New MINI Convertible

ready for summer

MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, front, action
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, rear
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, side
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, side, roof up
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, roof retraction
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, side, roof down
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, interior
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, boot
MINI Cooper Convertible, 2016, boot, maximum

ALTHOUGH last year was deemed to be the world's warmest since records began, I don't think it applied to the UK, where it wasn't exactly blisteringly hot during our so-called summer.

But it still remains a fact that we in this rain-soaked island buy more open-top motors than anyone else in the world.

The MINI Convertible has been the choice of wind-in-the-hair enthusiasts since it first appeared in 2004, and since 2011 until 2015, more 30,000 MINI convertibles have been sold in the UK.

Now the third generation of this popular motor is about to go on sale with upgrades in all areas and many new practical additions.

Brand new features include a fully electric roof that is quieter and smoother than the previous model, a fully integrated rollover protection system and the new BMW product is slightly longer, wider and higher than the outgoing model.

The front seats have a wider range of adjustment, while rear passengers benefit from easier access, more headroom, a longer seat surface and improved lateral support.

Also improved is the luggage space, with a re-designed boot which has increased volume by around 25 per cent to 215 litres with the roof closed and 160 litres with it folded.

A four-car range will be available from launch - the MINI Cooper Convertible, Cooper D, Cooper S and in a couple of months the super-fast John Cooper Works Convertible- with the choice of three petrol engines and one diesel.

Subtle changes have been made to the Convertible's already sporty appearance with the inclusion of additional chrome fittings and high gloss black ribs on the radiator grille and the Cooper S model comes with an extra bonnet vent and brake ducts in the lower air inlet and has two centrally positioned exhaust pipes.

Luggage space has always been pretty frugal but the latest version offers better storage via a new "Easy Load" function, which comes as standard. When the top is up, two locking handles enable the roof frame to be swung higher up than in the previous Convertible. For long loads the through-loading facility - widened by 8mm to 734mm - can take items such as skis or snowboards.

Under the bonnets are the latest generation of EU6-compliant engines. The MINI Cooper comes with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine and the S version a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, both with turbo-charging.

The three-cylinder unit produces 136bhp and can shift the Cooper from standstill to 62mph in just 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 129mph and with a claimed fuel consumption of 53.3mpg and produces COemissions: 114g/km.

The Cooper S offers 192bhp, 7.2 seconds to 62mph, top speed of 142mph, fuel consumption of 48.7mpg and CO2 at 131g/km.

The diesel version comes in at 116bhp, with a sprint time of 9.9 seconds, top speed 121mph, fuel usage at 68.9mpg and CO2 at 100g/km.

Six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a six-speed Steptronic transmission is available as an option and Steptronic sports transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles can be specified on MINI CooperS Convertible and on MINI John Cooper Works Convertible.

It offers reduced shift times, and features a Launch Control function for traction-optimised acceleration from a standing start.

Across the range equipment levels are high with standard gear including air conditioning, central locking with keyless engine start and MINI Visual Boost Radio with AUX-In and USB socket. Two-zone air conditioning with an automatic convertible mode is available as an optional extra.

So how does it drive? I tried out the new open top MINI in the sunshine of Portugal and drove the Cooper and Cooper S for more than five hours, all with the roof down.

It was an enjoyable experience at this time of year and I was impressed with the road-holding ability of both models. The S version, with its greater power, offered greater acceleration and sporty fun and it took on demanding corners just as you would expect a MINI to do.

Not that the three-cylinder Mini Cooper was a slouch. It performed very well on the mixed driving route and even at motorway speeds the amount of wind buffeting wasn't excessive.

Prices for the new MINI Convertible range from £18,475 for the manual Cooper and on to £28,205 for the John Cooper Works automatic.

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