2009 New Mini Convertible Review
2009 Mini Convertible
Always Open – the new Mini Convertible
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel
Do you like to smell the grass in spring, or inhale the oxygen
filled air in the winter time? You might be a fan of cars with folding
tops, or even be one of the more than 164,000 owners of a Mini Convertible.
Someone who was seduced buying it after the relaunch of the Mini brand in
On March 28, the second generation Mini Convertible will hit markets
world wide and will probably outsell its predecessor. Why? Because it has
been improved, and, like all new cars, it has new technology and new
features that were not (yet) available some years ago.
The design of the new Convertible is unmistakeably Mini. With the
top up, the second generation just looks better than its predecessor.
That’s because of the longer side windows and the raised shoulder
line. The circular headlamps and the grille have not been changed.
More significant is the different shape when most of the canvas roof
is folded into the rear end. The Convertible looks more stretched an
cleaner, because the rollover bar is now hidden behind the rear seats and
pops up electromechanically within 150 milliseconds after the car’s
electronic safety system registers a rollover in the making. In case of
such an emergency, this protects, in combination with the very strong
structure around the windshield, the occupants.
The construction has no negative influence on the boot space. There
is even optional loading storage between the luggage and passenger
compartments that increases the contents to 23.10 cu ft, with the backrests
of the rear seats (50/50) folded down.
Compared to the first
generation Mini Convertible the luggage compartment of the new version has
0.17 cu ft. more: 4.4 cu ft. with the top down and 6.0 cu ft. with the top
up. The seat backs can be locked with the car’s key, a nice safety
feature to prevent opening the boot from within the cockpit, when the car
is parked with the top down. The top has an integrated sliding roof and can
be partially opened to act as a sunroof.
The cockpit has the familiar Mini lay out, but there is something
you will notice immediately. It is the extra gauge on the left side of the
odometer, that Mini dubbed an ‘openometer’. It is not only a
new word in the automotive dictionary, but it is also a new feature. The
openometer is a timer that records how long the car was driven with the top
down. It will show the total hours, accrued during the car’s life
span. The marketing people foresee that this will be a new communication
tool on the Web, as owners will use the read-out in blogs to talk about how
long they have driven ‘Always Open’, which is the slogan for
the 2010 Convertible.
But driving the Mini Convertible is more than driving with the top
down alone. It is also about the handling of the topless Cooper S in the
south of Austria. The mountains were covered under a white blanked and
fortunately my colleague/passenger and I had warm jackets, gloves and warm
head-gear. So, we did not need to think twice about driving ‘Always
The standard air conditioning and the wind deflector kept us warm
and comfortable. And I even took off my hat to feel if the wind was going
to blow through my hair. It didn’t.
So I stayed bare haired until late in the afternoon, when the temperature
dropped far beyond the freezing point. Indeed, with the top down (and
windows up), you could smell the fresh air and the pine trees.
After fresh snow had covered the roads at night, we got into the car again.
Would we drive open again? It was snowing lightly. We just tried, but soon
after the snow got more intense, we needed to close the top. You can do
that while driving up to 20 mph and it only takes 15 seconds. Disregard the
In the meantime I was enjoying the handling of the Convertible. Its
suspension has been tuned for a comfortable feel, although the structure is
definitely rigid. This is essential for a car without a roof, but with
softer springs in the rear and some other measures, the Mini is not bumpy
and nicely evens out bad surfaces. The Mini gives enough feed back to feel
exactly if you are still having grip, or if you are about to loose it.
Should the latter be the case, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) will help
you to stay in control, but we did not get into a position to need it. Of
course, the (run-flat) winter tyres, that are obligatory in the Alpine
area, do their job.
Lucky us: we also were invited to drive on a frozen lake covered
with snow, just to drive the Convertible to its limits and beyond. Switch
off the DSC completely and you could really play, while quickly
appreciating its friendly character. It is quite clear, the Mini loves
slipping and sliding as much as we do and as it lacks meanness, it is well
The Convertible comes in two models, the Cooper and the Cooper S.
Under the hood is the new aluminium 4-cylinder 1.6-liter VVT engine that
delivers 118 hp and had 114 lb-ft of torque. In the Cooper S this motor is
assisted by a Twin-scroll turbocharger and has 172 hp and 177 lb-ft torque.
No doubt we loved to drive the Cooper S. It felt strong enough to climb
the mountain roads and supple enough not having to shift the 6-speed
gearbox constantly up and down.
With the new electro-hydraulic steering gear, input from the wheels is
exactly what it should be and response to the steering wheel was direct and
We could not do top speed, nor the zero to 60 mph acceleration. But
Mini promises a top of 222 km/h 138 for the Cooper S and 124 mph for the
Cooper, whereas 0-60 will take 7.0 and 8.9 seconds respectively.
Nowadays as important as performance is the fuel consumption. Thanks
to new technical features and Efficient Dynamics technology, such as
StartStop and brake regeneration, the fuel consumption of the new engines
is even 20 percent better – with subsequently lower CO2 emission.
Could we find a flaw in the new Mini Convertible during our first test
drive? Only one. We could not open the hood. The release works, but the
handle under the hood is to stiff to open, even for my male colleague. We
told the Mini staff about it. The problem will be addressed.
The Cooper Convertible will be available for $ 24,550 and the Cooper
S for $ 27,450, including $ 650 destination charge.
Customers may feel comfortable with the new generation’s performance
and feel. And with its safety features, such as four airbags, ABS and
electronic brake force distributing, cornering brake control, brake assist
and stability control. Added piece of mind may be provided by the knowledge
that Kelley Blue Book awarded the Mini Cooper models the 2009 Best Resale
Value Award for the best values across all vehicle