Mini Coupe Cooper JCW

How I earn my living, I seem to possess a worrying inability to spot a success story when I see one. Having lambasted BMW’s ugly and profligate X6 it duly went on to become a bigger hit even than BMW anticipated. And no sooner had I denounced the Mini Countryman on these pages as ‘a poor car and the wrong move for Mini’ than I learned that Mini simply can’t make enough of them.

What, then, will the world make of this Mini Coupe, the fifth member of the Mini family since BMW stated pumping them out of the old Cowley plant 10 years ago? Mini will tell you it’s their first spots car and will point to its two-seat, three-box configuration to support the contention.

In fact there’s less here than meets the eye. Reducing the roof height by 23mm has undoubtedly created a distinctive appearance for the Mini which now has a deployable boot spoiler incorporated in its rear hatch, but mechanically there’s really nothing new here at all: the suspension, engine and gearbox are all the same as you’ll find in the equivalent Mini Hatchback.

I guess most focus will fall on the John Cooper Works version because it is the fastest and will be perceived as the most fun And there’s no doubt that its little 1.6-litre engine copes magnificently with the burden of having to produce up to 208bhp in a accessible manner. It’s a properly quick car too, even if the improvements in acceleration and top speed over the normal hatchback Mini are achieved only through better traction, which is a function of an even more front-heavy weight bias, and the reduction of frontal area caused by adding another 13 degrees of rake to the front screen.

But the Coupe is not as much fun as Mini’s first sports car should be because it fails to put any clear air between itself and the broadly excellent hatchback upon which it is too closely based. In JCW trim it’s also let down by suspension that’s too stiff even for many of the Bavarian roads I drove it on, which does not bode well for its chances in the UK.

So the only reason to buy one are for its looks, which may or may not be to your liking. To recap, the offer is that you spend an extra £1465 buying an odd-looking Mini with two fewer seats and no perceivable added driving pleasure. I confidently expect it to sell out.

Andrew Frankel