exciting and dynamic angles that I can't get from a high perch of a Range Rover.

The short wheelbase also allows me to give the driver instructions without shouting, and the JCW's engine allows effortless overtaking - even against some of the pokier cars we film.


Mini Coupe review

Week ending January 20
Mileage: 7270
Driven this week 320 miles

I borrowed the Mini Coupe for a few days this week, and although I drove a fair amount of miles, it was mainly on the motorway. Also, the car was redundant over the weekend as anytime I needed a car, it was for family-carrying duties.

So in the five days I had the Mini I found it impractical and it felt uncomfortable on the motorway – noisy and full of vibration. The controls were confusing and kept my eyes away from the road ahead. The view out the back was restricted, I found the multimedia controls counterintuitive and after picking up some kind of virus over the weekend, driving the Mini did no favours for my fragile stomach.

But, do you know what else? I loved it. It's such a hoot to drive whether you're on the motorway or in town. All foibles are forgiven. Brilliant car.


Week ending January 13
Current mileage 6950
Miles driven this week 300 miles

I like to keep my sharply-styled Mini looking spick and span, so it’s treated to regular washes. However, while the bodywork always polishes up nicely, the wheels on the JCW are a nightmare to keep clean.

The 17-inch ‘Challenge’ alloys have a very attractive design, but with numerous tightly-packed spokes, the dirt gets right into some very hard-to-reach places. Automated car washes can’t get anywhere near it, so cleaning them always involves time and elbow grease. Still, it’s worth it to keep the JCW looking its best.


Week ending January 6
Current mileage 6650
Driven this week 250 miles

The Media Pack in my JCW (a £1015 optional extra) doesn't just give you satellite-navigation, a range of mobile internet services and a Bluetooth upgrade with voice control. It also brings a control interface that's reminiscent of the iDrive system you find in bigger BMWs.

The graphics have their own stylish, Mini-specific spin, but the system still has iDrive's foolproof user-friendliness. The menu screens are logical and easy to navigate, and it's all done through a single rotary controller and a couple of buttons.

There is one annoying difference, though, and that's the counter-intuitive way the Mini's controller works. Instinct tells you to twiddle it one way to scroll through a menu, but doing so moves the on-screen cursor in completely the opposite direction. I'm slowly getting to grips with the way it works, but it's taken nearly 7000 miles.


Our cars: Mini Coupe - December


Free car valuations