Price: £19,000

Engine: turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol

Transmission: six-speed manual

Top speed: 138mph

Acceleration: 0-100km/h (62mph) in 7.4 seconds

Fuel consumption: 44.1 mpg (combined cycle)

CO2 emissions: 153g/km



Rivals: Citroen C3 Pluriel, Fiat 500 C, Peugeot 207 CC,

It’s easy to spot the difference between the original BMC Mini and post-2001 BMW examples; although they carry the same name and some of the newer car’s detailing is borrowed from its predecessor, they are in virtually every other respect very different. Less obvious are the differences between early BMW Minis and those that are on sale today - a huge mid-life revamp means that these two groups of cars have comparatively little in common but to the casual observer they still look almost identical. Much of the bodywork has been changed, the engines are different and the headlamps peep out of two holes in the new clamshell bonnet pressing, rather than being part of the bonnet assembly itself, for example, but the essential look has been maintained.



BMW has phased these changes in over the best part of two years. It started with the standard hatchback in 2007, then introduced the Clubman estate about a year later, which had all of the updates from the start. Finally, earlier this year, the modifications were extended to the convertible version tested here. As before, there are Cooper and Cooper S versions, but these established variants are joined by a speedier John Cooper Works (JCW) version for the first time.



The new convertibles are predictably appealing and capable cars. The sense of fun that accompanies all Minis is present in abundance and some changes that are specific to the convertible bring useful benefits as well. Aerodynamic tweaks have reduced the buffeting associated with driving top-down at high speed to an impressive degree and the hood mechanism has been altered in order to improve rearward visibility as well.



These Minis also have that air of solidity and quality about them that all BMW products have, although I wonder whether I’m the only person who is starting to tire just a little bit of the slightly laboured (old-style) Mini detailing the Germans still seem to think is essential to these cars’ identity. Initially, items such as the big dinner plate sized central speedo, inspired by that fitted to the 1959 model, were a source of genuine delight but I suspect it’s now time to lay the “Mininess” thing on a little less thickly, or seek out a new design direction.



On the road, the convertibles are pretty much a match for the standard Mini hatches. Of the three variants, the Cooper S is probably the pick of the bunch; its turbocharger provides it with quite a bit of extra torque over the standard Cooper and it is usefully cheaper than the JCW - although all Minis are starting to look a bit pricey, especially now there’s a chic alternative in the form of the Fiat 500, which is also available as the open-topped ‘C’ variant. In the past the convertible Minis have been big sellers - but expect the more basic recession-beating variants that have been introduced in the last few months - the “One” Clubman estate and the stripped out “First” hatchback - to claim a significant share of the action from now on.

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