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MINI Cooper Convertible road test report

MINI Cooper Convertible

The Mini is a true motoring icon that will be 50 years old in 2009. As part of the celebrations, a new Convertible version is going on sale, boosting the latest generation’s line-up to three models. There are no great changes to the new Convertible, relying on a tried and tested formula of go kart-like handling, cute styling and cool image. However, despite the car not looking very different to the old one, there are a number of changes under the skin that bring it bang up to date, including a range of technological advances and environmental measures.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the MINI Cooper Convertible

Image number 2 of the MINI Cooper ConvertibleImage number 3 of the MINI Cooper ConvertibleImage number 4 of the MINI Cooper Convertible

Performance Performance - 4 stars

The new Mini Convertible is launched in three versions: Cooper, Cooper S and the hot John Cooper Works. The base Mini One version is scheduled to arrive at the start of 2010 and parent company BMW is currently mulling over a diesel version. The Cooper is the cruiser of the current line-up, generating a respectable 118bhp and reaching 62mph from a standing start in a fairly sedate 9.8 seconds, before pushing on a top speed of 123mph. If you want something sportier, go for the Cooper S, which feels a lot quicker – and is, thanks to its much greater 171bhp, recording 0-62mph in 7.4 secs and a top speed of 138mph. And for the real hardcore Mini maniac, there’s the race car-like John Cooper Works edition with a mighty 207bhp that reduces the 0-62 sprint to an impressive 6.9 seconds and a top end of 146mph.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

The handling of the Convertible retains the go-kart-like qualities we associate with the Mini: the steering is wonderfully precise, ensuring that the car goes exactly where you point it. Take it on to a quiet B-road with plenty of twists and turns and we guarantee you’ll come back with a smile on your face. The quality of the ride depends on how you spec your car from the long list of options. The Convertible has a decently compliant ride that is in keeping with its character as a fun, open-topped cruiser. However, if you then decide to go for the sports suspension (£145), opt for 17-inch alloy wheels (from £390 or £840, depending on the version) and run-flat tyres (standard fit on the S, optional on the Cooper), you could find yourself regretting it: this combination will mean you feel every bump and rut in Britain’s far-from-perfect road surfaces.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

The Mini Convertible feels robust and well built, with a pleasing stocky solidity to the car. The roof mechanism for the canvas drop-top also seems to be well put-together, working smoothly and quietly to stow the hood in 15 seconds (and up to a speed of 20mph, so you can do it on the move). Mini has earned a good reputation as a manufacturer of reliable cars, taking eighth place in the last JD power survey of manufacturers (out of 28) and with the Mini itself taking 24th place (out of 100) in the league table of models. The one caveat would be some of the switchgear in the Mini Convertible, plus the aperture for the CD player in the centre stack. Made out of flimsy grey plastic, these switches and dials look cheap and rather nasty, undermining Mini’s brand values and the stylish design of the car itself.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

The latest generation of the Mini has already been crash-tested by EuroNCAP and been awarded five stars for adult occupant protection, three stars for child protection and two stars for pedestrian impact – ratings that are at the upper end of the spectrum for new cars. There are all the active and passive safety measures you’d expect from a modern car built to BMW’s exacting standards. In addition to four airbags, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and Isofix child seat anchor points, there’s a wide range of electronic aids such as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution, a tyre pressure warning system, crash sensor, corner braking control and bars behind the rear seats that pop up in 150 milliseconds in the event of the car rolling over. In terms of security, there’s a Category 1 alarm and central locking that activates remotely and automatically above 10mph.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 3 stars

In the front, the manual seat adjustments are practical and the steering wheel (plus the large dial containing the rev counter and information display) adjusts for both reach and rake. A good driving position is therefore attainable for anyone, whatever their shape or size. The rear is a different story. The seats are little more than extra storage space, especially if you have the roof down and a wind deflector fitted, essentially making the Mini Convertible a two-seater. There is more bootspace on the latest version, increasing by five litres to 125 litres with the roof down and 170 litres with the roof up. The aperture of the boot has also increased slightly to allow bigger loads and, if you lower the back seats, there’s a fairly decent 660 litres of space. Bike rack preparation comes as standard, so owners can also fix multi-function carriers for bikes, surfboards, etc.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

BMW has fitted its Efficient Dynamics technology to the Mini, under the name Minimalism, so stop/start, brake regeneration and an indicator in the instrument panel that tells you the optimum time to change gear are all fitted as standard. These measures mean that CO2 emissions have been cut to 137g/km for the Cooper and 153g/km for the Cooper S (even the John Cooper Works emits just 169g/km), meaning road tax of just £120 and £145 per year. Fuel consumption has also been reduced - to 49.6mpg for the Cooper and 44.1mpg for the Cooper S. Servicing costs are very low if owners sign up for the TLC package: £185 for the first five years/50,000 miles, or eight years/80,000 miles for £555. And you don’t need to worry about resale values too much: the Mini is hugely desirable, so it should retain around 54-57% of its value after three years.

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