Having tested the five-door hatch in 189bhp Cooper S form two years ago and the six-door Clubman as a 148bhp Cooper D earlier this year, we’ve waited until now to evaluate a Mini with a three-cylinder engine: in this case, the 134bhp petrol unit.
And having found much to like about the 1.5-litre triple in other applications, we expected good things – but came away with some ambivalence.
There’s not a lot wrong with the Convertible’s outright performance, but it could feel stronger. We tested the car alongside one of its rivals, the DS 3 Puretech 130 Cabrio, and the DS outperformed the Mini most tellingly on flexibility – by more than three seconds when accelerating from 30-70mph in fourth.
Overly tall gearing is the Mini’s key problem, and it pours cold water on the performance of what ought to feel like a torquey turbocharged engine, as well as putting obstacles in the driving experience.
The engine feels strong and broad-chested in second gear, spinning freely to the far side of 60mph. But shift to third and much of the keenness gets lost to the car’s unnecessarily long legs.
A-road overtakes become needlessly tricky, obliging you to throw in a shift mid-sweep or settle for an insouciant rate of acceleration. And while the car’s ultimate pace is assured in the higher gears, it doesn’t always feel that way.
Insouciant progress, however, suits the Mini Convertible well. The engine is refined enough, after all, and the roof provides commendable wind protection when it’s in place.