FIRST DRIVE Ver­dict as drop-top gets same tweaks as Hatch

Auto Express - - New Cars - James Batch­e­lor James_­batch­e­lor@den­ @Jr­rbatch­e­lor

THE up­dates to the MINI Hatch (driven in Is­sue 1,517) have also found their way on to the Con­vert­ible. For 2018, the drop-top gets a tweaked look and new tech, as well as more scope for per­son­al­i­sa­tion than ever be­fore.

Like the Hatch, the Con­vert­ible’s facelift is sub­tle. At the front there are new headlamps and day­time run­ning lights, while at the rear you’ll no­tice the stan­dard (in the UK, at least) Union flag LEDS.

The MINI’S ex­pan­sive use of chrome can be toned down if you add the black ex­te­rior pack, while winged badges, fresh colours and ex­tra wheel de­signs also feature. The hatch­back’s 3D-printed name­plates and dash trims are avail­able.

Stan­dard kit in­cludes a mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel and a 6.5-inch colour touch­screen, while a sat-nav sys­tem with con­nected ser­vices joins the op­tions list. Aside from our car’s new auto box, that’s the sum to­tal of the changes.

We tried the Cooper S, which is still a hoot to drive. Lop­ping the roof off has done lit­tle to water down the fun; while most cabrios suf­fer the in­her­ent con­se­quences of de­cap­i­ta­tion, MINI’S en­gi­neers have done an ex­cel­lent job in prevent­ing too much body wob­ble.

That new (£1,700) seven-speed dual-clutch box is a big im­prove­ment over the old auto. It pro­vides rapid-fire changes when you’re driv­ing quickly, or seam­less shifts when cruis­ing.

The Cooper S is a cracker. Its 2.0-litre en­gine serves up 189bhp and it sits nicely be­tween the Cooper and JCW. The chas­sis is ag­ile and the steer­ing has a lovely con­nected feel. Switch to Sport mode and you’ll no­tice a few crack­les added to the ex­haust’s rorty note.

The only real gripes are rear vis­i­bil­ity when the roof is down, and wind noise with the hood raised. The boot is measly, too, while space in the back is poor.

Cooper S drop-top is great fun to drive and new auto box is bet­ter than old one

Rear vis­i­bil­ity is re­stricted with roof down; it’s one of our few grum­bles

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