The latest model of the brand’ new generation of products, the MINI Cabriolet keeps its classic proportions, but grows in size as it’s longer, wider and slightly higher than the outgoing generation. It’s bigger because it’s elaborated on the new architecture that also serves as the base for the MINI 3 Door as well as the five-door MINI Clubman.
Its wheelbase has been stretched by 28 millimetres, increasing passenger space a little. On the practical side of things, the trunk’s volume now boasts a volume of 215 litres, and can now store a couple of “cabin luggage” suitcases.
There’s one missing here
We got our first crack at the MINI Cabriolet Cooper S in Los Angeles, which is equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 189 horsepower. However, the base version and its 134-hp, turbocharged, 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit was conspicuously absent at the event.
The new model retains its traditional cheerful grin and upright windshield. Climbing aboard, we immediate notice that the materials used in the cockpit are of higher quality than before and that the MINI Cabriolet Cooper S can even be optionally equipped with high-end features such as head-up display, a rearview camera, a MINI logo projection on the ground in the dark as well as the Always Open function, which records the number of minutes spent driving with the top down.
In the canyons of Los Angeles
After a brief stint on the highway, I had the opportunity to travel down the canyon roads of the Los Angeles area, where the car was agile and extremely fun to drive, thanks to its very solid chassis. Whether we’re braking or cornering, the MINI Cabriolet always handles like a go-kart. The quick transitions from one curve to another allowed me to realise how precise and communicative its steering is, and that driving pleasure is invariably ever-present.
The engine benefits from a good power curve and torque delivery is always linear, which is exactly what we need for tackling the rippled roads of this region. The six-speed manual gearbox is perfectly adapted to the car’s demeanour and admirably completes the powertrain. A six-speed automatic transmission is also available.
A quick look at the weather
Equipped with the $800 MINI Connected App, the MINI Cabriolet keeps an eye on the weather forecast and if the soft top is folded down, it will send a message to the owner’s smartphone, who can remotely raise the top. The soft cloth top can also be optionally ordered with a gray-background Union Jack flag, which adds extra flair to the car.
In addition, the power-operated top can be raised or lowered in only 18 seconds, even while the car is travelling at a speed of less than 30 km/h. It’s also possible to fold back just the front portion of the top, emulating a conventional sunroof. Moreover, cabin quietness is remarkable with the top in place.
JCW in NYC
Unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 2015, the MINI Cabriolet will land in Canadian dealerships in March 2016. The Cooper version will retail for $27,990 while the Cooper S trim will carry a $32,240 sticker. For those who are interested, the options catalogue is exhaustive and it will be hard to resist adding numerous features and accessories, which will obviously have a direct impact on the final invoice.
Performance enthusiasts will also be interested in the MINI John Cooper Works Cabriolet and its 228-hp engine, its Brembo brakes and its sport exhaust system. The JCW droptop will be presented at the upcoming New York Auto Show at the end of March 2016, and turn up in dealerships in April.
What about reliability?
Too bad the reliability of the brand’s products is still problematic. According to the latest J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Survey published in 2015, which measures owner satisfaction during the first three years on the road – which means 2012 model-year vehicles – MINI ranked 28th out of 31 listed brands, just ahead of Jeep, Land Rover and Fiat. Needless to say, they could be better.
Let’s hope the current models will allow the brand to climb up in the rankings and obtain a better result in terms of reliability. We’ll just have to wait for that.