Mini Coupe driven
* Sporty two-seat Mini * Priced from around £18,000 * On sale October...
What is it?
The Coupe is Mini's answer to the super-stylish Audi TT and Peugeot RCZ coupes, and is its sportiest model yet.
The Mini Coupe was first shown in concept form at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show and, although our test car was a lightly disguised pre-production model, we've seen the finished version and can reassure you the looks haven't been watered down.
Below the window line, it closely resembles the Mini Cabriolet whose underpinnings it shares. However, thanks to a steeply raked windscreen and sweeping, fixed roof, the Coupe looks far more dramatic.
Four variants will be available at launch: the 121bhp Cooper, 181bhp Cooper S, 208bhp John Cooper Works and 141bhp Cooper SD diesel.
Mini says it currently has no plans to introduce any other engines, but the Coupe will get a Roadster sister car early next year.
What's it like to drive?
Mini is famous for offering countless options to let you personalise your car, and with the Coupe this extends to the suspension.
Buyers will be able to choose between regular and sport suspension, and there will also be an aftermarket option for those who want something firmer still.
We drove a John Cooper Works that had the sport set-up, and it was an absolute hoot, turning into bends sharply and feeling very composed.
That said, the Mini hatch has similar attributes you have to be pushing hard before you notice the Coupe's slightly tighter body control.
Every Mini Coupe comes with an active rear spoiler that automatically rises at 50mph to aid stability.
Meanwhile, the John Cooper Works also gets a three-stage Dynamic Traction Control system that lets you push the car closer to the limit without having to switch off the driver aids entirely (it's an option on lesser models and well worth considering).
The John Cooper Works engine adds to the fun, offering a fruity soundtrack and masses of mid-range muscle, although it does feel a bit flat until the turbo kicks in just below 2000rpm.
The one big question mark is the road manners: our drive was exclusively on a test track, so it remains to be seen how the Mini Coupe will cope with battered British roads.
What's it like inside?
The Mini Coupe is a strict two-seater, and its roof is 29mm lower than the hatchback's. However, headroom is still generous and there's a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment to help the driver get comfortable.
Over-the-shoulder vision is more of an issue because the rear screen is little more than a slit. What's more, the dashboard is lifted straight from the hatch, which means it has poorly labelled controls that seem to have been positioned at random.
The boot is far more impressive, with room for 280 litres of luggage 120 more than the hatch can swallow. Plus the Coupe's tailgate opens wide and high to aid access, and there's a handy load-through flap that lets you transport skis or other long items. It's just a pity there's a step in the boot floor blame a crossmember that boosts the car's body rigidity.
Should I buy one?
If you're a fan of the looks and need only two seats then it's definitely worth considering.
Prices and equipment are still to be confirmed, but we reckon the Coupe will start at around £18,000 for a Cooper. That's thousands rather than hundreds more than the equivalent hatch, but the Coupe will be more exclusive and the price doesn't look excessive when you compare the car with rivals. Besides, running costs should be reasonable and resale values excellent.
What Car? says