Price: £25,799.90 (as tested, starts at £21,130)
Engine capacity: 1,995cc (4-cylinder, 16-valve)
Power output (PS @ rpm): 105 @ 4,000
Top speed (mph): 130 0-60mph (seconds): 8.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 47.1 CO2 emissions (g/km): 13
As has been noted endlessly over the past decade or so since the BMW Minis bounced the old brand back to solid commercial viability, the “new Mini”– now actually well into its second generation – doesn’t have much in common with the “classic”Mini, an example of which I ran for many years. New Mini is, in truth, still too big, too heavy and too expensive to be a true successor to the older, but revolutionary, machine.
Now we have a Mini with a two-litre diesel engine, bigger and meatier than previous diesel offerings. In that respect, though, the Mini is making a welcome return to one of its antecedents’ values; economy. The Cooper S convertible I tried out was loaded with almost £5,000 in optional extras. Exquisite leather trim and with room in the back only for John Bercow and Ronnie Corbett. Yet even with the most brutal treatment I could mete out, it managed to return 46mpg.
There was something else quite old school about this car: the colour. The rich bronze metallic paintwork was also reminiscent of an old-school Mini shade that was offered around 1979 by British Leyland. BMW assures us, by the way, that Minis will continue to be made in the UK no matter how successful it gets and no matter how close to capacity its Oxford plant gets.
Which brings me to my point. The key to the Mini is to forget it is a “Mini”at all and think of it as a frontwheel-drive BMW. Once you do that and get over your hang-ups, it all becomes clear. This is a stunningly entertaining, free-revving, non-diesely car that inexplicably copes with what ought to be excessive power calmly through its front wheels and on its dinky chassis. I believe that BMW is concerned that too many of its Mini buyers are young women, and is creating new Mini variants such as a coupé that will widen its appeal. Good idea; but it really doesn’t need to worry about how it goes. It’s got sufficient testosterone.
The forthcoming VW Golf Cabrio will be trendy and cheaper; arguably a Fiat/Abarth 500 with the full-length sunroof already is. The BMW 1 series and imminent Audi A1 Cabrio are also contenders.