We drove the MINI Cooper Convertible: truly grand open air pleasure…

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The Mini has stolen our heart, and indeed we just love all versions of it. It has all the good qualities of the original, and thanks to the superb engineering virtually none of the drawbacks and idiosyncrasies. Needless to say that in this late summer hot weather we were delighted to spend some time behind the wheel of the open version, the latest generation being launched in March this year. This time we tested it in the Cooper version….

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We were always deeply impressed by the Mini Cooper(s). As a teenager I saw them in action when the Monte Carlo Rally cars came through Antwerp, at a control point on their way to Monte Carlo. There they were, painted in fiery BMC red with a white roof, and I vividly remember the roaring sound of the tuned BMC four cylinder engines and the rattling of the studded spike tires on the Belgian paves and cobblestones.   They looked stunning with their battery of big Lucas fog lights. I admired also a normal Cooper, when I saw them parked on the street, often colored in this unique medium dark green with the classic white roof.

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A lot of this panache is found in the present day Cooper, with of course modern technology thrown in, making the Mini driving experience greater than ever. The Convertible comes in five engine versions, indeed, three petrol and two diesel engines of the latest generation with MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology are available to choose from. Of course, the new Mini is no longer the small economy car that Sir Alec Issigonis envisioned in the 1950s. The original mini was 40 inches or 101,6 cm shorter and 13 inches or 33,02 cm narrower…

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Under the bonnet lies the superb BMW engineered 3 cylinder, this time with TwinPower Turbo technology, delivering not less than 136 HP. Coupled to the 6 speed gearbox, this warrants exhilarating performance all the way. Indeed, this Cooper sprints from 0 to 100 in 8,8 seconds. Not only the engine responsiveness, sound and refinement is a delight, so is the gearbox, with its precise and slick changes. Keeping legal speed limits is greatly helped by the cruise control and speed limiter, which can be set with a handy pushbutton on the steering wheel arm. This lets you enjoy this powerful and nimble Cooper even more in present day (urban) traffic conditions.

Sporting delight further enhanced…

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But in this Cooper version, there is still more for you to put a smile on your face. Around the gearlever console there is a large circular selector ring, which lets you choose between a sport, normal and “green” setting. We truly loved the sport setting, where the Mini Cooper feels, as the manufacturer puts it, like a go cart. Indeed, the car is then agile and nimble, with the suspension set for razor sharp cornering. The engine response is also a bit more eager, and we must admit that during most of our test, we drove the Cooper with this setting. It gives tons of driving pleasure, with the suspension never being unduly hard.

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Top speed of this Cooper is an impressive 206 kph, but it is the ever present massive pulling power of this willing engine in every gear and the delightful chassis which makes your day here. Economy again depends very much on your driving style, but with this very efficient state of the art petrol engine and the relative lightness of this car, you can expect some very creditable consumption figures. Indeed, during our test, it proved quite possible to achieve an average consumption of around 5 liters/100 km, observing the proper gear change points and driving with some anticipation.

Undistilled cabin pleasure…

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Behind the leather covered wheel, an ideal seating position is soon found, and the well contoured seats wrap your back and thighs with just that ideal tightness.

Your eyes hover over the well laid out instrumentation, and this time we also came to appreciate the excellent navigation system, easy to use with a very clear map layout.

…and open air delight

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Centrally above the front window one finds the toggle swith to open the roof, and needless to say that we opened the roof whenever the opportunity rose. This roof opens actually in two positions: you can juse it just like a sliding roof, with the canvas only being opened until about the middle, with the roof support arms still remaing attached on the front window. No need to stop the car for opening the roof this way, and this comes in very handy when the weather changes frequently during your trip, or when you want to enjoy some open air while it is still a bit too fresh to drive with the top fully down.

Holding the toggle swith longer will bring the roof fully down, with both support arms also swaying backwards. Our test car was of course equipped with the wind deflector, and we must admit that with the windows fully up, it was quite possible to cruise at 120-130 kph without any drafts disturbing your ride or the hair of your companion…

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Luggage space is not massive, but adequate, and as the boot is fully separate, it is completely undisturbed when the rooftop comes down. Just so nice when you have packed your car full of holiday luggage and you want to enjoy the open air on every occasion you want, without worries about having to shift your bags and suitcases first. Indeed, for this latest generation Mini Cooper Convertible, the biggest year-over-year change might be the more rounded rear end. This look not only makes the car look more stylish with the soft top fully folded, but it also creates more room for luggage in the trunk.

The rear seat has room for two grown up children, and even adults can find a proper place here. Of course, isofix attachment points are installed in both rear seats.

Conclusion

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When you want a car with character and panache, delivering massive driving pleasure, performance and open air delight, then this Mini Cooper is the car for you. We found the all round sportiness of the Cooper a further strong point, and when it comes to abandon yourself to the delights of open air Mini  driving, we would definitely opt for this Cooper version.  Economy is also at the rendez-vous with this efficient, state of the art petrol engine, and the open roof construction is well finished and practical in use. Add to this the timeless and charming Mini styling and the excellent resale value of this car, and there are no rational reasons why you would deny yourself this pleasure. What are you waiting for?

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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