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Always-divisive styling conceals one of the most driver-centric Minis this side of a GP

By Sam Sheehan / Monday, April 6, 2020

Remember how the Mini Coupe was condemned as a backwards baseball cap when it arrived in 2011? This was in the days before we'd become accustomed (or not) to the likes of coupe crossovers, so it was tough to get on board with the apparent mismatch of its lowered roof and tall shoulders. It’s remained a divisive car ever since, and the sales volume (or lack there of) illustrates that. But in 2020, in the right spec – which is to say the right mix of body and roof colours – the R58 Mini Coupe isn’t all that bad, really.

Things are even more persuasive when the car is dressed in the right combination of John Cooper Works bits - it’s easier to pull off the distinctive tin top when the rest of the car looks fun and youthful. And while it might lack the sort of power which Mini brings to bear these days, there’s a lot on offer in the R58’s driving department. The two-seat Coupe is 90kg lighter than the R54 hatch, meaning the 211hp of the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine goes further, beating the JCW hatch’s 0-62mph time by a tenth at 6.4 seconds.

The Coupe has a firmer chassis setup meaning it’s even more reactive to your commands, and the body control is slightly better, too (not that the hatch was defective in either area). There’s lots of grip besides, plus a lowered centre of gravity, and just the right amount of rear-end adjustability to make it playful without ever feeling nervous. Thanks to the slightly tightened damping, the car delivers even more confidence at speed. In short, the Coupe had sufficient handling smarts to feel different to its conventional stablemate.

That, combined with the loss of a rear bench and small boot space, ensured that the Mini Coupe went all the way beyond niche into eventual extinction. In the long run, values may creep up, but for now, it seems buyers after a quick Mini from the last decade still prioritise usability over relative rarity. As such, prices aren’t really that different to the three-door R54; indeed, today’s Spotted is a fine example of R58 that’s up for seven grand.

The car – a 2011 model with 73,000 miles on the clock – blends a red lid with a silver body and JCW rims rather well, with a black leather interior and red stitching to set it all off. The seller mentions service history although it’s not clear whether it’s full or part, which would be something to check. Should it be the former, and you're in the market for the Coupe's curious concoction of Marmite looks and assured mechanicals, the model stands out now as an affordable driveway filler.


SPECIFICATION - MINI COUPE R58
Engine:
1,598cc, 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 211@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 207@2,000-5,300rpm
MPG: 42.8
CO2: 165g/km
First registered: 2011
Recorded mileage: 73,000
Price new: £23,800 (2013)
Yours for: £6,998

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