MINI Coupe SD 2011 Road Test

The MINI Coupe looks like a baseball cap on wheels. Whether that’s good or bad depends on its colour scheme as well as on the eyes of the beholder.

Racy types may like white or silver with a red cap.

But I thought ‘our’ black SD with its silver cap had the most cachet. It certainly attracted a lot of attention on our 1,400 kilometre drive from Innsbruck to Farnborough.

It’s only a two seater. But there’s so much room inside that anyone stepping in from an MX-5 might feel themselves in need of a cuddle.

Twin glove lockers. A place for your phone in the armrest. Two bottle holders in front of the gearstick. And a bottle shaped holder that’s a bit difficult to reach behind you at the back of the console.

Then there’s space behind both driver and passenger for bags, or to recline the seatbacks (try doing that in an MX-5). There’s a through hatch to the boot. And, though BMW tells us there’s 280 litres of bootspace under the very heavy hatch, it looks more than that.

We got three of our bags, two MINI cases and nine 6-bottle boxes of wine in there.

The hatchback is heavy because it contains the mechanism for a spoiler that rises out of it at 50mph, then sinks back down again at 37mph unless you press the ‘pose’ button to keep it up. Apparently when asked why they fitted this spoiler a MINI engineer replied, “because we had to.” It sticks the back of the car to the road on fast bends.

The 2.0 litre SD engine is reasonably relaxed for a grand tour. 3,000 rpm gets you 100, and it tops out at around 135 on the autobahn on the rare occasions when there’s no limit and enough room.

It’s also very comfortable. We packed 850 kilometres into a day without a twinge at the end of it.

But, once over the border into Belgium, the reasonable profile 195/55 R16 tyres began to roar like a WW2 bomber and didn’t let up on the less than lovely concrete of our own delightful M20. I hate to think what the 205/45 R17s on the John Cooper Works are like.

The SD isn’t king of the MINI Coupes for handling because of the weight of the 2.0 diesel engine over the front wheels. In ‘comfort’ mode on the twisty bits, it knows where it wants to go. But switched to Sport it’s much tidier with very little deterioration in ride comfort, so that’s the best way to leave it.

There’s not a lot of point in going through the specs here because you can read all of that in the tekky section.

But it is worth mentioning that the SD comes in at 115g/km CO2 and that puts it into the £30 tax bracket. Whereas the John Cooper Works is 165g/km and £190 tax a year.

You’ll also be pleased to know that cruising at the speed limits and at up to 135 when there weren’t any we still got 50.6 mpg, which is well short of the 65.7 EC combined figure, but still very good for the speeds we were doing. In the UK, reckon on at least 55mpg.

We got on well with some of the goodies, too. Especially the satnav that is very easy to programme once you get the hang of it and think laterally.

For example, it wouldn’t take us to ‘St Omer’ or ‘St. Omer’ or ‘St-Omer’ or ‘Saint Omer’. But was very happy to guide us to ‘Omer’. (As in Simpson.)

Did I like the car?

I flew out to Austria not particularly looking forward to it. But by the end of our jaunt I was very fond of the thing.

And I don’t remember a car since the Audi R8 that attracted so many looks on a launch.



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