From £18,1908
Entry-level rag-top Mini has obvious substance and typical handling charm to back up its sugar-coated style

Our Verdict

Mini Convertible

Third-generation drop-top joins Mini’s new and improved line-up

What is it?

The Mini Cooper Convertible: an already desirable small car, you or I may think, victim of a misguided attempt at garnering even more must-have status. But to owners of the last two generations of Mini Convertible, the Mini's conversion to roofless wonder probably looked like a stroke of genius - and the result sold in plentiful numbers in the UK. No surprise, then, that the German-owned British marque is at it again.

And having experimented with the Mini Roadster during the car’s last big model generation, the firm won’t be looking to steal the limelight away from its original rag-top fashion icon this time around. If you want open-air motoring in a Mini, the Convertible will be the only way to get it. And, unlike in most of the Mini’s ‘convertible’ rivals, you get a proper wind-in-the-fringe experience here, courtesy of a motorised folding cloth roof that furls all the way back, leaving absolutely no pillars or roof rails rearwards of the windscreen to come between you and the outside world.

Mini offers a fulsome range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, most of which combine with either manual or automatic gearboxes. It’s the entry-level 1.5-litre turbo petrol Cooper that interests us here, providing a peppy 134bhp, a pragmatic 57.6mpg and a tempting sub-£19,000 departure point for ownership.

What's it like?

Just as you would in any of its Mini-brand rangemates, you sink into a particularly low-set driver’s seat in the Convertible, with your legs outstretched and your head farther from the fluttering breeze passing above and around the glasshouse than it might otherwise be. The front seats are widely adjustable and decently supportive, although hard; the steering wheel is equally obliging on position, but the pedals slightly offset to the right.

Mini claims some sizable strides made on roominess, particularly for second-row passengers. The new car's backs seats, while bigger than most competitors' equivalents, remain usable only to kids under the age of about 10. Access to the boot is better with the roof up than down, thanks to an upper boot lip that can now be lifted and latched. The space inside is big enough for a modest shopping trip, but the boot won’t swallow anything bulky unless you flop the back seats.

The Cooper Convertible’s cabin is solidly constructed of appealing and well-finished materials. Some of its features – the outsized LED lighting halo encircling the infotainment screen, for example, and the undersized rev counter and fuel gauge – are intended more for novelty value than genuine usability, but at least they’re different. Mini gives you a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system, sat nav, DAB radio and a reversing camera as standard, but the car’s options list is typically long, and negotiating it without being parted with more of your money than you’d like may be tricky.

But to drive, the Mini Convertible gives a return on your investment in it as a premium-branded product of integrity by showing very quickly that it’s better engineered than most of its rivals. Even over bumpy surfaces the ride is medium-firm but quiet and well-damped, and the body suffers with no scuttle shake to speak of, with just the merest hint of body flex in evidence now and again over sharper edges.

The car’s clearly stiff enough to provide for poised and engaging handling manners. Its typically direct steering is quite heavy and suffers a deficit of feedback, but it’s consistently weighted and gives enough confidence to work the chassis fairly hard through bends. Do that and you’ll find the car is agile and grippy, as well as nicely balanced up to and beyond the kind of speeds you’re likely to see on the road.

The Cooper derivative’s 1.5-litre engine makes for competitive but not outstanding performance. Afflicted by unnecessarily long gear ratios, the manual version feels quite zesty until you hit third gear, and so zips keenly about at urban speeds but doesn’t quite overtake on the open road as assuredly as you’d like. Real-world economy of almost 45mpg is a good result for this kind of car, however.

Should I buy one?

If your budget will stand it, yes. Which is a fairly big ‘if’, given that small cabriolets can be bought considerably more cheaply by those who don’t need four usable seats -  and we suspect few in the market really do. There again, strong residual values should mitigate the Mini Convertible's high after-options price, and Mini’s transferable fixed-price servicing packages promise to make ownership of the car easy.

