With the third-generation MINI hatch released last year, the time has come to update all the 'ancillary' variants - for want of a better phrase - to the new platform and interior architecture. So, following on from the all-new five-door and Clubman models, here's the latest MINI Convertible. But wait! There's a difference here, which is that the fabric roof is now fully electrically operated, whereas some manual intervention was required before. Automatic safety mechanisms are hidden but pop up instantly in the event of a rollover event, while the hood can be opened or closed in just 18 seconds, at speeds of up to 30km/h.
It does still sit pram-like on the rear of the car when stowed, which is a shame, but it has a 'sliding roof' partial opening function, which is nice. Opt for MINI Yours and a Union Jack graphic is woven into the hood; we doubt that'll be popular here in Ireland. There's an 'Easy Load' system, which allows better access to the boot, in which the rear base of the roof lifts itself demurely upwards as required, and the MINI Convertible range sees a new body colour for the first time: Caribbean Aqua metallic.
As is the case with the rest of the MINI family, the Convertible has grown in every conceivable dimension compared to its predecessor: it's 98mm longer, 44mm wider, 7mm taller, has an extra 28mm in the wheelbase and has front/rear tracks, which are 42/34mm broader respectively. MINI says that, as a result, there's extra space within but it also has a 25 per cent bigger boot, at 215 litres with the roof up and 160 litres with it folded down.
The dash design is the same as found in the current three-door, five-door and Clubman models, so classy and possessing plenty of MINI individualism. The Convertible is a strict four-seater with shaped rear chairs. Expect all the personalisation options, driver assist systems, pricey comfort-related extras and the full suite of MINI Connected infotainment software - allowing you to hook up such apps as Spotify, AUPEO!, Stitcher, Deezer, Audible, Napster/Rhapsody, TuneIn and GoPro - that you would demand of this premium brand.
One four-cylinderand a couple of three-cylinders, all turbocharged, borrowed from the hatchback/estate MINIs are used for the front-wheel drive Convertible range. Topping out is the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Cooper S with 192hp/280Nm (300Nm on overboost), with the extra weight of the Convertible slightly blunting performance compared to the hatchback models. The 0-100km/h sprint takes 7.2 seconds for the six-speed manual and 7.1 seconds for the six-speed Steptronic auto; that in itself is odd, as on the Clubman the Cooper S gets a new eight-speed Steptronic 'box. However, on the Convertible the auto is still more efficient than the manual; as little as 5.6 litres/100km (50.4mpg) and 131g/km CO2, compared to the manual's bests of 6.0 litres/100km (47.1mpg) and 139g/km. Top speeds are 230- and 228km/h for manual and auto respectively.
The other petrol option is the three-cylinder 1.5-litre in the Cooper. Power is 136hp, torque 220Nm (230Nm overboost), 0-100km/h takes 8.8 seconds (8.7 seconds for the auto, also a six-speed unit), top speed is 208km/h (206km/h auto) and here, the manual is more efficient than the auto: best numbers of 4.9 litres/100km (57.6mpg) and 114g/km for the clutch-equipped car beat 5.1 litres/100km (55.4mpg) and 119g/km CO2 on the Steptronic.
There's a solitary diesel, which is also a 1.5-litre triple and is thus badged the Convertible Cooper D. The stats are 116hp, 270Nm (300Nm overboost), 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 195km/h (either transmission), and again the manual is cleaner than the auto with CO2 as low as 100g/km and 3.8 litres/100km (74.3mpg) consumption, vs. 104g/km and 3.9 litres/100km (72.4mpg).
All models come with Electronic Differential Lock Control, while options will include Dynamic Damper Control, sports suspension and wheels up to 18 inches in diameter. MINI also says it has added specific extra bracing to the Convertible to preserve its dynamic character and to provide maximum occupant protection.
With the MINI Convertible due to launch in spring of 2016, exact prices for Ireland have yet to be confirmed.
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