"Because it's great to drive and very desirable, the MINI Convertible offers a near perfect way to enjoy the sun."
The MINI Convertible keeps all the traits of the Hatchback – it's great to drive and look at - plus it offers all the enjoyment of open-top motoring. The electric fabric roof does limit boot space, but it also folds up and down quickly at the press of a button. Three versions are available - One, Cooper and Cooper S - none of which are cheap. They’re all relatively economical, but there's no diesel option.
The Convertible keeps the hatchback's ‘go-kart’ handling, together with the low seating position and weighty steering - making this one of the most fun to drive convertibles on sale. The adjustable driving position remains too, as does the feeling of space in the front. The One version feels slightly underpowered, although it shares its distinctive exhaust note with the quicker Cooper and Cooper S models. This car is more about wind-in-the-hair excitement than anything else, so the lack of power may not concern most buyers.
Vibrations from uneven road surfaces and potholes are more noticeable than in the Hatchback. Ditto the wind and tyre noise with the roof up - there's always going to be a little more of that with a fabric hood than with a metal roof. The harsh ride gets worse with bigger 17-inch or 18-inch wheels, so avoid those if it's comfort you’re after. The roof is impressive, folding down quickly and stowing neatly on top of the boot. However, with the top down, wind swirls around the cabin - especially above town speeds. For some buyers that may add to the experience, but it can get noisy. Otherwise it's as per the Hatchback, meaning great space for the front two passengers and hardly any space in the small back seats.
Built in Oxford to BMW standards, the MINI Convertible came 37th for reliability in Driver Power 2010. The quality is excellent, as is safety, with front, side and head airbags, and a set of pop-up roll bars that help prevent injuries in the unlikely event the car rolls over. Electronic stability control is standard too.
The Convertible is one of the least practical cars money can buy. The roof configuration means the MINI is no longer a hatchback, making the separate boot essentially a large glove compartment. At 125-litres, it's tiny. By comparison, the Smart ForTwo convertible has a 220-litre boot. Finally, the seats in the rear are so small as to be almost unusable, even for kids.
Value for money
As with most MINIs, the Convertible isn’t cheap, but class-leading residuals mean monthly lease rates are low, and if you’re buying outright you can be sure you’ll have no problem selling for a good price later. The Cooper version is slightly more expensive than the basic One, but actually a more sensible buy, because it's better equipped and more powerful, yet no less economical.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine in the One and Cooper offers 50mpg, which is remarkable for a petrol-powered convertible car. Even the very quick Cooper S returns 47mpg. Add to that the £200 ‘tlc’ pack, which buys five years’ servicing, and the MINI is an admirably cheap to run drop-top.