Can the entry-level MINI One Convertible model tempt buyers who thought this bodystyle was out of reach? Steve Walker takes a look.
Ten Second Review
In One trim, the stylish MINI Convertible is at its most accessible and tempting for buyers on a budget. The performance isn't dramatic but the fuel economy is and if you want a big slice of style, there are few better ways to spend £15,000.
You don't have to have monstrous amounts of cash to add a little style to your motoring life but it does help. Car manufacturers, by and large, aren't stupid. They know when they have a vehicle that's trendy and desirable on their books and they won't be shy when it comes to charging a premium for it. This doesn't mean that acquiring a stylish new car on a modest budget is impossible. Merely that it takes a little more thought than if you have squillions to spend. One option that could be worth considering in this regard is the MINI One Convertible. The MINI Convertible can rival many far more expensive cars in the fashion stakes. It's cute, it's retro, it's fun and the convertible roof is less the icing on the cake than the gold clasp on the Mulberry handbag. Until the arrival of the MINI One Convertible, buyers wanting an open-topped MINI had to shell out for the more powerful engines of the Cooper or Cooper S versions but now, the One version brings the car within reach of those on a tighter budget.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine that powers the MINI One Convertible is the same Valvetronic engine that powers the Cooper but in this guise it's only making 98bhp not the full 122bhp. Still, there's 153Nm or torque contributing to the strength of the unit from low speeds and the 0-62mph will detain the car for 11.3s. That's over two whole seconds slower than the Cooper model but whether that matters or not will depend on how you view the MINI Convertible. If owning the car is an exercise in cruising around and looking good, the lack of outright pace is unlikely to concern you. If you're in it for wind in the hair thrills and the MINI's famed go-kart handling, it might be more of an issue. One of the key aims when designing this Convertible was to offer the fun of top-down motoring without sacrificing too much in terms of space and driving dynamics. Imagine a shoe box with the lid on it. It's quite rigid but if you pop the lid off it suddenly becomes a rather wobbly thing. The same applies to convertible cars when their hard tops are removed and a lot of work goes into reinforcement work to rectify this. If you've ever wondered why soft top cars are often heavier than their tin top equivalents, now you know. MINI claim their Convertible offers the same go-kart style handling as the hatch and this is testament to thorough bracing. On the move, a stronger body reduces 'scuttle shake' over bumps.
Design and Build
The automatic canvas roof of this car can be fully retracted or closed using a roof-frame mounted toggle switch in just 15 seconds. In the event of a driver being caught unexpectedly by a sudden downpour, this function will fully operate with the car at speeds of up to 20mph. As an alternative to the complete top-down driving experience, the full-width of the electric roof can be retracted by approximately 40cm to create the effect of a sunroof. This function can be operated at speeds of up to 75 mph. Unlike its predecessor's fixed anti-roll bars, the MK2 model features a single-piece roll bar situated behind the rear seats, ensuring passenger safety in the event of a crash. The roll bar will extend in milliseconds at the point of impact to protect the car's occupants should the car overturn. Clever use of space means the luggage capacity of the MK2 car is considerably improved, at 125 litres roof-up, 170 litres roof-shut and 660 litres roof-up and rear seats folded.
Market and Model
The One Convertible forms the entry-point to the MINI Convertibe range but equipment levels aren't noticeably basic. There's air-conditioning, a CD stereo and most of the other features you'd look for in a £15,000 car. There's also a very healthy amount of safety kit thrown in including DSC stability control and the rear roll-over bar. The array of options is predictably vast with numerous colour and trim options. One of the silliest features available on any car is MINI's Openometer which gives a running report of the percentage of driving time that you've had the car's roof down for. The idea is to guilt-trip owners into using the convertible roof more regularly. We don't have to stretch our imagination too far in order to guess one of the primary motives behind this more affordable MINI Convertible. These days, the mighty MINI has a rival for the title of trendiest small car in the shape of Fiat's similarly cute, retro and fun 500. In convertible 500C form, it undercuts the MINI but the One Convertible helps narrow that cost gap and should help MINI customers having their heads turned by the cheaper Fiat.
Cost of Ownership
Outstanding economy and emissions figures are almost taken for granted in cars from MINI or parent company BMW these days, such is the success that they've had in rendering their products greener and cheaper to run. The latest 1.6-litre petrol engine in the MINI One Convertible uses Valvetronic variable valve timing along with oil and water pumps that work more efficiently to achieve close to 50mpg. CO2 emissions of 133g/km are also strong for a convertible with an engine of this size.
It seems that you don't have to spend a fortune to drive a fashionable car. Whether MINI's One Convertible could be called cheap is a moot point but it's certainly one of the most stylish vehicles you can get for £15,000. The small boot and negligible space in the rear seats will deter buyers with practical constraints but if your main concerns are looking good and having fun, this entry-level open-topped MINI will have a strong pull. Sharp handling and an advanced 1.6-litre engine means that the One should have plenty of capacity to entertain despite being the least powerful model in the MINI Convertible range. Its economy and emissions will also help to take the edge off the asking price as each mile ticks by.