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The New Mini Coupé

I love MINI. I love these zippy little cars with the big engine grunt. I love it that you can always find a parking spot and I love the tagline: ‘It’s cheaper than a private jet’. As summed up so perfectly by, ‘The born-again MINI Cooper and high-performance MINI Cooper S are stylish, affordable go-karts for adults.’ But the just launched MINI Coupé leaves me cold. I’m referring specifically to the car’s design, not factors such as power, performance and handling, which are true to the brand. (I know this because I have put the vehicle through its paces along the Western Cape coastline and it did not disappoint). From the front it looks like the MINI we know and love, but from every other angle, it looks like a MINI that’s been rear-ended by an MX-5. The ‘active rear spoiler’, which rises when you accelerate to 80km an hour and drops again when you hit 60km just looks silly – and it blocks vision out of the already small rear window. The helmet-shaped roof renders the interior claustrophobic (when my tall companion drove, his head was just shy of the roof). The sloping shape also creates a tricky blind spot when you are turning. The decision to make it a two-seater – in true sports-car mode – adds to the feeling that you are trapped in a too-tight space. The absence of rear seats leaves room for a parcel shelf (which, if you actually used it for parcels, would mean that you couldn’t see out of the rear window!) and means a bigger boot, which is a plus. The MINI Coupé is hyped as ‘a recipe for unbridled driving fun’ and Edward Makwana Automotive Communications, BMW Group South Africa, says it’s aimed at the ‘extroverted personality… the self-confident, non-conformist’. However, I’m more inclined to go with Top Gear writer Sam Philip’s summary: ‘the Coupé emits the faint whiff of a buzz saw-and-welder garage conversion. If you want MINI handling and quirkiness in an, ahem, distinctive two-seater package, you'll love it. But as an opportunity to distill MINI's best bits into a more exotic, sporty package, the Coupé seems to be an opportunity missed’. But fear not MINI, this is just a minor hiccup in the love affair.   Naomi Larkin Editor – House and Leisure   Images: Supplied