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MINI Cooper Convertible vs Fiat 500C vs DS 3 Cabrio

Supermini cabrios balance open-air glamour and efficiency; can the new MINI Convertible compete against DS and Fiat rivals?

If you’re looking for fun behind the wheel this summer, what better way to welcome the sun than with a compact convertible? Despite our not-so-favourable climate in the UK, we love cabriolets – and manufacturers have capitalised on our drop-top desire by offering many superminis in soft-top form.

MINI’s Convertible is the latest to hit the market. It offers the same cute looks and fun-to-drive character as the hatch, but with an added injection of style thanks to its fabric roof.

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Meanwhile, with the DS brand now standing separately from parent company Citroen, the recently refreshed DS 3 has been made available in Cabrio form. The fixed-roof version lost out on test to the MINI hatchback, but can the convertible turn the tables?

Best convertible cars

Both face Fiat’s facelifted 500C. While the convertible city car is quite a bit cheaper than its competitors here, it still offers chic design in a compact body as well as a peel-back roof.

Compared with its rivals, the MINI has an added ace up its sleeve: it’s the only full convertible of our trio. So, what’s the best for soaking up the rays this summer? Read on to find out.

Head to head

Roof round-up

There's no getting away from the fact that the DS 3 Cabrio and Fiat 500C feel less special than the MINI – and it all stems from the roof. The other cars resemble their regular hatch counterparts fitted with a large sunroof, while the MINI manages to combine a real open-air driving experience with an accessible price and affordable running costs.

Style vs substance

None of our trio is likely to win any practicality prizes, and even though the DS 3 has the biggest boot, its letterbox-sized opening means you won’t be able to fit any large suitcases in there. The load area is more accessible in the MINI, with a tailgate that folds out and a rear deck that lifts up.

Frugal and fun

These three contenders prove that downsized engines can still be fun. The Fiat feels unique, while the DS 3 and MINI are more similar to drive thanks to their three-cylinder turbos. But the MINI’s powertrain just seems crisper, with a tauter gearbox.

Verdict

First place: MINI Cooper Convertible

In virtually every way the MINI has the measure of the DS 3. It’s cheaper, more efficient and better to drive – but, importantly, the fully folding roof adds an extra dimension to the experience that neither rival here can compete with. Add a modicum of practicality, and the Cooper Convertible comes out on top. Just watch the price when choosing from the costly options list, though.

Second place: Fiat 500C

Low CO2 emissions and an affordable price tag make the 500C an attractive compact convertible. It’s not the fastest choice, but speed isn’t everything. The focus is more on fashion, which is where the Fiat scores highly. It’s also still good fun from behind the wheel, but should be frugal to run. However, the small boot and back seats mean the other cars here are more practical options.

Third place: DS 3 Cabrio

It's lacklustre to drive and doesn’t feel as fun as the MINI or Fiat. Combine this with poor predicted residual values, higher running costs and an elevated price, and the DS 3 Cabrio comes third. There’s plenty to like – including the updated styling and customisation options that keep the Cabrio in the running – but compared to the high-quality MINI the DS seems on the pricey side.

Other options for similar money

New: Mazda MX-5 SE 1.5 Price: £18,495 Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 129bhp

Mazda MX-5 front quarter

While it only seats two, the Mazda is a more performance-focused alternative for just £20 more than the MINI. The revvy 1.5-litre petrol engine is great to drive and looks sharp – although the base SE model is sparse inside.

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Used: VW Golf Cabriolet 1.4 TSI SE Price: £18,500 Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 120bhp

VW Golf Cabriolet

It's based on the previous-generation Golf, but VW’s compact four-seat convertible offers more space than the MINI, plus a premium image. At this price, you’ll be looking at a low-mileage used model in SE spec, which brings Bluetooth and DAB.

Figures

 MINI Cooper ConvertibleFiat 500C 0.9 TwinAir LoungeDS 3 Cabrio Elegance PureTech 130
On-the-road price/total as tested£18,475/£25,540£17,230/£19,080£19,195/£20,440
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£8,826/47.8%£8,100/47.0%£7,549/39.3%
Depreciation£9,649£9,130£11,646
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£700/£1,400£550/£1,099£689/£1,378
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,213/£2,022£1,157/£1,929£1,327/£2,212
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost19/£657/C/£3017/£489/A/£024/£521/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£349 (5yrs/50k)£149/£150/£149£196/£255/£366
    
Length/wheelbase3,821/2,495mm3,571/2,300mm3,948/2,452mm
Height/width1,415/1,727mm1,488/1,627mm1,483/1,715mm
Engine3cyl in-line/1,499cc2cyl in-line/875cc3cyl in-line/1,199cc
Peak power 134/4,400 bhp/rpm104/5,500 bhp/rpm129/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 220/1,250 Nm/rpm145/2,000 Nm/rpm230/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel40 litres/repair kit35 litres/space-saver50 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (roof down/up) 160/215 litres185/185 litres245/245 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,280/390/N/A980/415/800kg1,120/500/1,150kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.8 metres/0.34Cd9.3 metres/N/A10.2 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/14818,000 miles (1yr)/16016,000 miles (1yr)/196
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.29th/10th*32nd/11th*26th/9th*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A5/3/2/N/A/5 (2007)87/71/35/83/5** 
    
0-60/30-70mph8.9/8.7 secs10.7/10.7 secs9.6/10.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 5.4/6.4 secs4.3/5.9 secs3.6/4.8 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 9.3/11.3 secs8.3/10.7 secs7.3/8.9 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 129mph/2,250rpm117mph/3,000rpm126mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 46.7/33.2/11.0m46.9/33.7/9.2m47.2/34.5/9.6m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph73/53/66/73dB86/53/68/74dB72/52/67/75dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range47.7/10.5/420 miles50.0/11.0/385 mile43.6/9.6/480 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 47.9/65.7/57.6mpg51.4/80.7/67.3mpg52.3/68.9/62.8mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 10.5/14.5/12.7mpl11.3/17.8/14.8mpl11.5/15.2/13.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket137/114g/km/19%131/99g/km/16%150/105g/km/18%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park. sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/yesSeven/yes/yes/noSix/yes/yes/£450
Auto box/stability/cruise ctrl/AEB^£1,270/y/£215/£440No/yes/no/noNo/yes/yes/£500
Climate control/leather/heated seats£325/£1,305/£215£300/£850/noYes/£1,000/no
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£445/£820^^/£215£500/£675/no£495/£600/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£595/yes/yes/yes£350/yes/£100/yes£500/yes/yes/yes
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