Minis are fun, so are convertibles! Put the two together, and in Goa and what we should have is absolute pleasure. We had driven this same car in the US some time ago and came away very impressed. We found that it felt a bit different from the hardtop but sporty and entertaining nonetheless. So, how does it take to our roads? Well, Goa should give us an insight.
What is it?
This third-generation Mini is based on BMW’s UKL platform. The car is now larger and offers more interior space than its predecessor. Overall length is longer by 98mm, wheelbase by 28mm, the front wider by 42 mm and rear track by 34mm. It also boasts smarter use of space. Not that space is what you buy a Mini for but with every new generation, the Mini has grown bigger. On the convertible, because the roof has been chopped off, the car gets plenty of additional bracing to compensate for the loss of structural rigidity. So, there is bracing in the area under the radiator, there's plenty more under the doors and there are two large V-shaped braces under the passenger area too. All this extra stiffening has led to over a 100 kg increase in weight over the three-door Cooper S hatch; the convertible now weighs 1,295kg. For India, the Mini convertible has been launched in the Cooper S trim with the strong 189bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine under the hood. The gearbox is a six-speed automatic, featuring steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. In typical Mini fashion, there is also a long list of performance, styling and comfort accessories that can be specified like dynamic damper control, an on board navigation system, a rear-view camera and a parking assist system that automatically steers the Mini into an available parallel parking slot.
What's it like on the inside?
Spacious. Yes, I know, I have just called a Mini spacious, but read on. This new car feels larger on the inside with larger foot wells, larger and now more useable rear seats and increased shoulder room. Even the luggage carrying capacity has been increased to 215 litres, to put that into perspective, the Swift has a 204-litre boot. However, with the roof down, the space does drop to 160 litres. The boot hatch on the convertible is the familiar flip-down type and can take a bag or you sitting on it, assuming, of course, that you and the bag are on the lighter side of 80kg.
On the dash, you get a big, circular central screen (the old, big speedometer is gone). Also new on this car is a fully-electric cloth hood that comes with an optional Union Jack embossed on the roof. The roof can now open and close in 18 seconds, even when the car is at speeds of up to 30kph; it can also slide back partially like a sunroof for a bit of an open feel should you desire it.
Unlike most convertibles though, the hood does not have a cover when folded down and this spoils the lines of the car somewhat and lowers rear visibility. With the top down, however, you’re still protected with a reinforced windscreen frame and pop-up roll bars that extend from behind the rear seats should you manage to actually topple the Mini.
What's it like to drive?
It’s a rabbit. It can scoot off and change direction in an instant. It’s only when you compare it to the hardtop that it does not feel as track-sharp with a bit less bite in the front end and slower reaction to quick steering inputs. The electric steering in sport mode is nice and weighted with a very direct feel and the brakes are nice and sharp, allowing you to brake quite late into a corner.
When we drove it in the US, we did feel that the poor roads in India would cause some amount of scuttle shake over potholes and while the roads in Goa are generally good , over the rough patches we did seek out, tremors did come through. On deeper potholes, we did manage to bottom out the suspension. The ride on the whole is very acceptable.
What also adds greatly to the rabbit-like performance is the engine. It seems like a hyperactive little kid. There is a sense of urgency right from the low revs all the way to the top where it howls and snarls, and then on lift off, it will delight you with the ‘blat-blat-blat’ from the exhaust in sport mode.
Should I buy one?
The new Mini convertible is a job well executed. It’s now more spacious and comfortable. The hood is fully electric and can be raised while on the move (up to 30kph) in 18 seconds. Yes, the rear hood folded down does spoil the neat lines a bit and the visibility and boot space drops too. But the Mini convertible is not a car you buy for these rational reasons, it’s one you buy for fun. So, with the styling intact, the Go Kart-like handling and an exciting peppy engine, the fun quotient of the Mini is right up there with a park ride and that is reason enough to buy one.