By: IOL Motoring Staff
Oxford, England - Whatever your reservations about the Clubman and Countryman derivatives, the Mini Convertible really does embody the cheeky, slightly subversive persona of Alec Issigonis' original shoebox on wheels.
So it's nice to welcome the third-generation Oxford drop-top, with the latest three- and four-cylinder turbopetrols and some cute new styling tweaks, but still recognisably a Mini for all that.
The hexagonal grille, circular head and tail-lights, and the signature strongly marked waistline and A pillar are all there but sadly, there is a reservation.
The new Mini has grown again. At 3850mm on a 2495mm wheelbase, it's 98mm longer than the model it replaces, and 44mm wider at 1727mm. Which begs the question: At what point does a Mini cease to be mini?
The upside of that, however, is that boot space has grown by about 25 percent, to 215 litres with the top up and 160 with it down.
And what's right up to date is the fabric roof, with an all-new fully automatic electric mechanism that's not only way quieter than that of the previous model, it'll raise or drop the top in just 18 seconds at up to 30 km/h - and also features, for the first time, a sliding roof function.
It's even available with a woven-in Union Jack motif, to channel that 1960s Carnaby Street vibe.
There's also a rollover bar hidden in the base of the roof that pops up automatically to stop you getting squashed if you do manage to turn your Mini upside down, which is not easy, given that it almost literally has a wheel at each corner.
It's the first Mini convertible with LED headlights, adaptive distribution and cornering lights, as well as LED daytime running lights, fog-lights and tail-lights.
The interior combines classic Mini styling cues such as the round central display (although that has new functions; it's no longer the speedometer) with clever new stuff such as the instrument cluster mounted on the steering column, and a red start/stop button in the middle of a row of toggle switches on the centre stack.
Standard kit includes central locking, parking sensors, an audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, while among the extra-cost options are LED interior and ambient lighting, a head-up display, camera-based active cruise control.
Underpinning the Mini-ness of the cabin are specially developed under-body braces to reduce the scuttle shake that all convertibles are heir to, with the latest generation single-joint front struts and multilink rear suspension, speed-related Servotronic power steering and a full suite of electronic driver aids.
But the heart of any car that aspires to be more than just a shopping trolley is its engine - and the new Mini is blessed with parent company BMW's latest twin-cam, direct-injection, double-Vanos fun factories, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual 'box or a six-speed Steptronic auto transmission.
The third-generation Mini Convertible will be released in South Africa during the first quarter of 2016 as a two-model range.
The Cooper Convertible, has a 1499cc turbopetrol three rated for 100kW at 4400 revs and 220Nm at 1250rpm (230Nm with overboost). BMW lays claim to a 0-100km/h getaway in 8.8 seconds and a terminal velocity of 208km/h, with laboratory fuel-consumption of 5.1 litres per 100km.
The Cooper S Convertible earns the S in its designation cuertesy of a 1998cc turbopetrol four for which BMW claims 141kW at 5000 revs and 280Nm from 1250-4000rpm. That's good enough to take it from 0-100 in 7.2 seconds and on to 230km/h flat out, at a laboratory-derived cost of 6.1 litres per 100km.
Is that Mini enough for you?