Soft-top Mini opens up a world of fun

If you want roof-down thrills look at a used Mini Convertible, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

Engines – Over the years BMW has endowed the Mini with a gradually improving range of petrol and diesel engines. Low fuel consumption has been complemented by equally low CO2 performance. However, drop-top motoring is all about enjoyment, and that means opting for refined petrol motor. If you want diesel you'll have to splash out on a relatively late model car instead as BMW took its time adding oil-burners to the Convertible's line-up.

Exterior – The Mini Convertible's instantly recognisable exterior has slowly evolved since it was first launched. The car has grown a little too, yet it still looks like a Mini. The Convertible is a cleverly-packaged car – there's not a huge amount of space anywhere – and the roof stows with minimal intrusion into the driving experience.

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Interior – With the cabin dominated by the car's trademark oversize speedometer, period switchgear such as the toggle switches for the minor controls do much to set the Mini apart from regular compact 'fashion' cars. Realistically the Mini Convertible is a two-seater; there's plenty of room up front but the small seats in the back only prove useful for children, or for adults when the roof is down as headroom is at a premium.

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Driving – Despite the convertible's image as a car to be seen in, the Mini is fundamentally a good driver's car. Select an engine with plenty of power and you can have the best of both worlds – the traditional top-down experience and a willing, capable sporting roadster in one package. The higher up the sporty scale the firmer the suspension, which is worth noting if comfort is a priority.

Ownership – The Mini is a known quantity and there are no surprises during the many years of production. Rear vision isn't great with the roof up, which can make parking this popular urban car a challenge. Other than that, its size makes urban motoring easy but its sporty ride can be too firm for some. Load space is modest, although that's the price you pay for convertible motoring.

What to look for – Sparsely-equipped cars can be a turn-off, especially as the level of customisation on offer when new was vast. Urban motoring can take its toll, with kerbed wheels, parking dents and a stained roof all possible. Also, make sure the roof works, as it could prove costly to repair. A test-drive is a must to ensure everything works as it should and there must be solid evidence of a service history for peace of mind.

Model history – 2009, BMW launches a second-generation version of its popular Mini Convertible. Refinement, cabin ergonomics and driving characteristics all said to have been improved. As before, large scope for personalisation through the vast options list, while petrol engines offer differing states of tune to match the walk up from base to John Cooper Works model. Recent introduction of diesel engines an interesting alternative choice.

Reasons to buy – A popular and plentiful car, equipment levels, roof down thrills, looks, brand image.

Reasons to beware – Could be more practical, abuse and neglect from previous owners, firm ride of performance variants.

Pick of the range – Cooper S Convertible.

What to pay – 2009 09 �13,000; 2009 59 �13,575; 2010 10 �14,650; 2010 60 �15,300; 2011 11 �16,500. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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