Mini has launched the third generation of its convertible, and is hailing it as the most practical yet.
Boasting increased boot space, decreased cabin noise and upgraded styling, the new Cooper convertible – a car that has previously has been favoured by the 'young & fun' – now boasts the premium quality to attract a more mature crowd. AOL Cars headed to Lisbon to test-drive the dynamic 'S' model.
What is it?
The new convertible is based on the Mini Cooper three-door hatch, sharing the same BMW UK1 platform which was introduced by the German carmaker in 2014.
Set to go on sale in the UK just in time for Spring, prospective buyers will hopefully be able to revel in the upgraded convertible roof, which can be set in an open, closed or semi-retracted position, and takes less than 20 seconds to fully open or close – while travelling at speeds of up to 18mph. While the soft top may not always be suited to the British climate, the timeless style and reliability of the Mini brand will ensure that it remains in position as the UK's top selling convertible.
The new convertible features a number of upgrades from its previous guise – most notably the increased boot capacity, which is up 40 litres to 215 litres.
What's under the bonnet?
The Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S models will all feature in the soft-top range, with the revered John Cooper Works following soon after.
The front-wheel-drive S model boasts a 192hp, 2-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine. It is available either a six-speed manual transmission, or an automatic six-speed Steptronic. The former is capable of 0 – 62mph in 7.2 seconds, while the latter manages the acceleration 0.1 seconds faster. The automatic gearbox doesn't compromise on top speed, topping out at only one mph less than the manual's 143mph final speed.
What's the spec like?
The convertible's smart dashboard features a 6.5-inch display screen, which hosts the both the infotainment system and reversing camera. This system supports Bluetooth, USB radio and MINI connected phone apps, but the SatNav can prove confusing at times.
The convertible retains the popular 'Openometer' from its previous generation, which measures for how long the roof has been open in the car's lifetime, however this has been renamed the 'Always Open Timer' and also features on the digital display screen.
Interior quality has been improved over the previous guise, with smooth plastics and soft leathers giving the cabin an overall premium feel.
The most significant improvement is the increase in space. Rear seat passengers are afforded more headroom and 4cm more legroom, while the 25% increase in boot capacity means that two small suitcases can fit comfortably side by side.
A common gripe with the previous generation of the convertible was rear view, especially when the roof was folded down. Unfortunately, little has been done to improve this, however the generous wing mirrors and capable reversing camera ensures that all angles are covered – it just takes a little while to realise that shoulder checks are rendered pointless by the bulky folded roof.
The standard S model boasts a sporty exterior look, however for drivers wanting to add a little more, a John Cooper Works Chilli package will be available, which includes 17" black John Cooper Works alloy wheels, the JCW Aerodynamic Bodykit and JCW styled bumpers and a special tailored rear spoiler.
As with any Mini Cooper, rivals are difficult to define. Volkswagen's Beetle Cabriolet, Fiat's 500C and the DS3 Cabriolet are all likely contenders, however the latter two don't offer the complete convertible experience as only the top roof section retract.
What's it like to drive?
The Cooper S convertible is the more powerful of the range, and certainly offers the most engaging drive.
Firm steering and plentiful grip lends to a sense of security at high speeds, and allows the driver to tackle tight corners with ease.
A switch below the gearstick flicks the car into Sport mode, at which the promise of 'Maximum Go-Kart feel' flashes up on the centre console – a promise which doesn't disappoint.
Mini's rev-matching function features in the convertible, and means that the car will not immediately lose speed on lifting off of the accelerator – a handy feature when cornering. Letting off the accelerator will also – in sport mode – let out extra pops and bangs from the exhaust, although after a while it does begin to sound like there is someone trapped in the boot, knocking to be let out.
Driving with the roof down isn't advised on motorways as despite the wind deflector – which is now much more easy to install and remove than previously – and Mini's assurance of decreased cabin noise, it can get a bit loud and gusty.
AOL Cars verdict:
The Mini Cooper S is a sporty and capable soft-top and offers a sharper drive than many of its competitors. Not only is it fun to be in, but it is also fun to look at, and the brand's funky colour and design options allow buyers to personalise their Mini both inside and out.
The model may not win awards for its boot capacity in the B segment, but it has vastly improved on the previous model and drivers looking for more space can always put luggage on the rear seats – after all, those who buy a four-seater convertible should be accustomed to occasionally having to do so.
Model: Mini Cooper S Convertible Price: £22,430 Engine: 2 litre 4-cylinder turbo
Max speed: 143mph