Auto Review: 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible

FROM its alternating groovy and somewhat neon coloured interior lights that change depending on the settings you make and the way you drive it, to the sheer coolness of its exterior look and feel, with or without the top down, there’s a lot to like about the 2016 MINI Cooper convertible.

The 2016 version (now in its third generation) is a three cylinder 1.5 litre turbo boosted little number, pumping out 100kW of power and 200Nm of torque, coupled with a XX speed gearbox. It has an official top speed of 208km/h, although we didn’t get anywhere near that – we had some fun not trying though.

Apparently it drinks 5.3L/100km – we managed 5.2 so we reckon MINI’s official figures are a little conservative, as can be expected. That said, the MINI is serious fun to drive, especially in Sports mode (aka Go Kart mode), where it comes into its own, and really does perform like a hot little go kart.

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This is a seriously fun car to drive, it looks cool, it’s practical and easy to get the roof up and down (remote controlled, can be done in motion, and is up or down in less than 18 seconds), it sounds good thanks to the turbo and a good exhaust system, and it turns heads.

The interior is beautiful and the quality exceptional, despite or because of its unusual coloured lighting system, which definitely add to the whole fun driving experience, and there’s no roll bars visible with the roof down (a pyrotechnically operated roll system deploys instantaneously if a roll over is imminent).

Put simply it’s a fashion statement and an all round bit of fun rolled up into a good looking package that screams drive me. We liked the experience a lot overall and really enjoyed the responses from people we met along the way.

Our test vehicle was seriously optioned up, which was good and bad in that we didn’t get to experience the true base model, but we did get to see exactly what’s possible in what is still the entry level variant of the MINI, with the S and John Cooper Works versions still above it (which jump power levels to 141kW and 170kW respectively).

On board our fun machine was the add-on package known simply as Chili – which included leather upholstery, sports seats, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights, as well as the navigation system and driving modes. We also had seat heating and run flat tyres in the add-ons fitted to our summer stunner.

In addition, the Multimedia Pro pack gave us an 8.8-inch display, voice recognition and touch controller, Harman Kardon sound, the uber cool pop-up HUD and full digital radio, while the Convenience package add-on gave us an alarm, electric seats, lumbar adjustment and park assist with front and rear parking distance control.

As we’ve outlined above, there’s a lot to love about this fun ride all year round, but on the downside, rear vision with the roof up is awful, the rear window is too small and the big black panels of the textile (aka canvas) room make for massive blind spots. You’ll also notice the road noise as the rear windows shift occasionally with the stiffer ride.

Likewise with the roof down you find yourself having to remember to look over the top of the now lowered roof, which while not significant, does cause a distraction. If you’re looking for boot space, remember it’s a convertible, and be happy with the 215 litres with the top up and 160 with it down – this is actually not bad for a two-door drop top.

One member of our test team, ironically the key market for the car, in a female driver, found the seating positioning too low to the ground for her liking, and didn’t like the two-door setup as it was too hard to access the rear seating area to get a child in and out.

For a convertible, the rear seating is as you would expect narrow, but was not as bad as say the Holden Cascada (one of its main competitors, the launch edition of which we had a steer of last year) for family friendliness, as in this case, you could actually get a child seat in the back, and not have ‘juniors’ feet around the front passengers ears.

It’s relatively family friendly at best, as we’ve said, the child seat fits, and there’s room for feet, but getting a child in and out can be tricky with tilted seats and just two doors and the like. The irony is Miss 4 (our junior tester of all things family friendly) wanted the top down and  the music up every time she got in the car – she loved it).

You will find yourself spoilt for choice if you do decide on the MINI as your convertible, because it’s price (with a base of $37,900 plus on-roads – without all the options mentioned above), makes it the cheapest convertible on the road, and there are so many options – so many.

Now about those choices, let’s see – there are two roof colours (Black and Black Jack (which is grey and a custom add-on)), one cloth and four different leather interior choices (our test vehicle came with a Satellite Grey leather interior), 12 different wheel choices (across 16, 17 and 18-inch varieties), and a total of 12 exterior paint colours.

Now before we get to those exterior colours, let’s go back inside for a minute, there’s also two different trim colours, two different dash insert colours, and four different colour lines (those are the coloured panels that turn up in various spots around the car, like on the arm rests and dash sides for example.

Back to those exterior colours now – there’s Caribbean Aqua, Blazing Red, British Racing Green, Deep Blue, Electric Blue, LapisLuxury Blue (custom colour), Melting Silver, Midnight Black, Moonwalk Grey, Pepper White, Thunder Grey and the wicked looking Volcanic Orange.

Like we said, more choice than you can poke a shiny MINI stick at, and what could be more fun than buying a car you know you’ve had a significant hand in customising, with all the optional add-ons, and the choices available – it really does allow you to create your own car.

For the record, if you were to ask for the same options as our test vehicle, outlined above, you’d be up for around $51,000 plus on-roads, which is still pretty decent for a slick, fun, and enjoyable convertible, that looks good and drives great.

Our test vehicle was provided by MINI Australia. To find out more about the 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible, contact your local MINI dealer.

Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.


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