MINI Cooper SD Coupe Road Test on Snow and IceDecember 21, 2011
Having been disappointed with the fun factor of the front-wheel drive cars in the recent Wales Rally GB in Clocaenog Forest, we thought we’d see if the new 65.7 mpg MINI Cooper SD Coupe offered any more smiles in this environment. However our plans were put on ice ‘literally’ as the car arrived in conjunction with the winter’s first cold snap. Our memories of testing the MINI Countryman ALL4 in a similar location in last winter’s snow were still fresh in our minds, when the car, on standard tyres, offered precious little steering or braking ability in the snow and ice. But thankfully this year BMW has at last fitted its press fleet with winter tyres, so we set off for an icy and snowy Clocaenog, intrigued to see how the car would perform.
Beating Spirit Review and Road Test
Model/Engine size: Cooper SD
Fuel economy combined: 65.7 mpg
Beating Spirit rating: 9/10
En route to the forest it quickly became apparent that the MINI Coupe isn’t a great deal different from the MINI hatch Ц except that you lose the two rear seats in the Coupe, gain a larger boot, and more people look at you in an attempt to try and work out what’s wrong with the bodywork.
Styling and Interior
And of course it’s the styling that’s the main issue with this car Ц it seems that you will either love it or hate it. The thing is, a two-seater MINI is not going to be particularly practical for families Ц in other words, for people around thirty years old and upwards. So you’re probably looking at a twenty-something age group that will see the appeal of the car, and the challenging Сhelmet’ styling of the rear roofline may be less of an issue to such an age group. To most people over the age of 30, this element of the design just doesn’t appear very harmonious.
The interior of the car remains virtually identical to a regular MINI Hatch up front, with its huge central speedo and small toggle switches that contribute to the fun of the car, but which aren’t particularly practical. One difference is that the Coupe has a more steeply sloping windscreen, which is good from an aerodynamic point of view, but combined with the much lower rear roofline, the interior does feel somewhat claustrophobic compared to the Hatch. There is a solution to this of course Ц the forthcoming MINI Roadster, which is effectively a Coupe with the roof chopped off. However at 280 litres, the Coupe’s boot is larger than that of the Hatch Ц and it’s even 20 litres larger than the Clubman’s – and there is also some room behind the rear seats for laptop-sized bags.
During our route through North Wales it was also clear that the driving experience on A and B-roads doesn’t seem significantly different from a regular MINI hatch. The Сgo-kart’ sensation remains, but on normal roads the Coupe doesn’t feel any sportier (although it does have an active rear spoiler that rises up at 50 mph to reduce lift at the rear of the car). There is a Сsport’ button but this doesn’t offer any more power, it just makes the throttle more responsive and the steering heavier. Would our views about the sporty nature of the car change once we reached the environment of Clocaenog Forest?
The final approach to the forest was up a north-facing slope in the shade of the trees, and the road also seemed to be fulfilling a dual role as river. At minus 3░C this meant that to get into the forest we had to negotiate a hill covered in sheet ice. A MINI, or any other two-wheel drive car on regular tyres, would have been spinning its wheels and going either nowhere, or backwards. However our front-wheel drive car, on winter tyres, made the sort of progress over the ice that you would expect from a 4×4. This was an encouraging start, as we soon entered the forest and it turned out that all of its roads were covered in the sort of snow and ice that you can’t even stand on without slipping over.
Our progress on the icy roads was initially cautious but it didn’t take long to realise that the levels of grip were much higher than expected. This was more a result of the tyres than the car, but as we went faster, it became obvious that it wasn’t just the grip of the tyres that was outstanding, the MINI Coupe was incredibly controllable at high speeds on the snow and ice, and it was definitely the combination of the tyres and the Coupe’s handling that was responsible.
You suddenly thought of all the old film footage of the original MINIs going flat out in snowy Monte Carlo rallies. If we’re to be completely honest, we’re not really fans of front-wheel drive cars, but the MINI is probably the main exception to this rule, and the MINI Coupe with winter tyres on ice proved this point perfectly. Psychologically at least, the MINI Coupe feels even more agile in these conditions than a MINI Hatch. With the possible exception of a well-sorted four-wheel drive Subaru Impreza on decent tyres, there can be few cars that are as fun and controllable on such snowy twisty roads.
However a key difference between this MINI and an Impreza is the fuel consumption. The Coupe returned 54.4 mpg during our Сstage’ in Clocaenog, which consisted of careful driving for the first half, and much faster driving for the second half. The official combined figure should be 65.7 mpg, so 54.4 mpg under such driving conditions is a good result.
The SD (СSports Diesel’) model would be our choice as its four cylinder, 2-litre turbodiesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox combination results in good economy with respectable performance (143 hp and 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds). There’s plenty of torque (305 Nm), resulting in an easy ability for wheel spin on damp roads when accelerating in first and second gears. However if you’re in the market for a MINI Coupe you might need some persuading to go for the diesel rather than the petrol option. There’s only one diesel option, but you have a choice of three petrol units; the Cooper, Cooper S, and JCW. Although the petrol units are efficient, it’s only the diesel that offers 13% BIK, and this might be the deciding factor for company purchases.
Prices, Range and Versions Available
All versions of the MINI Coupщ come with СMINIMALISM’ technology as standard, such as Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start/Stop, Shift Point Display, Electric Power Steering and the need-based operation of ancillary components.
The Coupe range in full is comprised of the MINI Cooper Coupe (52.3 mpg) at £16,640; the MINI Cooper S Coupe (48.7 mpg) at £19,775; the MINI Cooper SD Coupe (65.7 mpg) at £20,510; and the MINI John Cooper Works Coupe (39.8 mpg) at £23,795.
There’s also an automatic gearbox option, but this makes the fuel economy and emissions considerably worse.
It’s easy to spend a huge amount on MINI options. On top of its basic price, our test car also had £4490 of options, including the CHILI Pack at £1,865, Media Pack at £1,015, and Black Leather interior at £700. That took the price to exactly £25,000.
Summary and Review
It’s always great to get back in a MINI. Its Сgo-kart-like handling’ is such an over-used phrase, but it’s true; thanks to the direct steering that makes the whole car change direction so instantly, and the sense of fun about the entire car, the MINI is without doubt our favourite front-wheel drive car Ц by a substantial margin.
Our test showed that the qualities that made the original MINI so successful on snow-covered rallies are still present in the current model. Equipped with winter tyres, the Coupe could be driven almost flat out on snow and ice and it still handled in a similar way to a MINI on tarmac roads. This is a testament to both the tyres and the MINI’s inherently good handling characteristics.
Throw in the 65.7 mpg, and you’ve got a car that is economical as well as great fun to drive and individual-looking.
The two-seat coupe bodyshell obviously limits the practicality compared to the four-seat hatch, but if you really don’t need four seats, then at least you gain a larger boot, and a bodystyle that will get people talking.
The MINI Cooper SD Coupe gets a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10. It’s only let down by the lack of practicality and its challenging looks. However these issues are not likely to stop large numbers of people buying this car. If you’re one of those, then our advice is to fit winter tyres and go and find some snow and ice, and the resultant fun will be well worth the £20,000 or so that you’ll have to fork out to buy the car.
MINI Cooper SD Coupe road test by Paul Clarke
Beating Spirit Fact Sheet
Fuel economy extra urban: 72.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 55.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
Green rating: VED band C – First year £0
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 13%
Insurance group: 22E
Power: 143 bhp
Max speed: 134 mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
See also the MINI Countryman Cooper SD ALL4 road test