The diminutive al fresco Mini gets a facelift, and is one of the cheeriest cars on sale today
Motoring in Singapore can be pretty dour. What with the congestion, omnipresent road works, and general lack of graciousness among Singaporean drivers, it’s all almost enough to make one want to hang up their keys for good.
Once in a while though, a car comes along with a reminder that life is what you make of it, and that you can still have fun amid the doom and gloom. The Mini Cooper Convertible is one such car.
First making its debut two years ago, the Mini Convertible joins the hatchbacks in undergoing its Life Cycle Impulse (the company’s fancypants term for ‘facelift’).
Where previously only the base One and scorching John Cooper Works were available, the addition of the Cooper and Cooper S versions, and Convertible body style, mean the Mini lineup here is now complete.
As with our first introduction to the refreshed range, the One 5 Door, the Convertible’s differences are minute to the point of obscurity. There are new ring-shaped running lights in front, Union Jack-shaped taillights at the rear, more minimalistic badging, and a new 6.5-inch colour touchscreen inside.
As ever with Minis, personalisation is a big part of the appeal, and so there are also a smattering of new wheel, trim and paint options. The twilight-coloured Starlight Blue and Malt Brown leather here are some of them, and they make for a classically attractive colour combination.
Under the skin, the car is the same as before. That means a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine resides under the clamshell bonnet, similar to the One’s one, although it’s more powerful in this application – 136hp and 220Nm of torque.
It’s a chirpy little unit, with the same off-beat thrummy engine note that we enjoyed in the One. The fruity exhaust note is sure to raise a few smiles in enclosed spaces too.
The performance isn’t much to shout about, but the extra poke over the One is certainly welcome. Despite weighing an extra 115kg due to the strengthening required of any drop-top, the Cooper Convertible will complete the century sprint 1.5 seconds faster than the One.
The engine in this state is certainly a better match for the car’s handling characteristics. Although not side-splitting hilarious, it’s pleasantly amusing to steer, with darty responses, a resistance to understeer, and a progressive breakaway nature when you do exceed the car’s limits.
That said, you do feel the added weight over the hatch, with a slight inertia to both longitudinal and lateral acceleration. The suspension compresses just a bit more over undulations, and takes just a bit longer to settle down afterwards.
There are also packaging issues to consider – the boot is a tiny 160-litres in volume with an awkwardly narrow aperture, the folded-up roof obscures rearward vision and although there’s just about enough legroom for four, rear passengers will need to master deep meditation to cope with the ramrod-upright seatbacks.
And while the build quality is typically Germanic and therefore precise (remember, Minis are essentially BMWs at heart), the regular squeaks of frameless windows against rubber seals over anything but glass-smooth tarmac will always accompany you and your thoughts.
However, these are inescapable characteristics when buying any hatchback-turned-convertible, and the Mini feels less obviously compromised on the move than most others that have come and gone before (its only true rival right now is the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet, which offers an equally compelling, but different, flavour of fun).
Once you lower the roof though (an 18 second affair, at speeds up to just 30km/h), most of those niggles disappear, as there’s so much more for the sense to experience. Now that the wind is rushing about your face, you no longer notice that it’s just a smidge slower, because it feels faster. And with the windows out of the way, the main source of irritation is eliminated. You even get to hear more of the exhaust burbling away, as well as the occasional fluttering of the turbo – simple pleasures to any petrolhead.
In fact, the Mini Convertible’s ability to cheer isn’t based so much on what it can do, but by the very nature of what it is. According to psychologists, the simple act of being outdoors does wonders for your mood and mental health, and the added bonus with the Mini is, you have a comfortable seat in which to closer to nature, without the added stresses of human interaction. The fact that it’s also fun to drive is just the icing on the cake.
Mini Cooper Convertible
|Engine||1,499cc, inline 3, turbocharged|
|Power||136hp at 4500rpm|
|Torque||220Nm at 1480rpm|
|Gearbox||7-speed dual clutch|
|Fuel Efficiency||5.6 L/100km|
|VES Band / CO2||B / 129g/km|
|Price||$142,088 with COE|