Love or loathe the marmite Mini

TALK about a Marmite Mini; this one you’ll either love or loathe, with nothing in between.

The new version of the wildly popular Mini ought to come painted black with a big red and yellow sticker on the bonnet, such is its affinity with the polarising toast topper.

On the ‘eugh’ side is someone who think the car looks odd (at best) and its maker must be joking to charge £1,700 more than for a plain old Mini, with two more seats.

Mini management might be pleased to hear that in a week of punting the new baby around on test only one person didn’t like the car, considering it ‘odd’ after a walkaround on the drive.

Everyone else, from men in car parks to women in the passenger seat of passing cars and teenagers at the bus stop, seemed to develop magnetised eyes as this new chunk of metal went past.

And not one of them pulled a funny face (I’ve had that in other cars, believe me) and some even smiled. They probably didn’t realise the up-scaled cost of ownership, but I bet they couldn’t have cared less either.

For the only thing the designer of a coupe has to get absolutely spot on is the look. Get that right and buyers will flock to your showroom, cash in hand and demanding delivery this afternoon. And hang the fact there’s no room in the back.

Mini has played the Coupe card brilliantly, recognising that there are buyers who don’t need the (dubious) space offered by the rear seats of a mere non-Coupe Mini, but who just love its looks. A boot much bigger than expected is simply a bonus.

First impressions, once you’ve stopped staring, is to doubt if a 6ft 2ins frame will fit. It will, and easily, thanks to a seat bolted a bit nearer the road and a cut-out in the headlining under that ski helmet shape of a roof.

Installed in the hip hugging sports seat (a no cost option), you’re faced with the same view forward offered the driver of the cheaper non-Coupe Mini. Apart, that is, from a beetle browed view through the chopped down windscreen. It feels a bit like having the sunvisor permanently down, but you soon don’t notice.

You do notice, and quickly, that the view rearward is pretty hopeless, thanks to a cut down rear screen and the little spoiler that motors out of the boot lid at 50mph or so.

You don’t spot following traffic until it’s quite close; so many thanks for the two large and well sited (and heated) exterior door mirrors. They’re vital when you try to reverse, especially around a corner, where the Coupe’s rear quarters block most of the view. Rear parking sensors are standard, and you quickly see why.

But enough of this practicality, you buy a coupe to have fun, and you will in this one. For starters, the diesel engine is a miracle mix of power and economy, pulling like a stung horse in the higher gears and still showing 55mpg on the trip computer at the end of my week in the saddle.

Add in wonderfully direct steering and a ride that only occasionally felt too hard and here’s a car to bring a smile to the most jaded face. I was sorry to see it go.