Cruising from Hermanus to Somerset West in an open-topped car on a clear summer’s afternoon surely is one of life’s delights. Crisp sea air competes for attention with the caress of the wind on your skin, and the sheer stylishness of it all gels perfectly with fashion-forward Capetonians and other beautiful people. Of course, it has to be the latest drop-top car for maximum impact, but on that front, Mini has you covered – or should that be uncovered? The previous generations of convertible Minis were quite popular with the “in-crowd”, and the new one is bound to continue this success.
Based on the 3-door hatchback model, the third-generation Mini Convertible is somewhat larger than its predecessor (and a lot bigger than the 1950’s original), and it features the latest engines from the research laboratories of Mini’s parent company, BMW. The Mini Convertible is available with two engines: a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol in the “entry-level” Cooper, and a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol in the Cooper S. Both engines are paired to a 6-speed gearbox in either manual- or automatic flavour.
As it is with the 3-door, the basic Cooper is probably the most characterful, with a typical 3-cylinder thrum and a smooth surge of torque. The Cooper’s 100 kW and 220 Nm pales in comparison to the 141 kW and 280 Nm in the Cooper S, but it compensates for its power deficit with a really athletic feeling on the road thanks to the 3-cylinder engine’s lower weight. In fact, all Mini Convertibles have top-notch handling dynamics, with loads of road grip and accurate steering. The ride is a little firm though, so it might be better to steer clear of the (optional) oversized wheels.
The Mini Convertible has a surprisingly stiff body shell, with very few of a drop-top’s typical body tremors in evidence even on poorly-surfaced rural roads. Of course, it’s even less practical than the 3-door, with a very cramped rear cabin (especially if the front seat occupants are average-sized or larger) and a small boot. The boot does however have an innovative mechanism to tip up the base of the roof, giving slightly better access to the meagre space on offer. Not that it really matters, for it’s hard to imagine Mini Convertible buyers being at all concerned with practicality in the first instance – it’s all about the style.
And style is something the new Mini Convertible has in abundance. Its friendly, smiling grille and stubby proportions drew admiring glances all round, a fact probably amplified by our test unit’s turquoise paintwork. It’s no less charming on the inside, where that massive circular ornament in the middle of the dashboard remains as a constant reminder of Mini’s history. It’s mainly decorative though, and only houses the infotainment- and optional navigation displays (and the Mini “mood ring” around its edge) – the instruments are housed in front of the driver in the third-generation of New Minis. A plethora of customisation options should ensure that no two Minis will ever look alike, bringing yet another advantage to the little drop-top.
This being a car from a German family (even though it’s made in England), you’ll also find a range of high-tech things available on the specification sheet. All the lighting functions can be ordered to use LEDs (some of which are standard on the Cooper S), there’s a head-up display, parking assistant, active cruise control (standard on both derivatives), collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function (also standard), high beam assistant and road sign detection. Other options include automatic operation of the wipers, dual zone climate control, heated seats and keyless entry.
Prices are, as per tradition, on the steep side, but most buyers will argue that this simply adds to its exclusivity. Then again, the Mini Convertible is unlike anything else on the road and has its class to itself, which undoubtedly also adds to its appeal. Starting at R368 000, this new Convertible is sure to be Cape Town’s (and Melville’s) hottest accessory for the foreseeable future. And when all the attention becomes too much for you, a blast through the winelands is sure to clear your head again.
- Martin Pretorius
Mini Convertible Range
- 5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol
- 100 kW, 220 Nm
- 0-100 km/h: 8.8 seconds (automatic: 8.7 seconds), top speed: 208 km/h (auto: 206 km/h)
- Price: R368 000 (manual) and R384 000 (automatic)
- 0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol
- 141 kW, 280 Nm
- 0-100 km/h: 7.2 seconds (automatic: 7.1 seconds), top speed: 230 km/h (auto: 228 km/h)
- Price: R433 000 (manual) and R451 000 (automatic)