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Mini Cooper Cabrio 2005 review: road test

Knock the roof off but don't ever forget that you are on show to the world. Everybody – and that includes bike messengers – will be looking down on you, most with a degree of envy.

And well may they be envious ... as long as you are the one gripping the fat little steering wheel there is little reason not to smile in one of these.

At $44,900 the Mini Cooper S Cabrio is no steal. However, what price can you put on the sort of warm-and-fuzzy feelings that seem to accompany it? For basic, hands-on accounting purposes, the Cabrio brings everything to the table that the hardtop does – all the go-kart dynamics, great looks and stylish, modern interior fittings.

As with its enclosed bretheren, the Cabrio offers a full suit of "personalisation" options running from a full John Cooper Works tuning kit – upgraded to produce a spanking 154kW Cooper S at $9850 – through to bonnet stripes and Xenon headlights.

There are also rain sensor wipers, satellite navigation, automatic airconditioning, a range of 17- and 18-inch light alloy rims, a high-spec Harman/Kardan sound system with eight speakers, a wind deflector and more. There is also the choice of three colours – black, green and blue – to coordinate the cloth roof with 12 body colours.

The folding roof is fully automatic and will drop in just 15 seconds either from a button inside the car or from outside, using the remote key fob. A feature of the soft-top is a two-stage deployment, which Mini calls the "integrated sunroof". This initial slide creates a targa effect, where half the roof is activated for the first stage of opening. It can be deployed at up to 120km/h.

For a single-layer roof the Cabrio's cloth top is benchmark. Wind noise is at a minimum, the fit is drum tight and there was no noticeable stretch or drumming.

Knock the roof off and there is no danger of losing the toupee with buffetting – at least in the front seats – kept to a minimum by a combination of the upright windscreen and wind deflector.

The 125kW engine is a little beauty and coupled to the same compact six-speed Getrag manual as the hard-top it offers as enthusiastic a drive as you could want.

Mechanically the main difference between Cabrio and the hard-top is in the suspension with the settings having been shifted down a notch towards a softer ride. The Cooper S has a sport setting – sport-plus in the hard-top – in deference to the Cabrio's differing demographic of buyer.

Without driving the two cars back-to-back it is difficult to differentiate between the settings, particularly as the Cabrio has been stiffened through the A-Pillar and along the bottom rails of the cabin section.

There is also additional bracing under the seats and through the use of the aluminium cross-brace which doubles as the rear roll-over loop.

It all goes towards keeping the Cabrio scuttle-shake free and feeling almost as tight as a roofed version – although more nervous over corrugations or broken surfaces.

Safety features include four airbags. The seat-mounted side bags extend higher in the Cabrio to offer head protection in lieu of the hard-top's curtain bags.

Rear seating is tight. Space has been squeezed to accommodate the mechanism for the folding roof and worse still, the seat is set so that passengers are forced to sit at an awkward angle. There is also limited opportunity for luggage storage.

Pricing Guides

$10,285
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$6,600
Highest Price
$13,970

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, CVT AUTO $6,930 – 9,790 2005 Mini Cabrio 2005 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper S 1.6L, PULP, CVT AUTO $8,580 – 12,100 2005 Mini Cabrio 2005 Cooper S Pricing and Specs
Cooper S JCW 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,230 – 13,970 2005 Mini Cabrio 2005 Cooper S JCW Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$6,600

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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