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Driven: Mini widens appeal with Convertible

Tops down: Mini’s third-generation pram-top is available with the same powertains as its hatchback sibling.

Third-generation Mini Convertible aims to continue almost equal male/female split

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Mini logo20 Apr 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

MINI’S third-generation cabriolet has arrived on Australian soil with a folding fabric roof from $37,900 before on road costs, but the British car-maker says the new Convertible is as much for male buyers as it is for women.

While the model has always been firmly aimed at all genders, Mini says the topless market has been perceived as more female-focused, but the figures reveal that male buying habits almost equal the opposite sex when it comes to wind in the hair.

Speaking at the launch of the new Mini Convertible, Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto said that almost as many men as women bought the previous-generation Mini cabriolet to the tune of 57 per cent versus 43 per cent, bucking the perception that drop-tops are predominantly embraced by a female audience.

“I think we are trying to highlight today that there is this perception that the convertible is going to 90 per cent females but that’s actually not the case,” he said. “It’s skewed a little bit more favourably towards females but a significant portion are male buyers so it’s something we want to highlight.” While the Mini may suffer a model misnomer with a soft-top, Mr Sesto explained that it was not just the Mini brand that was tarred with the stereotype.

“I don’t think that it’s isolated to just Mini, I think it’s all convertibles across all brands” he said.

With the arrival of the new Convertible model, Mr Sesto said the Convertible was never intended to be a volume seller but its function as a frivolous and lifestyle-focused model would continue for all genders.

“We’re happy that guys are buying it as well. We are happy that it’s appealing to both male and female as well.” A hotter John Cooper Works (JCW) is expected about the middle of the year and, in Europe, a diesel Convertible is available, but for now the Australian range consists of two petrol-powered variants starting with the 1.5-litre Cooper, which is priced from $37,900 before on-road costs.

The entry-level drop-top is powered by the same 100kW/220Nm three cylinder as found under the bonnet of the fixed-top Mini Hatch and has enough poke to propel the Mini from zero to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.3 litres per 100km.

For more power-hungry pundits, the Convertible Cooper S has an extra cylinder that takes displacement out to 2.0 litres with a corresponding boost in power to 141kW and 280Nm of torque.

The 0-100km/h dash is chopped to 7.1 seconds, while fuel consumption increases slightly to 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle.

In both cases, power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, with paddle shifters added to the steering wheel for the faster variant, but a six-speed manual is offered as a no-cost option.

Unlike some convertibles that have opted for more substantial folding hard roofs, Mini has stuck with the more conventional fabric type for a more compact, lighter solution with a more traditional look.

The power-operated top stows into the classic pram-top style arrangement in 18 seconds and at speeds of up to 30km/h. A slide function allows part opening of the roof if occupants do not want to commit to the full wind-in-the-hair experience.

Standard roof material is supplied in black, but for those customers wanting an added level of customisation, the fabric roof can be ordered with a more conspicuous Union Jack flag woven in grey and black.

In typical frivolous Mini style, the Always Open timer has made a return for the new-generation Convertible, to keep owners updated with how much time they have spend exposed to the elements.

Overall, the Convertible has grown 98mm in length, is 44mm wider, 7mm higher and with a 28mm longer wheelbase and broader track, when compared with the previous topless Mini, while boot space has also been boosted by 25 per cent to 215 litres or 160L with the roof open.

In some cases, the removal of the roof to create a convertible can compromise structural stiffness and vehicle dynamics, but Mini has introduced extra bracing to compensate for the missing stressed panel, along with a single-joint strut front axle and multi-link rear suspension.

Equipment levels generally align with the Mini hatchback equivalents with Cooper versions getting 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a moody LED interior lighting package, while an extra level of bling is added with the Mini icon projected from the door mirror onto the floor to greet occupants at night.

Inside, the Cooper gets Mini’s Visual Boost multimedia interface with 6.5-inch dash-mounted screen, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, reversing camera, parking radar at the rear and dual-zone air-conditioning.

Stepping up to the $45,400 Cooper S adds an extra inch to the alloy wheel diameter, part leather upholstery, a sportier steering wheel lifted from the JCW hatchback, LED headlights and matching foglights, while navigation is added to the information and entertainment system.

The sportier Cooper S Convertible also has Mini Driving Modes, which allows the driver to adjust the vehicle settings from Green through Mid to Sport, according to the desired driving style.

All Convertible customers are offered Service Inclusive, which bundles all scheduled servicing costs into one payment at the point of purchase. The Basic pack covers scheduled servicing only, while the Plus option adds “selected maintenance items” into the deal.

A variety of packages are on offer for those with a little more customisation cash, including the Chili, Control, Multimedia Pro and Convenience packs.

2016 Mini Convertible pricing*
Cooper (a) $37,900
Cooper S (a) $45,400
*Excludes on-road costs

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