Mini Convertible has a growth spurt
Since the launch of the new Mini, we've seen a greater focus on usability and space. Unfortunately, none of this newfound practicality has addressed the biggest problem with Mini, a problem that has existed since the death of the R56 Cooper in 2013: the need to improve your tan. Thankfully, stylish socialites can rest easy, because Mini has answered your prayers with its new Convertible.
Just like the rest of the range, the new Mini Convertible isn't that small anymore. It's grown 98 mm (3.9 in) longer, 44 mm (1.7 in) wider and 1 mm taller than its predecessors, which means passengers should have far more space inside. Bigger or not, we wouldn't want to be stuck in those back seats on a transcontinental trip.
As well as growing, the new Convertible is smarter than the car it replaces. The textile soft top is now fully electric and can be opened at speeds up to 30 km/h (18 mph) and includes a front "sliding roof" function that acts like a sunroof. If you're desperate to customize your Convertible's roof design, you can even spec it with a graphic woven into the top – perfect for impressing low-flying helicopter pilots or smart birds.
Downsizing is the order of the day under the Convertible's bonnet. The same 3-cylinder engine that serves in the BMW 3 Series makes an appearance here, producing the same 100 kW (136 hp) and 220 Nm of torque as it does in the Hatch, while the other petrol option at launch is the 2.0-liter motor from the Cooper S, which produces 141 kW (192 hp) and 280 Nm of torque. If you're doing lots of highway miles, Mini also offers up an 85 kW (116 hp) diesel option.
Mini has always made a point of making its cars feel small and darty on the road. With a wider track and longer wheelbase than the old Convertible the new car shouldn't struggle for grip, and Mini claims its single-joint strut front axle and multi-link rear end endow the car with a go-kart like feeling.
Stepping inside the Convertible is just like stepping into a regular Mini hatchback. Both cars share the same circle-inspired design, although the convertible is packing one feature to make hatchback drivers jealous – an "Always Open Timer."
The Always Open Timer keeps a log of how long the roof has been down since the car's registration, to allow drivers to properly measure how deep their sunburn has become. Not really ... Mini claims the system is designed to keep track of how much "open air enjoyment" the "fresh air enthusiasts" who buy the car have experienced.
Me? I'm more of a not-getting sunburnt enthusiast, but I also feel strongly about staying dry in storms and not ruining my hair on windy days. Maybe the hardtop would be a better fit?
This slightly baffling feature aside, Mini has fitted the Convertible with some genuinely useful kit inside. Just like it does in an S-Class Mercedes, the air-conditioning regulates its flow depending on the position of the roof to make sure it's always at its most efficient, and if you're using the Mini Connected App, the car will remind you to close the roof it there's rain on the way.
The new Convertible's bulbous rear also has more luggage space than its predecessor. it's now able to hold 215 litres (7.6 cu.ft) with the roof up and 160 litres (5.7 cu.ft) when it's down – up by 25 percent.
Mini hasn't yet revealed details about pricing, but expect to pay a small premium over the hatchback for top-down motoring. All engines will be available with a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox.