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MINI Cooper Convertible review: 3.5/5

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New MINI Cooper Convertible kicks off the new drop-top range.

Dave Humphreys

Words: - @LordHumphreys

Published on: February 24, 2016

Words: - @LordHumphreys

Published on: February 24, 2016

Tech Specs

Model testedMINI Cooper Convertible
Pricingrange starts at €26,670, as tested €29,924
Engine1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door, four-seat convertible
CO2 emissions114g/km (Band A4, €200 per annum)
Combined economy55.4mpg (5.1 litres/100km)
Top speed207km/h
0-100km/h8.8 seconds
Power136hp at 4,400rpm
Torque220Nm at 1,250rpm (230Nm on overboost)
Boot space160- to 215 litres
EuroNCAP ratingnot yet tested

Forming the entry point to the four-strong MINI Convertible range, the Cooper looks and - more importantly - feels every bit as polished as its more powerful and expensive siblings. Less aggressive front and rear styling adds to what is overall a classy and unmistakeable image.

In the Metal:

As silhouettes go the MINI remains one of the most easily recognised, even though this is the biggest MINI Convertible to date. The proportions and overall style have barely differed since the first BMW-era MINI came along, and that is no criticism as it remains every bit as eye-catching today. Unlike the hatchback there won't be a MINI One Convertible so it falls to the Cooper to underpin the soon-to-be four-strong model range. There is a more powerful MINI Cooper S Convertible and a Cooper D, while in time a range-topping John Cooper Works model will arrive based on the same performance upgrades as the JCW hatchback version.

With less power comes less in your face styling and the MINI Cooper is all the better for it. Unlike the Cooper S, which has bulging bumpers with added intakes, the regular Cooper looks that bit classier. There is still a varied colour palette to choose from including the 'Caribbean Aqua' metallic paint you see here, which in the sun looks very well especially with a light coloured interior.

Practically, the rear seats get an additional 40mm of legroom over the previous MINI Convertible while the protective roll hoops are now stowed away out of sight, deploying automatically should the car be in a crash. Chrome tops on the safety belt retractor housings are one of the many nice touches throughout the interior.

With the roof up boot space is 215 litres, but this decreases to 160 litres when the roof is down. Conveniently the tailgate opens downwards and can support up to 80kg should you decide to use it as a seat. The backs of the rear seats, meanwhile, can be lowered and have a 50:50 split.

Driving it:

The MINI Cooper Convertible does give away one cylinder in its engine compared to the Cooper S, but the 1.5-litre three-pot is still a fun engine to use and suits the car's driving characteristics well. Those still harbouring any doubts might like to know that it is essentially the same engine that helps to power the stunning BMW i8. Like many other MINIs past, this engine likes to rev and with 136hp on tap there is just enough performance to put a grin on your face.

Its six-speed manual transmission has a well-oiled mechanical feel to it as well, and slots into each gear with the certainty one would expect from a premium car. Handling is precise and direct, giving the driver the ability to place the car easily and predictably. One of the only real gripes is the oversized centre armrest; if left down it gets in the way of gear changes, though it is a convenience on longer drives.

Losing its metal roof hasn't taken away from the MINI's sharp handling. Distilled down this remains a genuinely fun car to drive, and one that is capable of out-performing virtually all others in its segment thanks to its chassis. The suspension does a comprehensive job of absorbing the bigger bumps without ever making it feel too soft on the road. On cars equipped with the Chili Pack drivers can choose from one of three different driving modes that either soften the ride or enhance what MINI calls 'maximum go-kart feel'.

The fabric roof is easily operated by a toggle switch just over the rear view mirror, and lowers in 18 seconds. This can be opened and closed at speeds under 30km/h. It is also possible to open a 40cm front roof section at any speed. Buffeting isn't bad even at motorway speeds when all four windows are up and buyers can avail of an optional wind deflector that locks into place over the rear seats to further reduce buffeting and wind noise. With the fabric roof up the cabin is quieter than on previous models and at motorway speeds doesn't hinder normal conversation.

What you get for your Money:

With pricing for the MINI Cooper Convertible starting at €26,670 in Ireland it leaves quite a gap to the €33,090 Cooper S. More than enough money in fact to add some really nice options to the car should performance not be top of your priority list. As with the rest of the MINI range there are a number of packs to choose from that bundle together options, but there is some good standard equipment too. A reversing camera is now standard on all Convertible models for the first time, for example, as is air conditioning, an on-board computer, DAB radio and the MINI Connected system.

The Pepper Pack costs €1,287 and adds height adjustment for the front passenger seat, an additional storage compartment, automatic air conditioning, rain sensor with automatic headlight activation, an extended interior light package and velour floor mats.

Moving up there is the Chili Pack, which costs €3,254, but adds 16-inch 'Victory Spoke' alloy wheels, a sports steering wheel with multifunction controls, white indicator lenses, sports seats up front and the option to select the three different MINI driving modes.

Alternatives

Audi A3 Cabriolet: every bit as premium and more spacious, but less fun to drive and doesn't have the same kerbside appeal.

Fiat 500C: not a full cabriolet, but still oozes style and is cheaper to buy.

Opel Adam Rocks: drives better than it looks and is a (very) alternative open-top choice.

Summary

There are many convertibles out there, but none really challenge the appeal and driving enjoyment offered by the MINI Cooper Convertible. Its turbocharged three-cylinder engine complements the rest of the range and doesn't lack charm in the driving department.



Tech Specs

Model testedMINI Cooper Convertible
Pricingrange starts at €26,670, as tested €29,924
Engine1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door, four-seat convertible
CO2 emissions114g/km (Band A4, €200 per annum)
Combined economy55.4mpg (5.1 litres/100km)
Top speed207km/h
0-100km/h8.8 seconds
Power136hp at 4,400rpm
Torque220Nm at 1,250rpm (230Nm on overboost)
Boot space160- to 215 litres
EuroNCAP ratingnot yet tested