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Mini cabrio, maximum fun

The popularity of the legendary Mini has surprised most, especially BMW, which admits it underestimated just how successful the reborn brick would be.

With the introduction of the Mini Cabrio – which will go on sale after the Sydney Motor Show – this popularity is expected to further cement the little three-door hatch's place in the market.

A price premium of less than $8000 is expected on both Mini Cooper Cabrio and Mini Cooper S Cabrio models over their fixed-roof counterparts. That would make the Cooper Cabrio about $42,000 and the Cooper S Cabrio about $47,000.

Mini has made a significant contribution to the success of the BMW Group: "In all, we have sold more than 400,000 Minis since its introduction not quite three years ago," says BMW board member Burkhard Goschel.

The Mini Cabrio is a real looker with the roof down. It rises slightly to the rear and the waistline gives the car a sporty profile accentuated by a chrome strip.

The Mini is renowned for its go-kart-like abilities, precise handling and generally fun characteristics and the Cabrio does not disappoint.

It was surprisingly quiet with the top down – high in the mountains the wind nearly knocked you over when outside the car but felt like a light breeze when inside due to the high-pitched windscreen, high windows and standard wind deflector. (The wind deflector double folds to the size of an A4 sheet of paper and about 2cm thick when not in use.)

Rear vision is compromised with the top off and the wind deflector in place but it is expected the Cooper S Cabrio will receive a standard reverse-parking aid.

With the roof closed the boot is 165 litres, and 120 litres when it is open.

Flexing noises were heard with the roof closed, only a tiny amount of scuttle shake was felt and there was no steering kickback. Even in the wet the 15-inch wheels did not want to let go.

The Cabrio has a 1.6-litre engine that produces 85kW at 6000rpm and a top speed of 193km/h. It consumes just 7.3L per 100km.

Despite a revised five-speed gearbox with shortened throw, the Cooper Cabrio's 150Nm of torque let it down, especially as it carries 100kg more than the fixed-roof model.

Despite being able to corner at fast speeds the gearbox was unable to pull the 1175kg out in the same gear, meaning the car was either over-revved in second or struggling in third.

The Cabrio is, however, just as nimble as its roofed counterpart, featuring larger and sturdier body parts, an extra-strong floor pan and side sills, along with additional V-struts between the underbody and the rear axle and stiffening between the engine mount and strut tower to provide further reinforcement.

The side sills' thickness has been increased and reinforcement pockets have been integrated, increasing body stiffness and preventing the door sills deforming in a head-on collision. The underbody has been reinforced with new crossbars in the area of the B-pillar.

The Cabrio has two front airbags, two seat-integrated side airbags, a reinforced A-pillar and a roll-over bar capable of holding three times the car's weight.

While the back seat room is not huge it can take two people in relative comfort.

All Mini models gain a new headlight design, and tail lights with clear glass covers. Xenon headlights are optional.

The Cooper Cabrio adds Hot Orange and Cool Blue paint to its palette and the Cooper S Hyper Blue, bringing to 10 the number of paint options. There are 11 upholstery options, nine interior variants, three roof colours and seven different light-alloy wheels.

Buyers can opt to colour-code one of four exterior paint colours to the dash panel, replacing the brushed-aluminium look.

You can also opt for a round centre instrument panel for the fuel gauge and the coolant temperature, run-flat and service-interval indicators. All Australian specifications are yet to be finalised.

The Cooper S Cabrio will come with a new supercharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 125kW at 6000rpm and a revised six-speed manual gearbox. Maximum torque is 220Nm at 4000rpm. The supercharged sun lover hits 100km/h in 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 215km/h, 0.2 seconds and 7km/h down on the fixed-roof model.

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