MINI Cooper Convertible

Latest soft-top uses EfficientDynamics to improve economy

You don’t have to buy a BMW to feel the benefit of the firm’s EfficientDynamics technology. The German-owned MINI brand also gets the eco-friendly kit on its cars.

The hatchback and Clubman estate models use similar stop-start systems, along with regenerative braking and low-friction mechanical components. And you can now mix green motoring with wind-in-the-hair thrills in the new Convertible.

The second-generation soft-top has been a long time coming, as it arrives nearly three years after its hatchback counterpart first hit UK showrooms.

At first sight, you might be hard-pressed to distinguish the new modelfrom the previous open-air MINI. The designers have taken an evolutionary approach for the latest version’s styling, keeping the outgoing car’s cheeky looks and distinctive hood-down profile.

They have followed the same approach inside. The high-quality cabin is virtually identical to that of other models in the line-up, although passenger space in the rear is even more limited.

Owners of the old drop-top will spot the new pop-up roll bar and the optional dash-mounted ‘openometer’ dial. This quirky kit, which costs £115, records how much time you drive with the hood down. Our Cooper test car was fitted with the firm’s 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

It uses the same Bosch stop-start unit as the BMW, and operates in the same way. Put the car into neutral as you come to a halt, and the engine cuts out immediately. Dip the clutch pedal and the motor fires back into life.

The set-up begins working less than a mile after a cold start, helping to maximise fuel savings over a cross-town commute. On our test route, the rag-top returned 35.7mpg, which is less than 3mpg shy of MINI’s official 38.2mpg claim.

Better still, the Cooper doesn’t leave you feeling as if you have made compromises to gain those fuel savings. While the bodyshell lacks the hatch’s stiffness, the Convertible is still great fun. The steering is crisp and well weighted, and the compact dimensions help to give it great agility in tight corners.

With the hood stowed, you can also enjoy the rasping exhaust note. On the other hand, drive for long periods with the roof down and the extra aerodynamic drag will have an adverse effect on economy. A long, topless stint on the motorway resulted in our overall return dipping to 33.4mpg.

There’s also a question mark over the price of the Cooper. At £15,995, the MINI is nearly as expensive as dedicated roadsters. The faster and even more engaging entry-level Mazda MX-5 1.8i, for example, costs only £345 more.

But even these black marks fail to take the shine off the MINI’s appeal. For most motorists – particularly those living in built-up areas – its EfficientDynamics technology will result in financial savings.

Details

WHY: We love the new MINI, but how does the drop-top rate? Stop-start should make for a quiet wait at the lights.

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