Under the Skin: BMW Mini Coupé

6/6/11

Overview: BMW Mini Coupé

BMW has set out to market its new Mini Coupé as the ultimate in motoring fun in the B-category. Whether this aim has been achieved is a matter of opinion, but the car certainly has a distinctive personality, both visually and in terms of what it offers. Or rather, what it doesn’t offer: a back seat.

The Coupé’s chassis and braking set-up is more sporting than that of other Minis but is otherwise the same, with McPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear; the latter’s longitudinal links are aluminium, with the rest of the assembly made from steel. BMW claims that the Coupé’s mass distribution is better for sporting driving than that of other versions: pedestrian protection systems — as well as the lack of a back seat — have shifted the car’s balance towards the front, which is not everyone’s idea of a sporting balance, though we don’t doubt the car’s handling ability. The bodyshell has been given extra bracing at the front and rear to improve torsional rigidity, which is allegedly better than the standard Mini: no figure is available, though, for either bodyshell.

It is clear why the bodyshell needed additional stiffening at the rear: the aperture is huge.

An optional sports suspension package has firmer damper settings and comes with sturdier anti-roll bars front and rear. For ‘hard-core’ buyers, the Mini accessories range offers John Cooper Works suspension, with a 10mm drop in ride-height, ultra-firm damping and even thicker anti-roll bars. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels are standard specification on the Cooper Coupé, with 16-inch items standard on the ‘S’ variants. The John Cooper Works Coupé comes with 17-inch lightweight wheels. This model has run-flat tyres, and all models feature a tyre defect indicator as standard kit.

The Coupé can be ordered with four engines. There are the familiar 122PS and 184PS power-units of the Cooper and Cooper S respectively; a slightly mad John Cooper Works version delivering 211PS; and BMW’s splendid two-litre diesel, whose 143PS greatly understates the effortless point-and-squirt grunt it confers on these little cars.

The petrol engines are a BMW-PSA collaboration. The entry-level atmospheric engine has variable valve timing and is indirectly fuelled; the ‘S’ engine and its John Cooper derivative have a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuelling. The diesel engine is the all-alloy unit that’s deployed with various power outputs in the 1- and 3-series BMWs.

A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard, with a six-speed automatic optional for everything except the John Cooper Works car.

Ski hatch.

So far as running-gear is concerned, BMW is aiming to give the new car a ‘go-kart feeling’. This is something which some of the existing variants are not far off from achieving already. The electric power steering set-up, which we rate as very good, is carried over from the standard car. The integrated active return function ensures that the steering wheel always returns precisely to the centre position when straightening up after a turn, for the benefit of anyone too incompetent or lazy to drive the car properly.

Like other cars with sporting pretentions, the John Cooper Works model has different driving modes — two in this case. Pressing a button on the centre console engages Sport mode, which reduces the power assistance to the steering and remaps the accelerator to give more immediate responses. The sport button is an optional extra on other Coupé models.

An early two-seater Mini: 33PS at 5500rpm, 60Nm at 2900rpm.

Dynamic stability control is a standard fitting. This can selectively brake individual wheels and reduce engine power to prevent a front- or rear-end slide. The system includes integral ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, cornering brake control, brake assist and hill start assist.

Dynamic traction control with EDLC (Electronic Differential Lock Control) is standard on the John Cooper Works variant and optional on the others. It is activated by pressing a button, and modifies the way in which the DSC intervenes. Engaging DTC makes it easier to move off on loose sand or snow, allowing the drive wheels to spin slightly in the process. It also allows a degree of controlled wheel slip under very hard cornering. A longer push of the button fully deactivates the DSC system, with EDLC operating instead when necessary. EDLC is designed to allow smoother progress when accelerating hard out of tight bends, improving traction without affecting the handling balance of the car.

The Coupé’s styling departs from the Mini idiom considerably. Although BMW has (rather affectedly) issued photographs of a disguised car, it’s easy enough to get the hang of the Coupé’s shape. It rides 29mm lower than a standard Mini and has a novel three-box shape, or ‘bustle-back’. Just as the Countryman left a lot of Mini purists grumbling that it was just too damn big, so the Coupé will leave traditionalists uneasy for the simple reason that it doesn’t look like any product from the BMC era. We suspect that this will affect sales not one jot. The low-profile look has cost something in headroom, and BMW has clawed some back by putting ‘dents’ in the headlining for the occupants’ heads.

The Coupé has a smaller frontal area than the standard Mini hatchback, though we don’t have a figure yet. There is an integral roof spoiler at the back, plus an active rear spoiler integrated into the bootlid: this deploys at 50mph and retracts at 37mph. The spoiler can also be deployed manually (‘for example, for cleaning purposes’ — uh-huh) by pressing a button in the overhead control panel.

The tailgate opens high, and the luggage area is fairly big — it can’t help being big, because there is no rear seat.

Mini Coupé Cooper Cooper
S
Cooper
SD
John
Cooper
Cylinders 4I 4I 4I 4I
Valves 4 4 4 4
VVT IE IE TBA
Fuel/
injection
RON 91/
id
RON 91/
d
D/d TBA/
d
Aspiration/
geometry
A 2T/f T/v 2T/f
Bore/stroke 77.0/85.8 77.0/85.8 84.0/90.0 77.0/85.8
Swept volume 1598cc 1598cc 1995cc 1598cc
Compression
ratio
11.0:1 10.5:1 16.5:1 10.5:1
PS/rpm 122/6000 184/5500 143/4000 211/6000
Nm/rpm 160/4250 240/1600* 305/1750 260/1850**
Maximum speed 127 143 134 149
0-100km/h 9.0 6.9 7.9 6.4
Combined MPG
(l/100km)
52.3
(5.4)
48.7
(5.8)
65.7
(4.3)
39.8
(7.1)
CO2 g/km 127 136 114 165
Emissions EU5 EU5 EU5 EU5
Transmission M6 (A6) M6 (A6) M6 (A6) M6
Driven wheels Front Front Front Front
Fuel tank 40l 50l 40l 50l
Length 3728 3734 3728 3734
Width 1683 1683 1683 1683
Height 1378 1384 1378 1384
Wheelbase 2467 2467 2467 2467
Track
— front
— rear

1459
1467

1459
1467

1459
1467

1459
1467
Brakes
— front
— rear

280v
259

294v
259

294v
259

316v
280
* 260Nm at 1700rpm with overboost.
** 280Nm at 1700rpm with overboost.
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