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Test Drive: 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible

DESIGN

Test Drive: 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible

The music's up and the top's down in MINI's latest fun machine

by Evan Orensten
on 14 March 2016

It’s easy to love the new 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible. From the new body to its BMW-built engine, a much-improved interior and more than 10 million customization options there’s one to suit every mood and nearly every budget. For starters the Convertible uses the same new body style that was introduced in the Hardtop Two Door (formerly known as the Coupe). Slightly wider, longer and taller than its predecessor, it is substantially more comfortable—especially with the longer rear seat and increased headroom—and holds 25% more cargo without feeling or looking like it’s no longer a MINI.

The car is available in three variations: the MINI Cooper Convertible, the more spritely MINI Cooper S Convertible and the highest performance version, the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible (available later in 2016). Increasingly difficult to find, each comes standard with a smooth six-gear manual transmission; the excellent six-speed Steptronic automatic is an option on all models at $1,250. And this generation marks the first using new engines built by BMW: the Cooper is available with a three-cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology engine; the Cooper S and John Cooper Works with four-cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology engines (the latter further modified).

The exterior of the car is elongated both physically (by around an inch) but even more so visually—the fenders are more present, the lines stretched, and displays an overall more sporty feel. The fit and finish is much improved as well, and there's a more premium appeal with fewer visible seams around the A pillar and an antenna that is integrated instead of on top of the glass. Few may notice the absence of the pop up roll bars, which are now hidden under a pill-shaped detail on either side of the frame, adding substantially to the cars more refined appeal.

Christopher Weil (Head of MINI Exterior Design) tells us, “The cabriolet means that you see both the exterior and the interior at the same time, so we put a lot of attention on interior details. It’s a next level interior for us.” This is perhaps best seen with the impressive new quilted and piped Chester leather trim package, inspired by the traditional English Chesterfield sofa as well as the addition of leather, carbon and metal accents and a decrease in plastic ones. The back seat of the new MINI Convertible, while still small, can passsibly seat two people and do so much more elegantly. Front seat passengers won’t be disappointed either, with an overall improvement in space, finishes, layout and comfort. Weil tells us the team fought hard for a lot of the car's design details, “But many of them are hidden! They are important for achieving the precision we wanted, to make it more pure and reach the level of elegance we wanted to achieve.” We respect that sometimes it's what you can't see that makes the produc shine.

Even the fully-automatic top brings utility and style. A $500 option includes a stately woven herringbone Union Jack graphic, and the top has a “sunroof” setting that exposes the first part of the roof back, which is sometimes all you want. For the Full Monty, a simple flick of a switch puts the roof up or down in around 18 seconds, even while moving at lower speeds.

For those who seek the latest technical offerings they are here in full force—from the highly recommended Dynamic Damper Control for improved handling to the driver assistance packages, the MINI Connected infotainment system along with an optional 8.8” larger display with navigation and the very enjoyable Harmon/Kardon premium sound system. There’s even an app to let you know when rain is approaching. Driving the new Convertible is easy and fun. It performs and handles well and is perky—especially in the S edition. With its upped game in style, fit and finish, performance, technology and customization, it's a vast improvement yet undeniably still a MINI.

The 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible is offered in three models: the MINI Cooper Convertible (starting at $25,590), the MINI Cooper S Convertible (starting at $29,600), and the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible (at dealers later in 2016), pricing estimated around $34,000. The Fully Loaded package ($4,750) provides a lot of the good stuff, including the Sport, Technology and Premium packages and is still further customizable.

Images by Evan Orensten

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