MINI's cost-conscious convertible

What with all the new model introductions, existing model revisions, special editions and engine upgrades, it may have escaped the attention of many (but, I concede, not Mini aficionados) that the Mini Convertible line-up has been missing an entry level One model, writes Richard M Hammond.

What with all the new model introductions, existing model revisions, special editions and engine upgrades, it may have escaped the attention of many (but, I concede, not Mini aficionados) that the Mini Convertible line-up has been missing an entry level One model, writes Richard M Hammond.

Until recently this was not an issue, as drivers were still keen to invest in the Mini's combination of charm, street cred and raw driving appeal, regardless. However, the Mini's rapidly increasing array of rivals has meant that BMW no longer has the market for such a model cornered.

As with the hatchback, the cheaper Fiat 500 Cabriolet has already unashamedly pitched a flag firmly in the Mini camp.

More value for money competition is likely to come from the Citroen DS3 in due course and potentially the Alfa Romeo Mito and Audi A1 too.


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Slipping in alongside an engine upgrade across the Mini range, the One Convertible makes good use of a new 1.6-litre unit.

The Cooper convertible also benefits from the new engine, as do the hatchback and Clubman models, where the new power-plant replaces the 1.4-litre unit that was present in One and First models alike.

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Under the bonnet of the Mini One Convertible the new unit produces a humble 98bhp but raises the bar for current and prospective rivals with CO2 output of 133g/km and 49.6mpg combined, better than any petrol rival boasting similar power and performance.

The engine itself incorporates a range of features that allow it to offer more power than the old 1.4-litre unit with better fuel consumption and emissions, including variable valve timing (responsible for a 5pc improvement on its own), an on-demand, map-controlled oil pump, a low friction engine vacuum pump, a map-regulated water pump, reduced friction camshaft and main bearings and improved heat management.

All clever stuff and helping the new model seem, at less than �15,000, like even better value for money.

The same can be said of some choice equipment offerings, such as the standard rear parking sensors, air-con, four airbags and stability control. But the Mini One Convertible is an entry level model and, while it offers the chance to get behind the wheel at a reduced price, it naturally doesn't offer the same level of equipment as the Cooper and higher grades. Perhaps most striking is the absence of alloy wheels from the standard equipment list. Steering wheel controls are a cost option too, but the extensive list of optional extras available means customers can drive a decadently equipped model while benefitting from the One's increased fuel consumption and lower emissions, if they're willing to pay for it.

Behind the wheel, the spirited driving experience lives up to that of the higher grade models. Even with the canvas roof folded - an operation which can take place at up to 20mph - the Mini One Convertible remains a nimble, point and shoot affair.

The steering is brilliantly precise and the gear change crisp. Even the brakes offer sports car feel and feedback.

Front seat occupants will enjoy the experience more than anyone brave enough to venture into the token rear seats but at least boot space can be increased by folding them flat.

The roof folds onto the back of the car, too, meaning boot space remains with the roof up or down.

MINI ONE CONVERTIBLE

Model: Mini One Convertible, �14,895 on the road

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol unit developing 98bhp and 113lb/ft of torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission, driving the front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 11.3 seconds; top speed 112mph

CO2 emissions: 133g/km

Economy: 49.6mpg

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