MINI Convertible review (2004-2008)
The MINI is charming, but has an ugly and cumbersome roof design.
Driving Nimble and well balanced, the MINI is fun at any speed. While the steering is heavy when parking, it provides fabulous feedback through corners. Turn-in is super-sharp and it’s reassuringly accurate on motorways. Refinement is also excellent, as the MINI has the sort of sure-footed stability seen in bigger cars, plus unobtrusive wind and road noise. The ride only becomes objectionably hard on sports-suspended models with bigger wheels. MINIs One and Cooper do strain a little as the 1.6-litre engine lacks torque to push the heavy drop-top along, but it's a refined unit and the chunky gearshift is a pleasure to use – while excellent traction helps the 0-60mph dash. Cooper S models, with a supercharger, are high-performance gems – and with their distinctive supercharger whine, are real entertainers.
Marketplace While the regular MINI hatchback has been replaced by an all-new version, the old cabrio soldiers on for a while yet. So will this put buyers off? Not if our unscientific poll is anything to go by; the MINI still received plenty of attention, which isn’t bad for a model approaching replacement and fitted with a defiantly old-fashioned canvass roof. Mind you, so it should, given how much it costs. The MINI may boast amazing residual values, but list prices are very high and spec levels are mean. It’s galling, for example, than MINI still charges extra for essentials such as air-con. Rivals offer better value – among them are the Peugeot 207 CC, Mitsubishi Colt CZC, Nissan Micra C+C and Vauxhall Tigra.
Owning Look beyond the obvious charms of the MINI and there are flaws. Although most car makers usually choose canvas over folding metal roofs to leave more boot space, the MINI offers only 120 litres – and that’s with the roof up! You can fold down the back seats, but there’s no load cover to keep your belongings out of sight. Even worse, the fast-folding hood arrangement doesn’t tuck itself away when folded flat. Instead, you’re left with a pram-like arrangement which not only looks ungainly but hampers visibility. Thanks to the thick C-pillars and tiny back windows, the cabin is dark with the roof up too, and rear three-quarter vision is virtually non-existent. Reversing is hit and miss too; you can see why parking sensors are standard. On the positive side, the dashboard remains a great piece of design. But even here, the driving position draws negatives. A lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel is disappointing, and taller owners will struggle to get the chunky rim away from their knees. What’s more, while headroom up front is good, the rear chairs are little more than stowage bins with seatbelts. The old-tech engines lack the newer hatchback’s superb economy as well, though retained values are first-class and, as ever, the tlc servicing deal slashes maintenance costs.