Mini: Falling in love all over again

By Liz Dobson

Mini Roadster. Photo / Supplied
Mini Roadster. Photo / Supplied

My first car love was a 1976 red Mini but, like most budding romances, it ended badly - the car was stolen twice by a 14-year-old.

The first time he nicked it from outside my house, he added a stereo and new tyres to it (thanks for that) before the police returned it to me.

But the Mini fanatic stole it again that same night - and this time his mates wrote it off in a ditch.

Heartbroken, I moved to Melbourne, so my dad attended the court hearing - along with an angry crowd of Mini owners who also had their cars stolen by the mini Mini thief.

But I'm back in Melbourne this week to have my heart repaired by another Mini - two, in fact: the Coupe and Roadster.

The two-seaters are the sixth body style from Mini and mark a new direction for the company. While the other models in the range - like the hatch - are based on two-box design (front and passenger), the Coupe and Roadster move into three-box, with the rear added.

And that design effect shows immediately, especially in the Coupe. The windscreen is raked 13 degrees on the standard Mini hatch, giving it a low profile on the road. The hard top also gains a roof spoiler that makes it look as if the car is wearing a high-tech bike helmet.

The spoiler's job is to assist with aerodynamic flow, but does narrow the view from the rear window, especially when combined with the active rear spoiler that pops up when the Coupe and Roadster hit 80km/h.

The look of the vehicle works best on the Roadster, giving it a sporty feel - not that the soft-top is without fault, design-wise. Currently it has a manual roof that takes a bit of maneuvering when you're sitting in the driver's seat.

But both the cars come alive on the road and, due to their go-kart feel, bring joy to driving. They handled the winding country roads outside Melbourne with ease - even inviting you to really test the corners thanks to their dynamic handing.

The Coupe and Roadster are now in New Zealand and, although Mini NZ admits they are niche products, they add a bit of sporty spice to the brand.

Mini NZ brand manager, Simonne Mearns, said the Coupe and Roadster have unique appeal.

"Although created from the same Mini DNA, these hot twins take go-kart driving thrills to a whole new level," Mearns said.

"[They] were designed for performance; they offer adventurous, dynamic driving experiences with plenty of features to ensure everyday practicality.

"These Minis are the most eye-catching, attention-grabbing new Mini models released to date."

The Coupe and Roadster are the first Minis to adopt the three-box structure: the engine compartment, passenger compartment and boot.

They feature an automatic rear spoiler which reduces lift force and increases the stability of the car at high speeds. It opens automatically when the speed exceeds 80km/h and retracts below 60km/h.

With maximum torque of 240Nm available from as low down as 1600rpm (increasing to 260Nm when using overboost function) and a power output of 135 kW, the 1.6-litre powerplant in the Cooper S delivers an exhilarating driving experience.

Equipped with cutting-edge technology such as twin-scroll turbo, direct injection and a fully variable valve control system, thrust is delivered efficiently with a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.3 l/100km in the Coupe (6.4 in the Roadster) and CO2 emissions of just 146g/km (149g/km in the Roadster).

Mini's also producing a John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the Roadster that comes with an aerodynamic kit as standard. Its motorsport heritage comes in the form of modifications to the cylinder head, pistons, crankshaft, turbo and exhaust system, with the 1.6-litre JCW engine delivering 155kW at 6000rpm and 260Nm from 1850-5600rpm. Overboost increases this to 280Nm from 2000 -5100rpm.


The Coupe Cooper S starts at $51,200, the JCW at $62,200 and the Roadster at $55,800.
Audi TT 2-litre $89,000
Peugeot RCZ 1.6-litre $64,990

- NZ Herald

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