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Mini Convertible 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
California sunshine is ideal for the new Mini Convertible, but it’s the twisty canyon roads inland from Malibu which are perfect for a cruiser that’s become a bruiser.

California sunshine is ideal for the new Mini Convertible, but it’s the twisty canyon roads inland from Malibu which are perfect for a cruiser that’s become a bruiser.

No-one who enjoys driving would have dared to take the floppy and flappy earlier models into the hills, but this time is different. And the car is also a revelation on the deeply scarred roads of downtown LA which are closest to the nasties in Australia.

The newest Mini, the fourth-generation Convertible, is now firm and focussed. It has suspension with grip and compliance, there is only the slightest hint of steering tug at maximum acceleration, and there is even extra space in the cabin and boot.

“I’m a fan of Mini. I like the go-kart feeling,” says Alex Braune, the project director of the Convertible, tells CarsGuide as he explains the new approach to the car.

“We optimised the stiffness in a good way. It makes a big difference to the way the car drives.”

So it’s such a pity that so few Australians will know or care that the new Mini Convertible is a ripper little toy.

Only 94 open-air Mini models were sold last year, down even further from 114 in 2014, which is a reflection of the previous car’s floppy body and lacklustre driving feel. It might have been fine for cruising and posing, but that was about the limit.

 It has grip and go, it’s fun and rewarding

The new car is stiffer and quicker, with noticeably improved cabin space and a better roof and boot. It will also be much better value in Australia with an automatic six-speed gearbox included in the basic price of $37,900 or $45,500 for the Cooper S.

At the top end, there will be a JCW Convertible in the second half of the year with a rip-snorting 170 kiloWatts and a 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds. It should start around $55,000.

The preview drive in California proves the Cooper S model is now sports car good. It has grip and go, it’s fun and rewarding, and there is only a slight trace of judder through the body.

Some people might even consider against - whisper it - a Mazda MX-5 if they need a back seat.

BMW Group is forecasting a considerable lift in sales from the 170,000 achieved by the previous model and it’s the same for Australia.

“There will be a spike, because it’s a new model, but we definitely believe there will be a considerable increase in sales,” says Mini spokeswoman, Lenore Fletcher.

“It is less expensive than the previous model and it includes the automatic transmission as. April is the date we’re aiming to begin deliveries. The JCW model will be in the second half, but I don’t want to be more specific than that.”

The basic engineering in the Convertible - it’s no longer the Cabrio in Australia - is obviously based on the Mini hatch, but the strengthening work is considerable in the door sills and pillars, and even below the engine bay.

The brakes feel better, I like the heads-up instrument display and I’m a touch comfier at the wheel

“We even have a special stiffening plate underneath the engine,” says Braune.

The model lineup and mechanical packages also mirror the hatch, with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo in the Cooper that’s good for 100kW/220Nm and a 2-litre turbo four with 141/280 in the Cooper S.

There is no manual gearbox, except on special order, with a six-speed auto in the Cooper and a Sports version in the S.

Stuff worth noting includes an electric folding roof that goes up or down in 18 seconds at up to 30km/h - and still with the sliding 'sunroof’ built in - a bigger load-through hatch in the rear, 25 per cent more boot space and measurable improvements to all interior measurements.

The California preview drive includes both manual and automatic models of the Convertible, but I focus my time on the Cooper S with Sports auto.

Inside the first 100 metres I can feel the massive improvement in chassis stiffness, as well as suspension that absorbs bumps instead of crashing through or bouncing off them. The brakes feel better, I like the heads-up instrument display and I’m a touch comfier at the wheel - apart from an over-fat rim - than I remember from the previous model.

As time goes, and a ribbon of bitumen unwinds under the wheels, I’m finding I’m enjoying the car more and more. And I was ready to kick the car, based on previous Mini Convertible experiences.

Verdict

This time around, I am won by a rollercoaster sprint that proves the Mini engineers have done some top-class work. It’s great uphill and down, and there is that brilliant pop and crackle from the exhaust which is even better with the top down.

Has Mini hit the spot with their new Convertible? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$32,000
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,990
Highest Price
$34,299

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $28,990 – 34,299 2016 Mini Cabrio 2016 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper JCW 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $33,880 – 40,370 2016 Mini Cabrio 2016 Cooper JCW Pricing and Specs
Cooper S 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $29,260 – 35,310 2016 Mini Cabrio 2016 Cooper S Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Highgate 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $34,100 – 40,590 2016 Mini Cabrio 2016 Cooper S Highgate Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$30,030

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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