First drive: new Mini Convertible Reviews 2021 | Top Gear
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First Drive

First drive: new Mini Convertible

Published: 16 Feb 2016
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Go on, surprise me.

Sorry, can't. This is exactly what you'd expect: a new generation of Mini Convertible based on the latest hatchback. That one was was all-new 24 months ago.

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That's a very good car. Does the roof chopping exercise spoil it?

Nope, it works very satisfactorily. Its biggest hurdle is perceptual rather than actual. This convertible's image has always been a bit sugary. But step past your preconceptions and properly expose yourself to it, and the reality will probably win you over.

OK, how does it work as a convertible?

The roof is completely automatic, as if the old hand latches were a terrible imposition. If it comes in to rain, you need only slow to 20mph to motor it back up. When it's open, it's a bit of a rucksack on the car's tail, which reduces the rear-view mirror to nothing more than an ornament. But air-flow management is fine: at motorway speeds there's not much buffeting, at least in the front seats. That's even without the wind blocker net.

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Roof up?

Wind noise isn't a bother even at high speed. You're more likely to hear the roar of the trucks you're passing on the motorway. There's also a 'sunroof' position. The side arms of the hood frame latch to the windscreen as normal, but a small cloth section between the screen frame can motor independently backwards to open a wide, but thin rectangle. I'm struggling to see the point.

Is the boot knackered by all this folding gubbins?

Not too badly. Remember the new Mini is bigger than the old one. So even with the roof down the boot is, well, bigger than the glovebox at least. Much bigger than an MX-5's too. And you can always fold the rear seat backs.

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Ah, the MX-5. You never see a Mini convertible with its back seat occupied. So why don't people just buy the Mazda, a proper open sports car, instead of the Mini, an open sporty-ish car?

That's not what I'm here to answer. Some people occasionally need to carry kids in the back. Some would find the Mazda a bit small and fidgety and nervous. Some just like Minis. I'm not here to untangle all that. I'm here to tell you what the Mini is like. The Mini, like the Mazda, exists in a happy world of having hardly any direct competitors. I'd nominate only the DS3 and perhaps the Fiat 500C, and the 500C is much smaller and neither is quite so, y'know, convertible.

OK, carry on. You said the Mini doesn't spoil the hatchback's attractions.

It feels strong, which is a good start. Even over pretty poor roads, the steering wheel doesn't do that horrid cabrio thing of shuddering in your hands. Over big bumps you sometimes feel like the body is doing a little twist-shimmy behind you, but it's not a worry. Not when the cornering is this good. The handling of the hatchback is almost entirely intact. Which means quick wits, a pointy nose and surprisingly mobile tail.

I drove the Cooper S. In hatch form, the three-cylinder Cooper is the one for better agility and the four-cylinder Cooper S the one for performance. I'd expect it to be the same here. The Cooper S engine is engagingly smooth and willing and the roof-down convertible mixes in some engagingly fruity exhaust sounds. You might feel you need all four cylinders because the convertible is nearly 10 percent heavier than the hatch.

Does that hurt the performance?

Well, things always feel more vivid when you have the roof down. But in plain numbers, yes it does, stretching the 0-62mph time from the hatch's 6.8 seconds to 7.2. Not a catastrophic difference.

What's the range?

Pretty much as the hatch, with petrol engines from One (102bhp) to Cooper S (192bhp) and diesel from Cooper D (116) to Cooper SD (170). A Cooper S JCW is on the way. The Cooper S is £22,430, which is more than £3500 over the hatch, a steep ask.

That isn't going to hurt sales though?

No. As I say, there are people who just have to have these. And there's nothing in the car itself that should put them off.

Except I'm a bit of a Scottish/Welsh/Ulster/English/Cornish/insert-regionalist-sect-here nationalist and I'm not sure I like that Union Jack woven into the roof fabric…

Don't worry, it's an option.

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