If nothing else, it’s quite plain that you are at least getting what you pay for in the Mini Convertible: a better car, of greater engineering integrity and dynamism than its rivals, and what will amount to irresistible desirability for some. Get one with an automatic gearbox, though, and preferably without the optional Union Jack cloth roof.

Mini Cooper Convertible

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £18,475; Engine 3 cyls, 1499cc, turocharged, petrol; Power 134bhp at 4400-6000rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 1250-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1280kg; 0-62mph 8.8sec; Top speed 129mph; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 114g/km, 19%

Join the debate

Comments
6

4 April 2016
I am one of those weird people who looked at the last generation MINI Convertible "cramped four seater with small boot" and the Roadster "two seats but decent sized boot" and bought a Roadster Cooper S. It's not a Mazda MX-5 in terms of true sports car credentials but it looks a lot better than the lumpy MINI convertible and doesn't waste space, weight and compromised boot space. In Cooper S guise it goes like stink and as it isn't our only car, it doesn't matter that it only has two seats. I had a look at the new generation convertible as tested here and as well as being hit with the same ugly stick as the contemporary three, five door and Clubman variants, the rear leg room is still pointless unless of course the driver drives with their knees under their chin. It's a shame that the Roadster wasn't made more exclusive last time round, because maybe it would have sold better. The MINI Coupe was perhaps stylistically a step too far, but even that had a surprisingly spacious boot; maybe not the main reason for such a purchase but a worthwhile benefit. As things sit now, my MINI Roadster won't be replaced by another MINI unless BMW either build the Superleggera or make a tempting Z5.

MG Writer

A34

5 April 2016
MG Writer wrote:

...I had a look at the new generation convertible as tested here ...the rear leg room is still pointless unless of course the driver drives with their knees under their chin. It's a shame that the Roadster wasn't made more exclusive last time round, because maybe it would have sold better. ....

Yes, Mini could have used the 5 door chassis and freed up some more space. I have actually ridden in the back of a Mini convertible, and even Trump would not advocate that torture. Perhaps BMW prefers you to get a 1-series convertible?

5 April 2016
Hi MG Writer. Interesting to read your points above.. I brought a Coupe last year after never thinking id ever own a Mini. There is only to two of us so its proving to be a fantastic little car, practical and comfortable in the week and something for those country lanes at the weekend. It makes so much more sense for us to have the extra boot space rather than two unusable seats in the back, coupled with handling like no other. I had a Fiesta before and the Mini runs rings around it! Making the Fiesta seem almost wallowy in comparison. The Coupe/ Roadster are certainly cars that give you the feel good factor every time you get into it and I think there demise has given them an extra edge, almost like a niche experiment for Mini. I'm hoping well looked after examples are future classics too! :)

5 April 2016
I agree with the both of you. They were a little under rated. I never really liked the Coupe, but then my friend bought one, it is a fantastic car! :D

5 April 2016
Either you've not closed the bonnet properly, or the front offside catch has failed on the car in the pictures.

As much as I like the Mini, I've never been a fan of the convertible. Just buy the 3dr and add the sunroof.

5 April 2016
I must admit that I was surprised when either Autocar or Auto Distress reported on a chat with some BMW or MINI designer or marketing wonk who rather sniffily suggested that the MINI Roadster and Coupe had been designed by the engineers and that the company wasn't about to let that happen again. That struck me as being snooty at the expense of those people who were actually customers of the company. It obviously doesn't really matter but it sent the message that the company didn't give a damn for anyone who had been stupid enough to buy one of their cars. Which, curiously, makes me dislike the "four seater" MINI Convertible even more! Next time round it may be a Mazda MX-5, a FIAT 124, a BMW Z5 or even (if I decide I want four seats) a BMW 2-series. If they make the Superleggera I might take a punt. But I don't want an impractical car like the one which was the subject of this report! Oh, and I do already have another MINI with the super sunroof cassette: it's great but it's not the same as a soft top...

MG Writer

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