What is it?
It could be an extremely relevant car for today’s market. The new Mini Cooper D Convertible seemingly caters for those who want economy, fashion, open-top frolics, around-town usefulness and even the ability to go round corners with some finesse, all in one package. Given the growing number of premium buyers downsizing but wanting to retain the image, it’s clear that there’s a market for it.
This is the first time that a diesel engine has been fitted to the Mk2 Mini Convertible, but the big news is that it is a BMW-produced unit and not a PSA collaboration. The 110bhp turbodiesel motor is a downsized version of BMW’s 2.0-litre four-pot and is being rolled out into hatch, Convertible and Clubman versions of the 2010 facelifted Mini.
What’s it like?
Our test car came with the six-speed manual gearbox and proved that the upgraded engine is a success. It lacks a little low-end torque, which can occasionally leave you floundering between too many revs in second and too few in third at town speeds, but it’s a pleasant unit to use in general.
Standard stop-start works very well in traffic, with not too much clatter on start-up, and the cabin is refined enough despite its fabric roof unless you push the motor into its harsh upper ranges. Which there is very little point to doing anyway, given that the motor is best kept in its responsive if narrow mid-range, when you can rely on the 199lb ft of torque to provide plenty of punch.
But if it’s thrills you’re looking for, this is likely to be a mild disappointment. The diesel engine lends itself well to unhurried cruising, but in the 1200kg Mini Convertible the motor struggles to provide lively performance. That the classic, sharp Mini handling still characterises the car only makes it more obvious that the engine offers very little potency.
Accept that you are sacrificing the energy of the turbo petrol Minis for this more frugal version and there’s still fun to be had. The Convertible responds well to steering input, turning in quickly and offering plenty of grip through corners. Hit the Sport button and the already meaty steering weights up further to give it a very immediate reaction off the straight-ahead but, if anything, a slightly more synthetic feel than when in its normal setting.