BMW Mini convertible review - a fun economical convertibleBMW's small economical car has stood the test of time. The classic Mini was brought back to life by BMW some years ago and could so easily have been a fleeting success. Other cars from the same mould had initial success followed by falling sales. Cars such as the PT Cruiser and Beetle were very popular at the outset but the fad passed. BMW's Mini on the other hand is still recording strong sales urging BMW to continue releasing more iterations of it. There are special high performance versions such as the Works Mini. They released a successful soft top and the Clubman - a slightly larger Mini with barn doors, a bit like a station wagon. There's a soft roader Mini and talk of a future electric version. The newest Mini to be released is an updated version of the convertible. Its another great car and will be another hit.
As with the standard Mini there are two variants of the new convertible - the Cooper and Cooper S. Both have 1.6 litre engines but the Cooper S is turbocharged. Both have the option of manual or auto gearboxes. The normally aspirated engine puts out 120 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharged engine adds quite a lot more power, totaling 175 horsepower altogether. Although the normally aspirated engine squeezes out what power it can through variable valve timing, it's not a powerful engine and performance of the Mini with this engine is very average, especially when teamed with the sedentary auto gearbox. Having said that the auto box does have optional manual control through the use of a shifter or steering wheel paddles. Because of the extra weight of the equipment for the auto opening roof the turbo engine is definitely the one to go for on this car. You need that extra power to give the Mini its usual zip. And what a superb engine the turbocharged unit is - a million miles away from the non turbo version. The extra power makes all the difference and for such a small engine it does a great job of pulling strongly right across the rev range all the way up to the redline. Whats unusual for a small fuel efficient car is that you don't feel like you need to constantly change gear all the time to get any power. This car still has plenty of power at low revs.
The standard Cooper is a noticeably more efficient car than the 'S' with a fuel efficiency of 49 mpg for the manual and 42 mpg for the auto. The Cooper S fuel consumption is 42 mpg and 39 mpg for the manual and auto models respectively. As previously mentioned the automatic gearbox is a bit slow to change gears and although there's a Sport button which sharpens them up, the six speed manual is the pick of the transmission choices. Its a really crisp comfortable short shift gearbox which is a lot of fun to use and makes the drive even more pleasurable.
The convertible top on the Mini is well engineered and designed. It retracts quickly and easily. A push of a button opens it up first as a sunroof and another push of the button powers it all the way down. Cruising around with the roof down is a lot of fun and not excessively windy. BMW have included a gauge, which is a bit of a gimmick really, called the Openometer. Its a timer telling you how long you've had the roof down. I can't really see what purpose it serves but BMW say it both encourages you to have the top down but also indicates how much time in the sun your skin has had. There's only a couple of small problems with the soft top - there is no cover for it, and rear visibility is not great.
The new convertible Mini has a lot of neat features if you're prepared to pay top dollar for them. The price of the standard car is not cheap and when you start adding expensive features you really begin to enter luxury car price territory. Among the available options are mp3 player and phone support, a 10 speaker premium stereo, traction control, sports suspension, heated and leather seats, multi function steering wheel, mood lighting and climate control.
When most cars are made into a convertible handling usually suffers quite badly. The problem is the roof of the vehicle provides stiffness to the car which is vital for tight cornering. Fortunately the Mini's handling isn't compromised too much by the presence of the soft top and BMW's engineers should be applauded for this. While there is some loss of stiffness the Mini convertible still manages to remain razor sharp in the corners. It must have helped to start off with the Mini in the first place. Cars don't handle any better than the metal roofed Mini. Having said this some people will find the optional sports suspension a little too harsh, especially on imperfect road surfaces.
As you'd expect, the interior of the Mini is pretty cool. It's color coded to the exterior paintwork and the dash and controls are laid out in Mini's usual funky style. The mood lighting option allows you to change the color of the interior lighting to suit your mood. As you'd expect rear legroom and cargo space are both very tight.
Safety is pretty good on BMW's economical convertible. You get 4 airbags (front and sides) as standard, the option of stability control and a 5 star crash rating. There's also a rollover sensor which will fire a pop up rollbar in the event of a roll. This is a comforting feature when you're in a soft top.
Overall then the new Mini is a wonderful car. Its a well built, sporty, fun and economical convertible. Its got great performance provided you buy the turbo, great handling, and great looks. To be honest I didn't expect anything less. The only thing that lets it down is price. The standard car is expensive, as are all the options. Its a lot to pay for a tiny car.
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