Summer's here, so it's time to get your top off with the new MINI Convertible
Published 02/06/2016 | 08:33
Since its launch in 2004, the MINI has become the ultimate fashion accessory.
It's as much a part of your wardrobe as D&G shades, the Burberry scarf or, indeed, the latest Prada handbag.
It's cooler than Cara Delevigne's eyebrows, as individual as Lily Cole's ginger Barnet and more in demand than Kim Kardashian's spandex pants - and not just among the perma-tanned dahlings who muah-muah each other every five minutes.
In fact, it has among its treasure trove of awards the accolade of being the biggest-selling convertible in the UK, shifting 29,415 of the second generation models between 2011 and 2015 and quite a few here too.
It also remains the only premium soft-top four-seater convertible in the small-car sector.
So what's new about the third incarnation of this cheeky little imp?
For starters, and probably most importantly, it comes with a fully electric roof that is quieter and smoother than the previous model, a fully integrated rollover protection system and more rear space than ever before.
A striking new exterior and interior leaves you in no doubt as to its BMW heritage while adding that smidgen of true sportiness.
As you'd expect, the cabin is top notch with soft-touch surfaces at every fingertip, while every lever button and toggle switch (we could play with these all day long, especially the stop/start) looks like it was engineered individually and could survive a nuclear explosion.
It's bigger too, adding 98mm in length, 44mm in width and 1mm extra height. This is down to the chassis, which is the same one used in the five-door hatch, meaning the wheelbase is 28mm longer. Track width has also grown by 42mm at the front and 34mm at the rear.
This gives greater boot space of 160 litres with the roof open and 215 litres when it's closed - both 25pc bigger than its predecessor. The tailgate opens downwards and can be used as a bench seat for al fresco dining (as long as you don't weigh more than 80kgs).
The model line-up includes three petrol and one diesel in the guise of the Cooper with 126bhp, Cooper D (116), Cooper S (192) and the stonking John Cooper Works with 231bhp.
We tested the Cooper and the Cooper S, both petrol.
First up is the entry level Cooper, which was an absolute dream and somehow dispersed the clouds as soon as the roof began to open (which takes 18 seconds to fully retract, but only 16 secs to close even at speeds up to 30kph).
Topless or not, the 1.5-litre three- cylinder engine is peppy and powerful and just as comfortable nipping around city streets as cruising on a motorway.
Step up into the Cooper S and you're in hot hatch country as the 2.0-litre is pure BMW and with a soundtrack to match. Slip her into Sport mode which recalibrates the throttle, steering and suspension to give proper go-kart handling.
Every time you kick up or down the gearbox the whole street is treated to a symphony of snarls and pops as she rockets to 100kph in just over seven seconds. Our test car was twinned to a six-speed Steptronic automatic box which ironically is more efficient and greener than the manual.
It's nearly impossible to fault this drop-top other than the usual gripes like cramped back seats and restricted vision at the rear while parking, but MINI has remedied that by adding rear parking sensors and a colour reversing camera as standard.
There's even a "rain warner" function that sends a message to your phone to return to the vehicle immediately to get the lid on.
The same warning comes up on the dash while in motion and will suggest a safe place to pull in.
Prices for the new MINI Convertible start at €27,270.