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MINI Cooper Detailed Expert Review - March 18, 2016

29.9 - 43.5 lakhs
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Introduction

Mar 18, 2016 : Expert Review By

The old Mini Convertible sold in India was ultimately an automotive paradox: while it would have no trouble turning heads with its preppy, boastful design and interiors, it felt grossly underwhelming to drive. The main culprit being the slow and dim-witted powertrain that seriously hampered the otherwise brilliant road manners of the Mini Convertible.       

MINI Cooper Expert Review, Cooper Road Test - 206516 | CarTrade
 
Imagine our delight (and the smiles that followed it) when Mini showed us all the latest-gen Convertibles in the fancy Cooper S guise. Gone is the rudimentary 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine and in its place is a bigger 2-litre turbocharged unit making whooshy noises and a lot more power. This new Mini Convertible, then, has already bettered its predecessor on paper; however, is it as good or any better when it comes to offering top-down thrills for the price of a mid-size luxury sedan?
Exterior

Even from a distance, there is no mistaking a Mini Cooper. The low-riding stance and the unique silhouette give it enormous character and a good deal of credibility. With the roof off, one might expect this car to look a bit ungainly but anyhow, it doesn’t. Thanks to the wheels that are pushed right to the corners, there’s little overhang at either end and that adds to the hunkered-down look. What’s more, the absence of a roof makes the Convertible even lower that it actually is and as a result, this thing looks great as it drives past you.

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The roof itself is made out of a hard-wearing textile and takes about 18 seconds to open and close. Better still, it can be operated at speeds of up to 30kmph. So if you fancy some attention, you can put the roof down or up even on the go. Like before, the Convertible allows you to slide the opening of the fabric roof backwards to an extent that it can be used as a sunroof thought it tends to create a fair bit of wind noise. We would rather have the roof either fully on or off.   
 
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Coming back to the overall stance, the wider track (compared to the predecessor) and flared wheel arches give the Mini Convertible a great visual stance especially when viewed from behind. Our test car was finished in British racing green – a fitting colour for this thing if you ask us. While Mini is offering a variety of loud and ostentatious colour options for the Convertible, there is something about this particular shade of green that harks back to the good old Austin Minis.
 
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Interior
The interior somehow retains that retro 70s charm and yet, comes with the usual array of unconventional Mini fare i.e. the massive infotainment screen fitted slap-bang in the middle of the dash, along with a pile of dysfunctional toggle switches underneath. Nevertheless, it’s a comfortable place to be in for the passengers up front. Head room, even with the roof on, is generous and the leather seats are wide yet bolstered. As for those in the back, they might face a space because even with the front seats set unfairly forward than usual, there is hardly any legroom for those in the back. Not that this is a matter of utmost importance but we would like to add that this new model has 215-litres of boot space which is roughly 25 per cent more than before.
 
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As one would expect, there’s an assortment of soft-touch materials, leather upholstery and high-gloss plastics to go with the premium that Mini asks for this car. However, we are not sure if the Mini Convertible is particularly good value. Yes, you do get a multi-function leather steering wheel, body hugging leather seats and commendable quality all-round, but the overall feature list isn’t all that generous. Well you can have a head-up display, a nice sounding Harman Kardon audio system and LED headlights with cornering functions as pricey optional extras for your Mini but shelling out more just for Bluetooth connectivity is a bit unreasonable.
 
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Funky design touches and glaring omissions aside, if you really need convincing, you need to get behind the wheel and experience this thing on the road.
 
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Performance

Unlike the previous generation of the Convertible S which had a high revving 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, this new model has a bigger 2-litre motor that is also turbocharged. Now although the latter may not have that screaming sound of the smaller motor but it does bring its own nice soundtrack. It’s a throaty note that only gets better as the revs climb and like in the old model, the exhaust pops and burbles on the overrun.  

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With 189bhp of power and 280Nm of torque, the new Mini Convertible trumps its predecessor by a long way not just on paper but out on the road as well. This drop-top doesn’t feel lethargic anymore, even on part throttle. If anything, you can even palm the tall gear knob or tug the paddle shifter and short shift to a higher gear and make the most of the mid-range punch, thanks to the torquey engine. That said, there is some amount of lag up until 2,500rpm, post which the turbo spools up and pins you back to the seat for a fraction of a second.
 
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Though not as big an improvement as the engine, the 6-speed automatic gearbox is better than before. It gauges the driver’s throttle inputs in a better manner now and the upshifts are far crisper as well. However, the same cannot be said for the downshifts which aren’t as smooth as we would be like them to be. 
 
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Now on to the highlight of basically every Mini that is the way it handles: the direct steering and nimble size make the Convertible fun to throw around. Despite the added width and increased wheelbase, there is still that go kart-like feel behind the wheel which offers good feedback when the front wheels start to lose grip. Now some might find the steering a bit too heavy in the town but it really is a point and shoot affair. As we found out through a quick slalom workout on a closed road, body control is superb too, with the Mini resisting lean through the corners and savouring quick direction changes. Be it zipping around town or tearing up the twisties, the quick steering, strong brakes and the brilliant exhaust note all add up to leave you with a wide grin.     
 
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However, what’s less likely to make you smile is the ride quality. Admittedly, it’s not really fair to expect the Mini Convertible to soak in bumps or potholes like a luxury sedan – it’s a low-slung, stiffly sprung car, after all. Nonetheless, this new model rides a lot better than its predecessor. Yes, the ride is still crashy at low speeds but it’s never to the point that it’s definitely uncomfortable.
Specifications
Make Mini
Model Cooper
Fuel Petrol
Variant Convertible S
Engine Capacity 2.0-litre
Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 189bhp @ 5000 RPM
Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 280Nm @ 1250 RPM
Gears  6
Length mm 3821
Width mm 1727
Height mm 1415
Wheelbase mm 2495
Fuel Capacity (in litres) 44
Tyre size NA
MINI Cooper Competitors
Competition Specifications
Specifications Mini
Cooper
Audi
A3
Variant Convertible S Cabriolet 40 TFSI
Fuel Petrol Petrol
Engine Capacity 2.0-litre 1.8-litre
Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 189bhp @ 5000 RPM 177 bhp @ 5100 RPM
Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 280Nm @ 1250 RPM 265 Nm @ 1250 RPM
Gears  6 7
Length mm 3821 4421
Width mm 1727 1793
Height mm 1415 1409
Wheelbase mm 2495 2595
Fuel Capacity (in litres) 44 50
Tyre size NA 205 / 55 R17
Conclusion

Not everyone would agree to this but it’s fair to say that the Mini Convertible has enough retro design bits to keep the spirit of the original Mini alive. And now with the added punch from the bigger turbocharged motor, there is no doubt that this drop-top model finally has the go to match the show.   

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At Rs 34.90 lakh, the new Mini Convertible seems good value especially given that it’s being offered in the full-fat S guise. However, spec it up with a handful of optional extras and you would end up paying nearly Rs 50 lakh. That’s half a crore for something that’s not as much a car as it is a classy ornament to make you feel good about yourself. Well played, Mini.
 
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