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Road Tests

Mini Coupé John Cooper Works


Price: from £23,795 (Mini Coupé range starts at £16,640
Engine capacity: 1.6 litres (211 PS)
Top speed (mph): 149
0-62 mph (seconds): 6.4
Fuel economy (mpg): 39.8

BMW's reinvented Mini has been a raging success since it was introduced in 2001. The standard hatchback has been joined over the years by the Clubman estate, a convertible, and, more recently, the Countryman, a larger four-door crossover with optional all-wheel drive. Now, a fifth car, the Coupé, joins the line-up, and it seems likely to be as popular as the others.

Most modern Minis seek their inspiration from the 1959 original or its variants. Just consider the big central speedometer, a trademark of Minis old and new, or the side-hinged double rear doors on the Clubman, which echo those of the original Mini Traveller estate. But as the range has expanded, BMW has begun to try its own variations. There was no precedent for the Countryman in the pre-2001 Mini line-up, although it now accounts for about a quarter of all Mini sales.

There was no Coupé in the old Mini range either, although the new car's "notchback" tail recalls the Riley Elf and Wolseley Kestrel versions of the old Mini and it has a forerunner of sorts in the Mini Marcos, an independently produced kit car that used Mini mechanical parts in a coupé body.

As the custodian of the brand since 2001, BMW has written a fair bit of Mini history itself, and the new Coupé also shares certain characteristics with the Mini John Cooper Works GP, produced in 2006 and the sportiest of all modern Minis. Like the GP, the Coupé has no rear seat and aims to provide an intense driving experience, an aim in which it succeeds magnificently, and it this above all that makes the Coupé a terrific car.

It's not perfect, of course. The squashed "helmet-style" roof looks distinctly odd, but my guess is that most people will end up liking it. Although the low roof-line doesn't seem to affect headroom too much it certainly restricts visibility.

That's especially true at the back where the view through the tiny letterbox window is obstructed by the rear spoiler that rises from its resting place in the boot-lid at speeds of more than 50mph. I suspect that Coupé owners are going to have a rear window full of spoiler most of the time because it's an eager machine. The John Cooper Works version has 211 horsepower, which means it has real bite, even at speeds well beyond 100mph on German autobahns.

My only reservation is that while it's a great car when you're in the mood to press on, it might be a bit wearing when you feel like driving in a more relaxed fashion.

The good news doesn't stop with the launch of the Coupé. BMW will shortly introduce the Mini Roadster, which shares much of its design with the Coupé, and the Paceman, a three-door car that's based on the Countryman's platform but looks a lot better. There's even a chance that the wonderful Rocketman, a concept car not much bigger than the 1959 Mini, might make it into production. I'm not keen on the Countryman but a strike rate of seven out of eight is just about as good as it gets.

The competition: The Ford Puma and Vauxhall Tigra are long gone, so the Mini Coupé competes mainly with the larger Audi TT and Peugeot RCZ.