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Mini Cooper 2009 Review

The smile-inducing droptop version of the upgraded Mini will go on sale later this month boasting lower fuel use, better outputs and lower emissions.

The Mini icon — celebrating 50 years this year — is offering the new Cabrio as a Cooper and Cooper S straight off the bat, with the Chilli option pack available in both variants.

Starting price for the new droptop is $39,800 for the Cooper, an increase of $2300 over the outgoing model.

The top end Cooper S model rises by $1500 to be priced from $48,000; an automatic transmission adds $2350 to the bottom line and the Chilli pack another $3600.

Tick a few option boxes and the pricetag quickly rises to more than $60,000 — a lot of money for a little sporty.

The Bluetooth/USB connection will add $750, or $1470 if you want it integrated into the armrest.

Leather trim, depending on the original model, adds between $1460 and $2950.

Mini national manager Justin Hocevar says the new Mini Cabrio is the only premium cabrio in its segment will continue to deliver typical Mini driving pleasure, borrowing a trademark phrase from its BMW parent.

“Compared with their predecessors both the new Cooper Cabrio and the new Cooper S Cabrio offer better performance on substantially less fuel and with much lower emissions,” he says.

The new Cabrio has attempted to address some of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor, with the rear passengers protected in a rollover by a pop-up roll-hoop system that deploys in 150 milliseconds.

The previous model's fixed rollhoops impeded rear vision for the driver, something that has been remedied to some extent by the new set-up, but the large blind spots at the rear corners remain, making car park manoeuvres still something of a mystery.

The pop-up roll-hoop system also allows the new Cabrio an extra five litres of boot space, with better access thanks to an Easy-Load expandable aperture for the boot. With the roof down the boot space is 125 litres (up five), rising to 170 litres when the roof is up and 660 litres with the rear seat folded down.

Even with the top — which is available in black, brown or a denim colour, depending on paint colour — down, there are still some rearward vision restrictions, as the folded roof can obscure the view of traffic behind, no mean feat given the low ride of the Cabrio.

Mini is also claiming an increase in body stiffness — thanks predominantly to reinforced side-sills — of 10 per cent, with a weight reduction of 10kg.

Fuel consumption has also been cut — by 16 per cent in the Cooper to 6.1l/100km and 18 per cent in the Cooper S, down to 7.2l/100km, coincidentally the number achieved on the launch drive program south-west of Melbourne.

One the sillier gauges — right up there with the economy gauge in an old Commodore or the "accurate" boost pressure gauges on some turbos — is the "Always Open Timer" tacked on to the left-hand side of the tachometer.

Supposedly a fun feature and a non-negotiable part of the Chilli pack, it displays how much time you've spent driving with the roof down, but all it really does with any degree of function is block one of the air vents.

The roof mechanism takes 15 seconds and can be operated up to 30km/h, with the additional flexibility of lifting the forward section of the roof, offering targa-top style driving without exposing the back seats, but aerodynamics make sure there's plenty of wind in the hair regardless of t-top or fully-dropped roof mode.

The company expects the Cooper S to represent around 55 per cent of the new Cabrio's sales, with the Cooper more likely to be bought with a six-speed automatic.

The Chilli pack ups the wheel size for either model (16in on the Cooper and 17 on the S), as well as adding cloth/leather trim, upgrading the sound system and adding Xenon headlights on Cooper S — the sales boffins say the take up of Chilli is around 60 per cent. Driving

The only model driven on the launch was the Cooper S Chilli manual and immediately the turbo powerplant made its presence felt with braps, rumbles, snuffles and pops on the down-change, with an almost immediate surge from just about anywhere in the rev range.

Rear seat room behind a 190cm-plus driver and passenger is minimal but tall occupants can accommodate limbs easily for a decent driving position.

Rear vision is still an issue but otherwise the fun drive experience of previous BMW-built Minis remains — flat, grippy handling with plenty of driver smiles.

The turbocharged powerplant does its best to make the front wheels squirm and will succeed under hard acceleration from slow corners, prompting the (standard range-wide) stability control into action.

The gearchange is slick and reasonably sharp, although it's not difficult to push too far across into the realm of reverse — but most of the time the gearbox and well-placed pedals made for an entertaining drive.

The pricetag looks impressive but the segment has a few droptops that offer more space and metal for the money, but putting a price on the go-kart handling and the fun drive experience is difficult ... that's what the company will count on.

Price: from $39,800.

Engine: 1.6-litre 16-valve four-cylinder; S — 1.6-litre 16-valve direct-injection twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder.

Transmission: six-speed manual or automatic, front-wheel drive.

Power: 88kW @ 6000rpm; 128kW @ 5500rpm.

Torque: 160Nm @ 4250rpm; 240Nm (260Nm on overboost) from 1600 to 5000rpm.

Performance: 0-100km/h 9.8 seconds (S 7.4). Top speed 198km/h (S- 222km/h).

Fuel consumption: 6.1litres/100km (S — 7.2), tank 40litres (S — 50).

Emissions: 145g/km (S — 171).

In its class:

Holden Astra Twin Top, from $45,790.

Ford Focus Cabriolet, from $45,490.

Peugeot 207CC, from $34,990.

Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, from $44,990.

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $8,400 – 13,090 2009 Mini Cabrio 2009 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper Chilli 1.6L, PULP, CVT AUTO $10,000 – 15,070 2009 Mini Cabrio 2009 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs
Cooper S 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,000 – 16,170 2009 Mini Cabrio 2009 Cooper S Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,100 – 18,920 2009 Mini Cabrio 2009 Cooper S Chilli Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist


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