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Car reviews - Mini - Convertible - range

Launch Story

Mini logo17 Mar 2009

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

MINI has finally introduced the Cabrio version of the new R56 Cooper and Cooper S.

While the R56 hard-top was introduced to Australia in February 2007, Mini continued selling the Mk I Cabrio which made do with the previous Chrysler-sourced engines.

Known internally as the R57, the new Cabrio benefits from all the mechanical advantages of the second-generation BMW-developed Mini including new engines, improved safety and more advanced suspension.

The body of the new Cabrio is also stiffer than before, thanks to a new floorpan and reinforced A-pillars and side sills.

The latest generation Cabrio also comes with price rises of $2300 for the Cooper and $1500 for the Cooper S. However, the Cooper Cabrio is still one of the cheapest drop-tops around, starting from $39,800, while the Cooper S is keenly priced at $48,000, given its performance.

The base Mini Cabrio pricing places it above convertibles such as the $36,990 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet and the $34,990 Peugeot 206CC, but below cars such as the Mazda MX-5 at $42,870, the $43,900 Audi A3 Cabriolet and the $44,990 Renault Megane CC.

Mini has stuck with the fully automated fabric lid, even though many of its rivals have opted for a folding metal roof. The new roof has a sunroof function that allows the driver to draw the front section of the roof back 40cm to allow some sun in without dropping the roof completely.

The roof can be folded away completely at speeds of up to 30km/h, a process that takes just 15 seconds. Mini has also developed a key fob that allows the driver to drop the roof while approaching the vehicle.

Furthermore, Mini has come up with an optional feature that is either useful or a gimmick, depending on how you look at it. The ‘Always Open Timer’ is next to the tacho and simply measures the amount of time you drive with the roof off. The idea is to encourage owners to drop the top more often.

A more practical improvement comes in the form of the split-fold rear seats and an opening through to the boot allowing for larger items and bigger loads. Mini says folding down the rear seats opens up a cargo capacity of 600 litres, which is a dramatic improvement over the paltry 170 litres of space in the boot.

Mini claims it has been able to improve the Mini’s load-carrying capacity largely because of new pop-up rollbars that replace the previous fixed versions. These rollbars rise from behind the rear seats, not only improving rear visibility, but also giving the car a cleaner profile.

When it comes to styling, the new Cabrio picks up the same visual changes as the R56. These changes were minimal, as Mini did not want to dilute the iconic shape.

The visual difference between the Cooper and Cooper S boils down to the sporty S’s bonnet bulge, intercooler slot, hexagonal grille pattern and a larger lower air intake.

While the new R56 Cabrio has a range of improvements, the powerplants are the most significant. The previous Chrysler-sourced 1.6-litre naturally aspirated and 1.6 supercharged engines are out, replaced by naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines of the same size that derive from a partnership between BMW and Peugeot (for the 206 and 307).

These engines are between 16 per cent and 18 per cent more efficient. They are linked to either the standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic that costs an extra $2350. Both feature variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshaft.

The engine in the standard Cooper produces 88kW of power at 6000rpm and 160Nm of torque at 4250rpm, enabling it to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.8 seconds. Its fuel consumption figure comes in at 6.1L/100km.

The Cooper S engine, which benefits from direct petrol injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger, manages to pump out 128kW at 5500rpm and 240Nm at 1600rpm, although an overboost function releases another 20Nm for short bursts. This is enough for the Cooper S Cabrio to run the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.4 seconds. Its fuel consumption figure is 7.9L/100km.

The Mini Cabrios are 100kg heavier than their hard-top siblings, with the Cooper Cabrio tipping the scales at 1165kg and the Cooper S Cabrio weighing in at 1230kg. But the new Cabrios are 10 per cent lighter than the models they replace.

The R57 Cabrio is 64mm longer from nose to tail than the previous generation, 5mm narrower, 1mm shorter and has exactly the same wheelbase.

Like the R56 hard-top, the new Cabrio runs MacPherson struts at the front and an upgraded rear multi-link set up with aluminium longitudinal arms. The base Cooper comes with 15-inch alloy wheels and standard tyres, while the Cooper S gains 16-inch alloy rims with run-flat tyres.

As is the case with the hard-top, the Cooper and Cooper S Cabrio are also available with Chilli upgrade packs, which add $3600.

When it comes to safety, all Mini Cabrios come standard with traction control and electronic stability control as well as front and side head/thorax airbags.

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