CUT OF CLOTH WINS FANS Com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and stan­dard fea­tures lift sales, CRAIG DUFF writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

NEW Mini con­vert­ible own­ers will be rapt to be buy­ing the cheap­est drop­top in brand’s Aus­tralian his­tory. Ex­ist­ing may less en­thused the new and im­proved model is about $5000 cheaper than one in their garage.

Mini is un­apolo­getic, say­ing it has come as a re­sult of mar­ket feed­back

com­pe­ti­tion. Gen­eral man­ager Tony Sesto says deal­ers will make less money on each car but should sell more.

“I asked, ‘do you want to sell cars, or do cars’,” says. “Mini had 30 per cent growth last year and is up 17 date that fig­ure. We’ve trimmed the line-up back to our core mod­els and con­vert­ible an important part of that range. De­mand is al­ready there it will pick again dur­ing sum­mer.” When Mini launched

range lo­cally in 2005 the price of a Cooper with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion was $38,100. To­day is $37,900 and in­cludes dual-zone air­con, a re­vers­ing cam­era a tur­bocharged 1.5-litre three-cylin­der en­gine that can pro­pel the rag-top four-seater to 100km/h in 8.7 sec­onds.

The Cooper S is now on sale for $45,400. Be­yond sportier and an auto trans­mis­sion with pad­dle shifters, it adds LED lamps, up­graded nav­i­ga­tion, sports seats and a trio of driv­ing modes. The 2.0-litre turbo four-cylin­der is the en­thu­si­asts’ pick, with power torque up by 40 per cent and 30 per cent over three­cylin­der en­gine.

The body much stiffer than the pre­vi­ous model there is more leg

shoul­der room in cabin — though still not enough down back for this to be a se­ri­ous four-seater and the boot space is up by quar­ter to 215 litres with roof or 160 litres with it down.

The an elec­tri­cally clos­ing soft-top that takes 18 sec­onds raise or lower and can be done 30km/h. There’s even a “sun­roof ” func­tion where the lead­ing edge of the fab­ric roof slides back to let day­light in with­out drop­ping top.

A six-speed auto is de­fault trans­mis­sion, though six-speed man­ual can be or­dered as a no-cost op­tion. That’s your fault, too — 85 per cent of Mini con­vert­ible buy­ers opt for the auto.

Speak­ing op­tions, the list is ex­ten­sive al­ways and it takes very lit­tle pen­man­ship to boost price of ei­ther car by $10,000 or more. The visual high­light is prob­a­bly Union Jack flag wo­ven into the roof fab­ric for $900.

Con­vert­ibles should be about driv­ing en­joy­ment as well as pose value and this lit­tle car man­ages to com­bine the two. Even un­der full ac­cel­er­a­tion or hard cor­ner­ing there is lit­tle body flex in Mini. Cor­ru­ga­tions can pro­voke oc­ca­sional tick from the top of car but it a fairly re­fined lit­tle pack­age. Put that down to tougher donor car in the form of the new Mini hatch and plenty Vshaped brac­ing through un­der­body to keep tied down.

In other re­gards it is a typ­i­cal Mini, from the re­spon­sive steer­ing to slick gear changes up down the ra­tios.

The 1.5-litre ob­vi­ous choice for those who spend most of their time in the city. It’s not slow, uses half a litre less fuel over 100km than four­cylin­der and is $7500 cheaper.

The Cooper S boasts bub­blier ex­haust ap­pre­cia­bly more go and will make an ideal open-top tourer.

A back seat makes it prac­ti­cal than most drop-tops Mini says it sees the likes of the Citroen DS3 Peu­geot’s yet-to-ar­rive 208 CC as ob­vi­ous ri­vals. I’d toss Golf con­vert­ible into that mix well.

The down­side con­vert­ible own­er­ship is usu­ally rear vis­i­bil­ity and the Mini doesn’t dodge this bul­let.

plas­tic win­dow doesn’t show a lot of real es­tate and the view is sim­i­larly lim­ited when head-check­ing blind spots be­fore chang­ing lanes. Drop the roof it bunches up be­hind rear seats, ef­fec­tively ob­scur­ing most sedans.

Wind noise with roof down is more than ac­cept­able and those of av­er­age height will find the breeze faintly ruf­fles their hair. A de­flec­tor can be quickly fit­ted to sit above back seats quell in-cabin tur­bu­lence at speed. It works … but you’re not car­ry­ing four at that point.

On price, per­for­mance and fea­tures this is the best Mini con­vert­ible yet. While far from per­fect, it is a rel­a­tively af­ford­able drop-top with some abil­ity to hang on around cor­ner with­out warp­ing chas­sis.

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