|Mni Cooper Convertible
Soft Top Will Be An Unstoppable Best-Seller
Drop-Dead Good Looks, High Quality, Great (Mini) Handling
BMWs small car brand goes from strength to strength.
Rating - **** out of 5
Seville, Spain Its as inevitable as Wayne Rooney in the penalty box and twice as cute.
The Mini Convertible will score, sales that is, inevitably and often.
As soon as the car was unveiled at the Geneva Car Show back in March, its success was assured. It is simply an adorable little car, like its fixed roof sibling only more so. Its not cheap, but its residuals are likely to be so strong, it wont cost too much to own. As BMW put it costs will be spectacularly low because of the tortoise-like depreciation.
The Mini Convertible is not just a pretty face. It is well made and drives as well as the hardtop. The car is much heavier than the saloon, with 100 kilos of extra weight to make it stiffer and compensate for the strength lost with the lack of the steel roof. This weight penalty takes away some of the performance, and the Cooper version I drove around southern Spain did feel a bit gutless under acceleration.
Once you get it going though the car is a pleasure to drive, with all the stickability and direct steering that goes with the go-kart type handling. The suspension gives a harsh ride, and despite the extra strength built in, the body inevitably feels less rigid than the saloon. The 5-speed gearbox is excellent; the One convertible also has 5 gears, but the supercharged Cooper S version has a six speed box. A CVT automatic version will be available later this year. Theres no diesel. Prices start at £13,325, (20,000 euros) thats almost £3,000 (4,500 euros) more than the base price for the roofed version.
The Mini One version includes ABS brakes, cornering brake control and electronic braking distribution, while the Cooper version adds a few trim improvements to the more powerful engine.
All the familiar Mini style is retained in the cockpit, with the DC-3 Dakota look-alike switches and the big dials, and a huge, centrally mounted one which shows fuel, oil and coolant temperature. BMW has excelled itself with a bevy of neat touches. The shiny rear rollover protectors are made of high-strength aluminium pipe. The drop-down boot lid doubles as a handy loading platform. Theres a little coin tray area under the handbrake. Theres a third sun visor for the driver for extra comfort and safety.
The view through the rear view mirror is restricted by the canvas roof, but Mini throws in as standard a radar Park Distance Control. The hood, which incorporates a heated glass rear window, operates in two stages. Press the button once and the roof slides back 40 centimetres (16 inches) to create a unique sunroof effect which can be induced at speeds up to 75 mph (120 km/h). Unfortunately on the test car, this was as far as the roof would retract, which was perhaps just as well given the harsh, almost 100 degree (38 Celsius) heat around Seville. Mini explained that the fault occurred because of heat-induced software problems, but this has now been put right.
If you press the button once more, the hood retracts fully, BMW says, neatly folding down into a compact arrangement behind the rear seats. No messy catches, tricky levers or fiddly tonneau covers are involved only 15 seconds and the touch of a button stand between the driver and the pleasure of open-air motoring. In order for the roof to open to its fully convertible position the car must be stationary.
Almost Infinite Personalisation
BMW offers a huge array of colour and interior and exterior feature options so that buyers can personalise their cars. Only two in every 100,000 Minis could be exactly the same, according to BMW, with the Salt, Pepper and Chilli packs, not to mention the TLC option which provides long-term maintenance.
If you opt for bigger, 16 inch or 17 inch wheels, you get runflat tyres which can last for up to 80 miles at 50 mph, if they puncture.
Surprisingly, the Mini convertible seemed to have more room in the back than the saloon, although 2 adults will not want to stay there for too long. The boot has 120 litres of boot space with the roof stowed, and 165 litres with the roof on. There are various ways of adding flexibility to the carrying capacity with fold down seats, but this car is not about practicalities, its about Fun with a capital F. Maybe BMW could redesign the two roll over bars to look like Rooney ears?
Neil Winton June 26, 2004
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