Road test: MINI Convertible

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by James Luckhurst

Tops for glamour, good for driving calibre and with a really convenient hood.

 

Road test: MINI Convertible

nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image nivo slider image

What is it?

A fashion model with an appetite for the great outdoors. The only small four-seater convertible currently available to buy new. The latest MINI Convertible, now with a (slightly) bigger boot.

How safe is it?

It’s hard to be precise, because it hasn’t been Euro NCAP crash tested, and neither was its predecessor. But MINI sets high safety standards, and there’s built-in rollover protection.

Who should buy one?
Anyone with a breezy enthusiasm for life, and a determination to make the most of dry weather, but not put off by statistics: on average it rains every other day here in the UK.

Road test by Sue Baker published 28 May 2016

 

 

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Road test: MINI Convertible

It’s a MINI, so you know it’s going to be an engaging drive. It’s maybe not quite as pert and precise as a driver-pleasing MINI Hatch, but it comes pretty close. It carries a bit of extra weight, with an additional 105kg of strengthening built into the bodywork, but it’s still lively and engaging enough to put a smile on your face.

The engine in this Cooper version is a 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol unit, with a perky 135bhp power output, and 0-62mph acceleration in just under nine seconds. It feels quite lively on the road, although some would say that driving a convertible is more about posing than performance. Economy isn’t too bad either, with a combined mpg figure in the mid-50s.

The car has nicely weighted steering with good informative feel, and this is an enjoyable car to hustle along a winding B-road. It has that grippy precision that MINIs are known for, and the chassis feels very composed and structurally rigid for a car that has had its steel top chopped off. The relatively square shape, with the wheels right out at the corners, clearly helps maintain its structural composure. Some soft-tops creak and flex when driven enthusiastically; this one doesn’t.

The ride quality is somewhat on the firm side, but not unduly so. Although it thumps a bit over coarser surfaces it is mostly pretty adept at ironing out the minor bumps in the road. There’s very little body roll on the bends, and the handling is nimble and tidy.

It’s just as well that rear parking aids come as standard, because the car’s rearward vision with the hood up is really very restricted. The tight fit of the hood keeps wind noise to a reasonable level, but there is a bit more air-rushing sound over the top than in the Hatch. When the hood’s down, it is pretty breezy unless you install a mesh wind deflector behind the front seats, but doing so means forfeiting use of the rear seats.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Road test: MINI Convertible

Before you get too excited about the glamour and roofless freedom that comes with driving a convertible with a MINI badge on the front, here are some of the drawbacks. Yes, it’s a four-seater, unlike any other drop-top model this size, but there’s precious little kneeroom in the back, and it takes quite a bit of athleticism for passengers to shoehorn themselves into the rear seats when the hood is shut. So don’t rush to offer a lift to three elderly relatives.

Then there’s the boot, or rather the relative lack of it. MINI enthuses about it being larger than in the previous model, and yes, it is now 40 litres bigger, at 215 litres, but that’s pretty dinky by the standards of most cars. Oh, and that’s with the roof up. When it’s down, it concertinas back into the upper boot space, leaving you with only 160 litres for your weekend luggage or weekly supermarket shopping haul. So it’s a tight squeeze.

SAFETY
Road test: MINI Convertible

It would be nice to know how the MINI Convertible performs in crash testing, but that can’t be confirmed. We do know that MINI has a reputation for buildings strong cars, and the Convertible has protective measures to guard against crash injury. These include ‘invisible’ rollover protection, hidden in the rear seatbelt outlets, which spring open within a fraction of a second in an emergency to release pop-up devices to guard against injury.

EQUIPMENT
Road test: MINI Convertible

The most important piece of kit is that hood. It’s power-operated, and quick, taking just 18 seconds to open or shut, and either can be done on the move at speeds up to 19mph. Another handy feature is the ‘Easy load’ device that extends the boot opening by pivoting the upper edge higher, but it only works with the roof shut. A reversing camera and rear parking sensor come as standard.

COSTS

Road test: MINI Convertible

It’s not a cheap car, but it isn’t really that expensive for such a chic fun convertible, and you won’t find a sun-loving, rain-shrugging, powered-roof drop-top for less. The choice of engines includes this zippy but modestly thirsty Cooper 1.5 litre petrol and there’s a company car-friendly frugal three-cylinder diesel. Prices rise steeply further up the range, though, and the dearest John Cooper Works model is over £28,000.

WE SAY
Tops for glamour, good for driving calibre and with a really convenient hood.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £18,475 as tested
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds
Economy: 57.6mpg combined
Insurance: Group 18
Tax: Band C (£0 first year)

Figures for MINI Cooper Convertible