Just in time for sun worshipping comes Mini's latest creation, or more precisely, latest iteration. Though the Mini Cooper was redesigned two years ago, the convertible version of the car was still based on the platform that brought the lovable little auto back into the American public's eye in 2002.
Still, a casual onlooker might wonder, “What’s the big deal? It looks the same to me.”
And while that is true superficially, On Wheels' closer examination reveals a host of improvements. The most novel feature is the openometer, which records the amount of time the car is driven with the roof retracted. Mini owners can upload their times to the Mini website and compare their times against others.
The roofline has been lowered for a more racy appearance and better aerodynamics. The roof still offers two-stage operation so that it can serve as a sunroof as well by sliding only its forward portion back to allow sunlight to reach the driver and front passenger. Complete lowering of the roof takes place in 15 seconds and can be done at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
At the rear of the car, the cargo compartment door has been redesigned and its hinges are now inside rather than exposed as on the previous iteration of the Cooper Convertible. To improve rearward visibility, the twin rollover hoops on the previous car have been replaced by an electromechanical system that extends the bars into place if a rollover event is sensed.
A new flexible storage system enables the diminutive Mini to carry considerably more cargo than one might expect. The cargo compartment opening is larger and the rear seats fold flat. Also, since the roof sits outside above the cargo compartment when folded, storage is not compromised with the roof retracted.
Two engines are available at launch, mirroring the offerings from the hardtop variants of the Cooper. The base engine produces 118 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. The more performance-oriented engine is turbocharged and generates 172 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. Six-speed manual transmissions, both automatic and manual are available for the cars, with the manual transmission offered as standard equipment.
One of the big draws to the Mini brand is the engaging driving dynamics and these too, have been improved over the previous car. The electromechanical power steering system saves weight, provides speed sensitive steering and permits exception steering feel. You know exactly what’s going on down at the tires, as the information is communicated fluently to the palms of your hands. The suspension setup is nice and taut, keeping the Coopers flat during cornering to extract the maximum grip from the tires. However the overall ride charcteristics are supple so you don’t get shaken, rattled and rolled while the little car goes about its day to day. The brakes are well up to their task and are equipped with ABS to prevent skids. Brake assist, Cornering Brake Control and Dynamic Stability Control (all standard features) add an additional layer of safety and performance.
Another big draw for the Mini brand is the premium experience from an economical car. A broad palette of colors, two-toned seats in your choice of leather and cloth and the expressive style of the passenger compartment offer Mini drivers a unique experience, one found in no other car.
Pricing starts at $24,550 for the Cooper convertible and $27,450 for the turbocharged Cooper S Convertible.