PUBLISHED: 16:33 11 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:33 11 February 2016
The all-new Convertible is a far more practical proposition than before, with a 25 per cent boost to boot volume
Cars for the image-conscious driver surely don’t come more chic than the modern-day MINI – a far cry from the ‘people’s car’ ethos of the 1960s original.
But if you still want to go one up on others driving BMW’s modern incarnation of the British classic, then you must go top down in the all-new MINI Convertible, arriving in showrooms this March and priced from £18,475.
Although buying a convertible always compromises practicality, the new MINI crop top is claimed to be more useful and refined than the previous two generations.
Most notable here is the new fully electric roof, quieter and more refined than before and able to retract/raise in 18 seconds.
And boot space has been boosted by 25 per cent against the outgoing model (215 litres with roof closed,160 litres with it folded) and loading made easier even when the roof is closed, as the rear roof frame can be swung up for greater access to the boot space.
With split-folding back seats, longer loads can also be accommodated, although it’s unlikely many buyers of open-top MINIS have ‘removals’ heading their requirements list.
Fortunately, none of this new versatility comes at the expense of cabin space: room and access for rear seat passengers has also been improved. Such luxury had to come from somewhere though, so the new Convertible is nearly10 cm longer and 4.4 cm wider, with a 2.8 cm increase in space between the wheel arches too.
We’ve yet to drive it, but handling has no doubt benefited as well from a widening of the track.
Three models will be offered at the start, the petrol Cooper and Cooper S, plus the diesel Cooper D and, as usual with MINI, that’s where your shopping starts.
There is the usual dizzying array of customisation options to tempt, including what is claimed as an industry first: a Union Flag design woven into the fabric roof, so MINI Convertible owners can keep up with patriotic buyers of hardtop models.
All three powertrains are also turbocharged and come with a six-speed manual gearbox or optional six-speed auto.
Cooper and Cooper D units are three-cylinder 1.5-litre – with the diesel logging an official combined 70.6 mpg – while the performance flagship Cooper S has a four-pot 2.0-litre.
On top of usual safety features, occupants are also shielded by enhanced and now invisibly integrated rollover protection, which deploys within 150 milliseconds if it senses any risk of rollover.
News in brief
Brits shortlisted for COTY
Two British-built contenders are short listed for the coveted European Car of the Year award 2016, announced on February 29. They are the Jaguar XE – the biggest threat to the BMW 3 Series’ leadership of the compact executive saloon sector – and Vauxhall/Opel Astra hatchback. The duo are challenged by the Audi A4, BMW 7 Series, Mazda MX-5, Skoda Superb and Volvo XC90.
Prestige marque Bentley has changed its image dramatically with its first ever SUV, the Bentayga (from £160,000) now arriving on UK roads. Claimed to be the most powerful, most luxurious, most exclusive and fastest SUV in the world, it is built at Bentley’s famous Crewe works and has created 1,500 UK jobs, while carrying over world-renowned levels of craftsmanship and finish.
New Mégane brings glamour
Arriving this summer is a pivotal new model for Renault, the all-new Mégane hatchback and the first of a range to rival models like the Ford Focus and VW Golf.
Built on the same versatile platform as the French marque’s impressive Kadjar crossover, the new Mégane should also inject some glamour into a market segment that has become rather stereotypical.
Price: from £18,475
Driving appeal: the jury’s out
Running costs: ****
How green?: ****
Best rival: DS3 Cabrio
News in brief