Hard-edged Mini easily provoked

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'Look at me' takes a back seat to 'see me go' in the new Minis. Photo supplied

The brand that sets the petite premium pace is at it again, this time in teensy two-seater form.

The helmet-head Coupe and its sister soft-top model, the Roadster, are the first two-door models out of modern Mini and also the sportiest.

On rural roads out the back of Melbourne, "look at me" took a back seat to the "see me go" flagship, manual-only John Cooper Works Coupe. On a route that favoured quick reactions and steely resolve it was the most feral and hard-edged JCW yet. The 1.6-litre twin turbo is growly and loud, with a burbly pop-crackle backfire, and the brakes and performance rubber fabulous, while a low centre of gravity allows it to carry fantastic speed through bends. I like the steering feel, too. 

And yet it's too much.

The two-seater Mini has been created to meet the desires of enthusiast drivers, which is why it is a Cooper, but the sports suspension and short wheelbase make it nervous; it ducks and weaves like a bantamweight, requiring constant corrections to the steering, and bangs over even slight
imperfections.

The other challenge of these cars is plain to see. Even though they share the same wheelbase as the four-seat Mini, slide inside and there's no disguising the markedly diminished functionality over the hatch; the sightlines are more restricted and they feel confined.

The styling?

Your call. The Coupe especially is pretty crazy and probably too confrontational for me.

An on-the-go attraction is the integrated rear spoiler that extends automatically to reduce drag and add up to 40kg of downforce to the rear axle, improving stability and handling.

Sports seats, sports steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, xenon lights, Bluetooth and parking sensors are standard. The JCWs take different wheels, a unique body kit and a Harman Kardon stereo.

Fad cars?

Mini NZ predicts these models will conservatively account for 10% of overall sales. On last year's registrations, that would mean just 30 a year.

Spokesman Edward Finn sees newcomers being tempted, saying the models "fulfil an opportunity for those people who do not necessarily need four doors and want something that is especially fun and engaging to drive, something that says something about their character."

Hard-edged Mini easily provoked
At a Glance

MINI COUPE AND ROADSTER

Price: Coupe, $51,200 (Cooper manual) to $62,200 (JCW);  Roadster, $55,800 to $67,200.

Engine: 1598cc four-cylinder 16-valve turbo-charged petrol, Cooper S max power 135kW@5500rpm, max torque 240Nm (260Nm on overboost) @1600-5000rpm; John Cooper Works max power 155kW@6000rpm, max torque 260Nm@1850-5600rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic.

Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes, ABS, DSC, DTC, EBC.

Wheels, tyres: 205/45 R17.

Fuel and economy: Cooper S manual/auto 6.3/6.7; JCW 7.1 litres per 100km (on ADR combined cycle), capacity 40 litres.

Dimensions: Length 3728mm, width 1683mm, height 1378mm.