MINI Convertible Cooper D Review

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MINI Cooper D

Road Test

MINI Convertible

Model/Engine size: Cooper D

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 70.6 mpg

Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10

The MINI Convertible Cooper D has all the fun of a MINI, plus the open top motoring experience – along with 70.6 mpg.

‘Go-kart handling’ is one of the most common phrases used in press releases from MINI. However it’s an accurate refection of the MINI driving experience, and this feeling is magnified in a MINI with no roof.

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The sensation would be even more accelerated in a petrol-powered MINI – which is ultimately more responsive than the diesel and was the only engine option for the Convertible until relatively recently. However in these days of high fuel prices and relentless focus on CO2, the diesel-powered Cooper D offers a fun driving experience together with increased levels of economy over the petrol models – although both petrol and diesel models benefit from BMW’s ‘minimalist’ efficiency technologies. These features include brake energy regeneration, auto start-stop, a gearshift indicator, electromechanical power steering and an intelligent alternator.

Along with the vast majority of cars that have had their roof cut off, the MINI Convertible loses its composure over potholes and bumps – and even cat’s eyes – when the whole car is prone to shaking and shuddering. In order to achieve the famed ‘go-kart handling’, the suspension of the MINI is, let’s say, somewhat on the firm side, so the entire driving experience probably isn’t for people who are looking for a cosseting, comfortable ride. However the chassis set-up, combined with the very direct and responsive steering, provides rewards for the driver on smooth, twisty roads.

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The Convertible is heavier than the Hatch, as the body has been stiffened to make up for the loss of roof, and the diesel engine adds further to the weight gain – so this car is not quite as sharp as a petrol Hatch in terms of its handling.

There’s also the potential for a considerable amount of wheelspin to be going on, especially in wet or greasy conditions, thanks to relatively large amounts of torque (199 lb.ft) being fed to the fat front tyres from the recently-introduced engine, a BMW-sourced 1.6-litre turbodiesel unit, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, which is shared with the Cooper D hatch.

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Yet despite such issues, driving a MINI is just fun, and it brings a smile to your face. The exterior has its own character, but you’re also reminded that you’re in something other than a boring small car by the interior, with its retro-inspired quirky layout and style-over-substance features such as the huge central speedo and collection of lots of small tightly-packed switches at the bottom of the dash. However despite the fun appearance of the interior, its quality is also good.

Although the driving position accommodates most sizes, the overall packaging inside the car – particularly the room, or lack of it, in the rear seats – has been bettered by some rivals. Life in the rear seats with the roof up is also a fairly dark, confined existence. And of course the boot is very small.

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The roof operation is simple, controlled by just one button, and it opens and closes in 12 seconds. There are no excessive noise levels with the roof up, and things aren’t too bad with it down. There’s a wind-blocker and dashboard-mounted heaters – along with the option of heated seats – to assist with the potential for all-year round drop-top motoring.

There’s an ever-expanding variety of MINI Convertible models, with each specification having a huge list of options. As with any MINI, this means that the basic price of this model, at £17,925, can easily rise to £20,000 and beyond – which is quite a lot for a small rag-top. However MINIs, especially the convertibles, hold their value extremely well, and the promise of 70 mpg should help to keep running costs low. The diesel engine is more expensive than the petrol; it should provide more of a financial return the more miles you do. It also gives you a longer range between fill-ups.

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As always, remember that although the fuel economy and CO2 levels of the diesel are better than the petrol, other emissions such as particulates and NOx are worse.

The Chili Pack on our test car means that you get features such as climate control and Bluetooth. It came with options incuding 17″ Black Star Bullet Alloys, satnav and leather. Parking sensors come as standard on all models.

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Summary

You can’t argue with the success of the MINI. In Convertible Cooper D form it combines character, fun, go-kart handling (in other words a firm ride…) with efficiency and unlimited headroom. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10 for having a driving experience which bring such a smile to your face, while still offering the potential for saving significant money on fuel. The car’s main shortcoming has been highlighted by the arrival of the Audi A1, which does such a good job of providing a fun, enjoyable driving experience with much greater levels of comfort.

Paul Clarke

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Fuel economy extra urban: 76.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 62.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 105 g/km
Green rating: VED band B – first year £0
Weight: 1200 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 13%
Price: £17,925 (From £15,475 to £19,965)
Insurance group: 18
Power: 112 bhp
Max speed: 121 mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
DPF:  Yes

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Keywords: MINI Convertible Cooper D review, MINI Convertible Cooper D road test

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