13 February 2004

The Mini’s cult status is about to be heightened further, as the new Convertible edges nearer to its UK launch in June. The cheekily styled soft-top – finally unveiled this week – will make its public debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show and be built alongside the hatch at Mini’s Oxford plant.

Prices are not yet fixed, but company sources indicate that the Convertible will cost around £2500 over the existing Mini on a model-for-model basis. That means the base version is likely to set you back £13,000 – some £1700 less than Peugeot’s popular 206 CC.

However, unlike Peugeot’s folding hard-top and the new Vauxhall Tigra, the Mini Convertible sticks to a traditional cloth hood, with a glass rear screen and electro-hydraulic operation as standard.

Developed in partnership with German roof specialist Webasto, it can retract by 400mm to provide what Mini describes as an ‘open sunroof effect’. A second prod of the dashboard-mounted button makes the multi-layer hood fold completely and stows it in a space behind the rear seats. Lowering the soft-top takes 15 seconds and there are no manual latches. The Mini’s snug four-seat interior layout is retained, but the boot shrinks by 45 litres when the hood is lowered – down to a risible 120 litres.

In a design flourish which apes the original Mini, the Convertible’s boot lid hinges from the bottom and – thanks to a special cable-operated hinging system developed specifically for the car – is capable of supporting loads of up to 80kg.

Safety features on the new car include rollover hoops behind the rear seats, as well as twin front and side airbags. To ease what appears to be a potentially bad rear blind spot, parking sensors are fitted as standard. Two versions of the car are planned from the outset: a 90bhp naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder One Convertible, and a peppier version of the same engine in the 115bhp Cooper Convertible.

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Increased weight caused by the steel braces within the cars’ front-drive chassis has increased the 0-62mph times by 0.9sec and 0.6sec over the hatchback versions, to 11.8sec and 9.8sec. Top speed is put at 109mph and 120mph respectively. A range-topping 163bhp supercharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder Cooper S Convertible is also planned to join the range nine months after the launch.

Mini has added two new exterior colours for the launch of the Convertible: hot orange and cool blue. Buyers will also be able to choose between three roof colours: black, blue and green.

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