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IN keeping with its new brand direction, Mini is still stylish but it is not so mini anymore. This is particularly evident from its newest convertible, which is bigger and more refined. The second-generation Mini Convertible is the only premium open-air model in its segment. It is based on the new Mini three-door hatchback and it has the exact same dimensions, down to its height.
The cabin is bigger and wider, and the two rear seats offer 40 mm extra knee space with a better interior packaging. At the back, there is also 25 per cent more luggage space with the roof up.
The fabric roof itself features several improvements. It opens or closes more quickly now - in 18 seconds compared with 23 previously - while the car is moving at up to 30 kmh. And when the roof opening operation is complete, a message pops up on the multi-function display to tell you so.
Finally, there is a new button to lower or raise all four side windows simultaneously.
The ride is still confident but not as stiff as before. Going fast over an irregular road surface will elicit some scuttle shake and a slight rattle from the side windows but otherwise, body flex is minimal. The Mini Convertible has structural reinforcements which add 135 kg to the Cooper S hatch's weight, so it tips the scales at 1,295 kg.
But the additional heft is hardly felt and the 2.0-litre turbo of the Cooper S Convertible is gloriously muscular.
There are three driving modes - Green, Mid and Sport.
Green is the low-consumption choice, with early upshifts and a climate setting that refuses to replicate an Arctic environment. Sport, on the other hand, is the direct opposite with delayed upshifts and an exhaust that growls and pops. A heavy right foot will bring on some torque steer but it can be moderated.
If you prefer a more refined drive, however, it is possible in Mid. Normal pressure on the throttle still produces good engine response yet with a smooth, BMW-like experience.
In fact, the new Convertible's higher level of refinement is evident throughout the car. The new three-layered roof results in a more silent cabin with a newfound calmness.
The roof can be used in two ways - half-open like a sunroof, or fully open with the fabric neatly folded above the bottom-hinged boot lid. When it is the former, the opening is noticeably larger than in its predecessor as the new convertible is a wider car.
When it is the latter, it can truncate the bottom half of the image in the rear view mirror. But driving with the roof down is still more comfortable than in other similar convertibles because the tall windscreen frame with its more upright A-pillars allows better visibility as well as reduce buffeting, especially when the side windows are up. There are two variants - the Mini Cooper S Convertible and the Mini Cooper Convertible.
Both have turbocharged petrol engines mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to drive the front wheels. The Cooper S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, while the Cooper uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder power plant.
A new exterior colour - called Caribbean Aqua (pictured) - is available, while one piece of standard equipment for the Cooper S is the Union Jack in silver stitching, "unfurled" across the full expanse of the soft-top.
Mini Cooper S Convertible
Engine: 1,998cc inline-4 turbocharged
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic transmission
Max power: 192 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
Max torque: 280 Nm @ 1,250-4,600 rpm (300 Nm with Overboost)
0-100 kmh: 7.1 secs
Top speed: 228 kmh
CO2 emissions: 135 g/km
Average OMV: S$30,500
Price: S$178,300 (with COE)
Distributor: Eurokars Habitat