What do you get when you blow the top off of a MINI? The MINI Convertible, of course. Thankfully, BMW saves you the effort from doing that yourself, so put down that metal jigsaw and walk away from your MINI before somebody gets hurt.
While it essentially sounds like a simple task of removing the roof, there is actually more work to be done under the skin to ensure that the MINI retains its trademark sweet handling and agility. Extra bracing elements such as the stiffening plate underneath the engine and underbody torsion struts help to keep the body’s stiffness after the loss of the standard roof structure.
BMW also ensures that the safety elements are not compromised for the MINI Convertible. Front and side airbags are fitted as standard, and in any case of rollover, the reinforced A-pillars are coupled with the rear rollover protection bars that will pop out within 150 milliseconds to protect the occupants.
The end product is a convertible model that mirrors the 3 door hatchback in most aspects. From the outside it looks like nothing else but a MINI, and it gets the similar face with that huge mouth and googly eyes, and at the other end is a pair of comical tail lights and a shiny tailpipe or two depending on which variant you choose.
The main difference is the roof of course, it is now made out of fabric. The fully automatic roof takes 18 seconds to open and close, and it can be done while on the move at speeds up to 30 km/h. Another difference is the rear hatch, which opens downwards like on the previous two generations of MINI Convertible. Compared to the previous MINI Convertible, the cargo space has increased by 25 percent to 215 litres behind that flip-down hatch, but the fabric roof will rob 55 litres out of that space when retracted.
Inside is similar to the regular MINI 3 door hatch which means it only takes four on board including the driver, but you get an option to have unlimited headroom at a flick of a switch. Everything is carried over from the hatch; the funky dash and all, but the Convertible has an optional Always Open Timer. Previously called the Openometer, the timer will count how long the MINI was driven with the top down. We’re not sure what’s the purpose of that, but it’s definitely part of the MINI’s fun and quirky side.
MINI Connected keeps its occupants connected to the internet via a smartphone and it is also linked to the navigation system on board. It features MINI Streetwise which helps to find the most efficient route to get to the destination, as well as a rain warning function that will send out a message to the owner’s smartphone to suggest the top to be closed. No more excuses for getting the interior drenched due to your own negligence.
The powertrain options underneath are already seen on the 3 door hatchback. At launch, there’s a choice of a sprightly 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol with 136 hp and 220 Nm in the Cooper, a potent 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel with 116 hp and 270 Nm in the Cooper D, and a powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with 192 hp and 280 Nm in the Cooper S. The Cooper D and the Cooper S both have an overboost function that raises the maximum torque to a tyre-shredding 300 Nm, but only for a short duration.
The standard gearbox fitted is a six-speed manual transmission, but there’s also an option of a six-speed Steptronic automatic, again, like on the 3 door hatchback. The Cooper S gets a slightly different variant of the six-speed auto called the Steptronic sport, which offers quicker shifts and Launch Control, but both automatic transmission variants can be hooked up to the navigation system to determine which is the best gear suited to the road condition.
MINI claims the driving experience is the same as the hatch. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) are fitted as standard; opt for the Cooper S and you’ll get the option to fit it with the Dynamic Damper Control and sports suspension for an even sweeter handling.
Like the rest of the MINI range, customisation options are plenty. You get to choose a contrasting door mirror caps and bonnet stripes, or you can get the driver’s side mirror to shoot a MINI logo onto the ground when the car is opened. There’s also Chrome line exterior pack, and a MINI Yours soft top which incorporates a Union Jack pattern into the fabric for the convertible roof.
A comprehensive Driving Assistant is available too, it includes the camera-based active cruise control, road sign detection, collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, and high beam assistant.
Those who want an even sportier MINI, the John Cooper Works pack will satisfy their cravings. It will dress up the MINI Convertible with a bespoke bodykit and special sports steering wheel, as well as a pair of sports seats.
Usually the MINI Convertible will command a premium over the regular 3 door hatchback, but it remains to be seen if it will ever make its way here. Bear in mind, the MINI Clubman is still not launched yet here, so there’s a chance the MINI XL will arrive first before the MINI Convertible gets introduced here.