Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving 4 and a half years after Australians first got their hands on the ‘new’ MINI Cooper Convertible, the latest generation (yet no surprise wearing very similar styling of its predecessor) arrived here in March 2009.

The fantastic chunky styling remains and unlike the previous model, this one thankfully does without the fixed roll-hoops that spoilt the MINI’s lines (roof down) thanks now to rollover sensors and a pop up roll bar.

We love how a simple flick of a toggle switch opens the roof firstly as a sunroof (great idea), than a second flick fully drops the soft top. Also, the roof can be raised or dropped on the move at a speed of up to 30 km/h.
Not so good Only MINI fans will spot this is the latest model as the styling has hardly changed over the previous model. The bottom hinged boot isn’t very practical for loading large objects and the lack of a cover for the soft top when roof down creates a pram like look. No surprise that the convertibles necessary body reinforcements = added weight = slight decrease in performance.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good High quality fit AND finish. Funky styling touches such as the oversized speedo located in the centre of the dash, metal interior panel surfaces painted in the same colour as the exterior and the optional mood lighting. Comfortable front seats, steering that adjusts for both tilt and reach, and impressive levels of legroom and headroom (with the roof up) ensures most body types will be comfortable behind the wheel. Frontal visibility is great, thanks to the upright windscreen and not excessively thick A-pillars. The digital timer on the dash times how long you’ve kept the roof down. Why? To encourage topless driving!?
Not so good The large central speedo is difficult to read under direct sun light; rear three quarter visibility is poor (roof up) and even roof down rearwards visibility is limited by the high sitting puffy pram like soft top. Rear seat space is as expected = very limited and the boot is definitely on the small side (125L boot with the roof down, however it does grow to 660 litres roof up and with the rear seats folded down).
Performance

Performance

Good The 1.6L four cylinder petrol engine is available in three levels of power – the naturally aspirated Cooper with 88kW, the turbo charged Cooper S with 128kW and the ‘red hot’ Cooper John Cooper Works with 155kW. All are teamed up with two quality gearboxes – a short throw six speed Manual or a smooth shifting six speed Automatic. Our pick is the Cooper S. It has the power, but equally important it has a nice dollop of low down torque, meaning you don’t have to rev this engine hard to have some fun; however that’s not at all to say it doesn’t enjoy being revved. The JCW (John Cooper Works) grade has even more fizzing enthusiasm, more character and even more punch, yet unfortunately costs significantly more.
Not so good Not much to criticize, as even the naturally aspirated 1.6L engine offers enough power to move the Cooper along (however it isn’t quick).
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Chopping the MINI's roof off has done little to diminish the excellent handling. It really is impressive and combined with direct, nicely weighted electromechanical power steering, also with great accuracy = a fun car to punt along a twisting road. The term ‘Go kart’ like, is apt re the handling.
Not so good The firm ride border's on harsh over secondary surfaces and the larger rimmed ‘go-fast’ grades crash over potholes. The JCW’s steering is prone to torque steer and unfortunately, the term ‘Go kart’ like, is also apt re the ride.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Ticks the safety box with standard Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock brakes and four airbags (dual front and side bags which offer protection to an occupants head and chest). The lockable glovebox ensures you can put the wallet and phone safe away and leave the roof down as you’re returning a DVD to the Video store. All grades provide economical motoring – no gas guzzlers here.
Not so good Standard run flat tyres = no spare tyre. Whilst no biggie in the urban jungle, it could become one if you ripped a tyre wall whilst in a real jungle (or the Aussie outback). Many of the tasty options are expensive, and having Bluetooth as an option in the almost $60k JCW seems steep.