The idea of an open top MINI is nothing new and in its previous guises a lot of MINI owners chopped off the car's roof. So it didn't take BMW too long to develop a drop-top version of the new MINI and it will definitely heat up the MINI mania craze.
It is due to rival cars such as the Peugeot 206cc and the VW Beetle cabriolet... and the topless MINI definitely has what it takes.
Despite the car's ability to be a roofless image cruiser it is still instantly recognisable as a MINI, as it shares the same spunky design cues as its popular hatchback sibling.
The convertible features a highly functional roof, a variable luggage
compartment and an ultra-strong and stiff body shell, as well as a chassis with a multi-arm rear axle.
There are two MINI convertible models available in South Africa: The normal Cooper model, which is available with a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission, and of course the super Cooper S.
There is no argument that the MINI convertible's looks will draw admiring looks and it is due to become a very desirable must-have fashion accessory.
As with the hatchback, the convertible's image is that of being macho as well as cute. It is paradox, but it works.
The convertible's waistline, which rises slightly to the rear, gives the car a powerful, performance-oriented profile. A discreet chrome strip along the entire waistline complements this.
The steeply raked windscreen, the frameless side windows, the double roll bars behind the rear seats and the space-saving folding roof without tonneau cover, round off the spunky looks.
The MINI Convertible has a drop-down boot lid, which is held in position when open by two steel cables on a spring-mounted retractor system.
This allows use of the rear lid with its exterior hinges as a practical loading platform able to hold a weight of up to 80 kg.
The car is able to carry a maximum of 400 kg, and the luggage compartment accommodates 165 litres with the roof closed, however, with the roof down it is 120 litres.
Those who wish to get even more out of this agile little car can make use of the generous Easy-Load through-loading system designed for even the most bulky of loads.
With the roof closed, all you do is turn two levers in the luggage compartment to fold up the bottom section of the folding top and attach it in position.
Then, with the rear lid open, you have very convenient access to the luggage compartment through a large opening able to accommodate even bulky objects.
And in conjunction with the rear seat backrests folding forward and fastened securely in position, luggage compartment capacity can be increased to no less than 605 litres.
The MINI Cooper convertible is the result of a cleverly devised overall concept comprising a high degree of functionality and optimum utilisation of space.
The open-top driving experience is achievable in a mere 15 seconds. At the push of a button, you first open the integrated sliding roof, then the entire soft roof.
With the soft roof folding to the rear, the roof pillars are automatically retracted and the rear side windows move down at the same time.
The intelligent Z-folding mechanism, which is almost similar to that of the BMW Z4, allows the complete roof to fold up in compact arrangement behind the rear seats, with no need for a tonneau cover.
The sliding roof integrated in the soft top can be opened infinitely up to 40 cm while driving, up to a speed of 120 km/h.
Under the Cooper convertible's bonnet is a 1.6-litre engine delivering 85 kW at 6 000 r/min while maximum torque is 150 Nm achieved at 4 500 r/min.
This model is also five-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic transmission.
However, the real gem is of course the Cooper S. It has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with supercharger and intercooler technology. This engine produces a maximum output of 125 kW at 6 000 r/min.
Its maximum torque of up to 220 Nm at 4 000?r/min provides for good acceleration. Thus, the open four-seater takes 7.4 seconds to rocket from 0 to 100 km/h. Top speed is reached at 215 km/h.
The MINI convertible is a car that asks to be driven and its drop-top functionality opens up a new world to the driver, maximising the awesome MINI experience.
Its compact size makes it a very manoeuvrable vehicle, but rear visibility is limited thanks to the small rear window and big blind spot areas.
Even with the roof down, shorter drivers will have difficulty to see what is happening behind them. But park distance control is standard, for those who could have trouble parking this minute car...
As with the hatchback the convertible has good road manners and the overall driving experience is loads of fun. The car is as responsive and agile as the closed-top MINI.
In Cooper S guise the car is explosive giving the convertible a real go-kart feeling. Steering is precise while braking is very good too.
Thanks to the car's rigid body and stiff suspension the ride could get a bit bumpy over bad road surfaces but if you slow down it won't loose its posture too much.
The normal Cooper offers a more composed, but less exhilarating drive. This model's CVT transmission also seemed a bit sluggish and I would rather opt for the five-speed manual.
The autobox is perhaps good for cruising and day-to-day city driving, but then you will have to compromise on the very attractive fun factor.
All in all, the car is also a classy number. What is more is that you can spec your MINI to your needs giving it an individual look and feel.
MINI Cooper Convertible 5-speed manual R207 600
MINI Cooper Convertible CVT automatic R218 100
MINI Cooper S Convertible 6-speed manual R249 000.
In addition a whole host of optional extras can be specified, ranging from special paint options - inlcuding British racing green at R1 575, through to xenon headlights (R5 400), navigation system (R16 500) and sports suspension for the MINI Cooper (standard on the Cooper S) at R1 950.