- We like...Style, solid build; the way it drives
- We don't...Cramped back seats
Top-selling soft-top has a makeover in line with other Minis. It's top quality and a blast to drive - prepare to want oneTake a car that’s almost impossibly cute and want-me. Add the ‘wow’ of a drop-top, taking in, too, the whole sun on the bonce, wind ruffling your hair experience. Then, make it affordable – at least as soft-top cars go.
Do all this and you get a Mini Cooper drop-top. Small wonder that it has long been the UK’s top-selling convertible. Like every Mini, it’s a class act. From the first click of the door button, you’re aware that this is a solidly built small car, heavy in its doors and offering a quality of fit and finish you’d expect only from the best prestige saloons.
While steel-roofed Minis underwent wholesale changes two years ago, including a new dash, bonnet and engines, the soft top version has only this year received the same improvements – and that’s the car we have here.
In addition to the updated, upgraded interior, there’s a new, cleaner and greener 1.6-litre petrol engine in the Cooper, which now features a stop-start fuel and emissions saving system. This is as you’ll find in other recent Minis and BMWs, too and it works like this: whenever the car is halted – in traffic or at the lights – you pop the gears to neutral and let up the clutch. Provided the battery has enough charge to run the car’s electrics and fire up the starter, it’ll then turn itself off. To restart, you simply dip the clutch pedal.
It’s clever, and the Mini’s electric roof is a quality item, thick and well made. Pull a toggle switch set high above the screen rail and it’ll purr back. First, it opens to just aft of the driver’s head, making like a giant sunroof. Leave it there, though, and it creates judder and wind buffeting once your speed climbs beyond 30mph. So it is best reeled back to fully open, where things become much calmer.
Once stowed, the roof sits high and pram-like at the rear. It part-blocks your view when reversing, making optional reverse-parking beepers a must. It also cuts (a little) into boot space, which is already pretty small. The boot lid is bottom hinged as was that of the original, 1960s Mini, except that it’s now sturdy enough for you too sit on, unless you’re hefty. But the space it opens on to is barely enough for a proper suitcase, unless you drop the backs of the rear seats to enlarge the space. Which you might as well do, because there’s too little rear legroom for full-sized passengers. With the roof up, it feels snug and quiet - outside noise is mostly kept out.
To cover for the stiffness lost in having a cloth roof, the designers have put extra stiffening into the floor and sides, adding 30kgs to what a tin-topped Mini weighs. But it’s worked – the car feels impressively solid over almost any bump – and it hasn’t blunted the car’s performance. It’s nippy-quick and like every Mini we’ve driven, feels involving and alive.
And, here as elsewhere, the list prices are only a starting point for what you’ll eventually spend on a new one because there’s a vast list of tempting and often costly extras. You can even have a crazy dial (pictured) that keeps score of how long you've driven the car with the roof open. Unless you’re careful, your invoice price could stray the wrong side of £20,000.
Should you buy one? If you love open-air driving and don’t need much space for passengers or belongings it is, put simply, a treat.
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- Engines1.6-litre petrol
- 0-60 mph10.3secs
- Insurance groups9
Motors.co.uk value verdict: