MINI Cooper S

Convertible

Mini Cooper S Convertible, side
Mini Cooper S Convertible, side
Mini Cooper S Convertible, front
Mini Cooper S Convertible, front
Mini Cooper S Convertible, rear
Mini Cooper S Convertible, interior
Mini Cooper S Convertible, boot
Mini Cooper S Convertible, exhaust
Mini Cooper S Convertible, interior
Mini Cooper S Convertible, interior
Mini Cooper S Convertible, interior
Mini Cooper S Convertible, engine
Mini Cooper S Convertible, front

IT is testament to the optimism of the British people that, despite our somewhat challenging climate, we love a drop-top motor.

And with sales of nearly 30,000 between 2011 and last year, the most popular choice has been the soft-top version of the MINI, with the UK established as its largest market worldwide.

BMW's reinvention of this iconic brand continues apace and the third generation of its convertible went on sale in March this year, very much aiming to continue that success story.

A four-model line-up includes the three-cylinder, 1.5-litre Cooper, a three-cylinder 1.5-litre Cooper D diesel, the performance-focused 2.0-litre Cooper S I drove and a truly fiery John Cooper Works edition with a more powerful version of the 2.0-litre engine.

Needless to say, when the delivery driver handed over the keys at the start of my week-long road test the sun had packed away his hat and wasn't coming out to play.

Fortunately, though, this diminutive sporty soft-top, can put a smile on your face even with the roof closed.

A modest increase in wheelbase and overall dimensions coupled with some more muscular stylings, particularly in this Cooper S guise, create a purposeful stance while retaining all of the obvious MINI design cues.

Large chrome-ringed circular headlamps, a hexagonal grille and ‘side scuttle' indicator surrounds are all familiar, with the performance credentials of this model characterised by an imposing bonnet vent, brake ducts in the lower air inlet and centrally mounted twin tailpipes beneath a bespoke rear apron.

And when you slip behind the wheel and flick the aeroplane-style ignition switch it certainly lives up to its aggressive styling.

A 0-62mph sprint time of 7.2 seconds and top speed of 143mph are in hot-hatch territory and testament to the fact that BMW have stuck a turbocharged 2.0-litre power pack under the bonnet, where many rivals these days have opted for 1.6 or even 1.4-litre units.

But it's not just about speed, MINI prides itself on it's engaging drive and go-kart like handling - and that's precisely what you get.

Sitting low to the ground on big alloys means the ride is very firm, but that's all part of the buzz. Rock-solid grip, quick and precise steering and a snappy six-speed manual transmission combine to keep the driver fully involved.

Fast bends can be taken with enthusiasm and a quick stab on the accelerator elicits a decisive response, accompanied by a thoroughly satisfying exhaust note.

While BMW claim the extra size increases practicality, the back seats are still best left to the kids but there is a welcome 25 percent boost in boot space - to 215 litres with the roof up and 160 litres when it's open.

The cabin still bears all the quirky touches and retro charm of previous models and standard equipment includes air conditioning, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, 6.5-inch screen, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

To get the real bells and whistles you'll probably want to add at least the Chili and Tech packs, which bring a host of extras including satnav and the pointless but hugely entertaining puddle lights on either door that shine a large MINI motif onto the ground when you lock the car.

Such extras, along with the familiar plethora of personalisation options, push up the price but help to ensure the new MINI Cooper S Convertible more than maintains the brand's fun factor.

And by the end of my stint behind the wheel my smile was even broader as the sun finally got his hat on just in time for me to try out the electric roof - the defining feature of any drop-top.

This opens and closes fully in just 18 seconds at speeds of up to 18mph and the front section can also be retracted by up to 40cm at any speed - much like a traditional sunroof.

FAST FACTS

MINI Cooper S Convertible

Price: £22,570

Mechanical: 192ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:143mph

0-62mph:7.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.1

Insurance Group:29

C02 emissions: 139g/km

Bik rating:24%

Warranty:3yrs/100,000 miles

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