Coué coined the phrase every
day, in every way, Im
Just thinking on that
brings to mind the MINI
it, too, just
keeps getting better and better...
MINI HAS BEEN PROGRESSIVELY IMPROVING THE BREED with each new generation ever
since the first BMW-era model hit the streets running in 2004. And now we have
the very latest Convertible the best 'open all hours' drop-top
on the market. Or is it?
We hadn't planned it but our test MINI Cooper S Convertible arrived the day
before the snow fell in what was, according to the record-keepers, 'the worst
winter for thirty years'. At the time we weren't sure whether it was good news
or bad news. And never having had to drive a MINI in the snow before, it was
to be a baptism by ice rather than fire.
But there's that 'fun' word again. The best thing you can do in a convertible
is to drive it topless on a dark summer's night. Dim the instrument lighting
as far down as it goes and the sensation is what ancient witches must have experienced
on their broomsticks, albeit without the MINI's superior grip, handling and
Top down, heated seats and heater switched to max, an open-to-the-elements MINI
on a zero-temperature winter's day is as entertaining as it comes.
Top up, it's as snug and weatherproof as the all-of-a-piece, metal-roofed hatches.
And, thanks to the powered top being canvas, drop-down time is a breezy 15 seconds.
Although it can be fully opened or fully closed at speeds of up to 20mph, we
wouldn't recommend it as you need to keep your finger on the switch. For blustery
days you may prefer to restrict yourself to using the sliding front section
of the soft-top as a 'sunroof' although at speed this can be rather noisy. But
do we care? It can also be opened and closed at speeds of up to 75mph.
More good news about the roof is that gone are the bulky roll-over hoops behind
the rear seats, replaced now with a more discreet electromechanically-operated
roll-over bar that pops up if the need arises in just millionths of a second
faster than the 'blink of an eye'. Not only does the new chrome plated
system look far smarter but there's the added bonus of improved top-down rear
visibility. It should be noted that with the top-up the rear three-quarter vision
is restricted and makes reversing tricky so good news that rear parking
sensors are standard-fit items on the Cooper S.
we also had a few days without snow so we could explore the latest generation
Convertible S's dynamics on the type of roads that it will experience during
most of the year. The Convertible's body is now stiffer and, combined with the
keen electric power steering and the marque's bankable kart-like handling, the
point-and-squirt 'S' has simply got better.
The Convertibles body
is now stiffer and
combined with the keen
electric power steering
and the marques
handling, the point-
Not only is it undeniably a very game and sporty little number, the ride also
seems to have become a tad smoother; particularly noticeable on poorer quality
roads. However, you'll be in no doubt whatsoever if you're potholed or speed
humped in the Cooper S.
The cabin is as iconically MINI-ish as ever with the same XL-sized central speedometer-cum-driver's
computer-cum music centre and toggle switches all of which call for the
driver to glance down to operate, although no doubt longer acquaintance minimises
The MINI is smartly trimmed and features a good smattering of quality chrome
highlights and the Sport seats are supportive, particularly around the upper
back and mid-thigh, holding you in place despite not being hard-core rally items.
And getting in and out of he front is easy: even one of MotorBar's tester's
mother who's over ninety managed it without a grumble!
You also sit close to the road, which is good. And for the average person the
window base line falls at mid-upper arm level so you don't feel you've been
swallowed by the car, and also forward/side visibility remains very good.
Rear seat passengers can be accommodated snugly for long journeys but with two
near-six-footers in the front, adults in the back could feel a bit squashed
as there's no foot room under the front seats.
Roof raised, the cabin is not the rorty place you might expect and is virtually
as calm as the metal-roofed MINI hatches. Some might not like it so I'll just
whisper it: the latest Convertible is more civilised than any of its forbears.
The ladies will, of course, welcome the news and as they buy seven out of every
ten MINIs, their approbation definitely counts.
turboed 1.6-litre under the bonnet scoop is a new four-cylinder petrol engine,
mated to a six-speed manual 'box complete with a range of technical features
serving to optimise both fuel economy and emissions including Brake Energy Regeneration,
Shift Point Display and the Auto Start/Stop system that switches off the engine
when you're stationary and shift into neutral. This takes the lion's share of
the credit for reducing the 181bhp Cooper S's CO2 exhaust gasses down to a greener
139g/km. As the emissions have gone down so the fuel economy has gone up
to 47.1mpg on the combined cycle. Eight days and seven nights with our Cooper
S Convertible saw a surprisingly good (given the amount of low-gear snow work)
average consumption figure of 33.1mpg. And we didn't spare the horses.
a characterful little
number, the turboed 1.6
smooth and willing
and eager to play along if
you want to make best
use of the six gears...
these gains, the Cooper S is as fast as it ever was: max speed is 140mph and
it will sprint to 62mph from standstill in 7.3 seconds. Torque is a 177lb ft
but with overboost you can extract as much as 192lb ft. Enough to generate a
little scrabble from the front end if you Meatloaf it and take off like a bat
out of hell. It's a characterful little number, the turboed 1.6 smooth
and willing and eager to play along if you want to make best use of the six
gears. Satisfyingly short throws add to the enjoyment but you need to be positive
in your shifting to obtain the cleanest changes. Press the Sport button ahead
of the gearlever and the steering is sharpened up.
While it's a grippy player that's more than game for a laugh, MINI has added
some back-up for over-exuberant pilots: namely ABS with Brake Assist, Electronic
Brakeforce Distribution, Cornering Brake Control and Dynamic Stability Control.
All there to ensure things never get irredeemably out of hand. Brakes, incidentally,
are disc all round and vented at the front and do their job admirably.
Standard kit includes, in no particular order, power soft top with sunroof function,
Sport seats, leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, 16-inch alloys
with run-flat tyres, 50:50 split/fold rear seats (folded down they convert the
125-litre boot into a 660-litre load bay), aux-in connection, stainless steel
pedal set, auto lights, auto wipers, active rollover protection, manual air
conditioning, four electric windows, Auto Start/Stop (can be switched off at
any time), automatic drive-away central locking, rear parking sensors, tyre
pressure warning system, chilled glovebox, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front
airbags and head/thorax airbags at the side integrated in the seat backrest.
So, much the same only better. There are some styling changes to the exterior
but so subtle only a side-by-side comparison will reveal them. Never asking
a lady if she's had a facelift applies as much to cars as it does Hollywood
A-listers. The 'S' Convertible remains a practical and entertaining driving
machine that keeps the fun coming top-up or top-down. And Yes, snow, rain, wind
or shine the top stayed off. MotorBar
MINI Cooper S Convertible | £19,460
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 33.1mpg
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 177-192lb ft | CO2 139g/km