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2009 Mini Cooper Convertible Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Mini Cooper Convertible
Driving in style to the Mini United Festival


PHOTO

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

SILVERSTONE, May 22, 2009; The ‘Mini United 2009’ decal on the glass rear window of our Cooper S Convertible gives away our destination: the Mini United Festival at the Silverstone race track. That’s the place where the celebrations for Mini’s 50th birthday will take off.

Hence we embarked the Stena Brittannica, the ferry from Hook of Holland, The Netherlands, that sails across the North Sea to Harwich, England.

After parking our car in the belly of the ship, we see some ten Mini’s, including two original models, with the same decals on a lower deck. They have a mix of license plates: six Dutch, two German and two Belgian ones. Their ‘crews’ have been swallowed by the big Ferry, but tomorrow, we will undoubtedly find them on the festival grounds.

I am looking forward to a real nice trip. Early tomorrow, after disembarking, we will travel on the freeway towards London and take the Northern Orbital to drive eastwards past the big city. As soon as we leave Motorway, we will stop to drop the soft top of the Mini by a push on the button above the rear view mirror. It is absolutely no problem to drive on the wrong side of the road, not even with the driver sitting left instead of right. If you keep in touch with the traffic through the rear view mirror and the two outside, there will be no surprises. Once on the M40, exit 3 comes in sight pretty soon and we leave to take the narrow roads to Bourne End, the little village where our friends live, and that will be our base for the weekend. With the top lowered and the wind screen behind our seats installed, it is quite comfortable. No flying hair in your eyes and not too much road noise either. We smell fresh grass and the young leaves on the trees. The drive through the typical friendly country and old-English villages is always exiting. At our destination, my long time school friend Francis has just arrived and is closing the door of an orange Mazda MX5.

“Hi….woow,” I say ” .. you’ve got...?.” “Yes! My new car. I have just picked it up at the dealer’s.” She looks at the Mini and says: “Too bad, the four of us cannot go in my car to Silverstone. Well anyway the Mini is topless too…” She is right: at least that one is a four seater.

Slim legs in the back

The next morning, we leave the wind screen at home, the roof stays closed. Even though the sun is shining abundantly, on the motorway, it will be a bit too noisy and windy, especially for the passengers in the rear. Four adults… with the slimmest persons in the back, it just fits.

We are in some kind of a hurry, not knowing what to expect when we are nearing the Silverstone Circuit, as Mini expects thousands of fans, which means cars.

But our Cooper S responds quickly and speeds along, seeming to neglect the fact that it has to carry four passengers. So early on a Saturday morning, it is easy to go pretty fast and still feeling safe, as the Cooper’s handling is crisp and reliable. Nearing the race track, we lower the top, to be able to arrive in style into the paddock and report at the Mini media tent.

We look cool, with everybody smiling. Also the two in the back, even though they feel a bit cramped after the 90 minutes drive. Their feet were stowed under the seats in front and could not move much. The seats were o.k., with enough head room for them (being nearly 1.80 m tall).

Clever

We took two back packs with shoes, sweaters and rain coats, that we do not need. We do need the contents of the cool box on this sunny day. We can park the car in the middle of the paddock with the top down and not need to worry about our stuff in the back. The luggage department is not accessible by folding the back rests of the rear seats as they both can be locked. Clever idea!

Carelessly we leave our companion to be looked at by fans, who might be attracted by the Dutch license plate.

On our way home, we opened the roof, The soft top slides back about 17 inches, enough for fresh air and enabling the evening sun to shine on our heads.

Again, my rear passengers do not complain, but they are glad that they do not have to travel in the back of a Mini each day. “It is all right for a short trip,” volunteers my friend, “but it is meant for children.”

In the mean time we have filled our gas tank and notice to have been driving quite economical: 28.3 mpg is not bad at all. Two days later, after having driven around Bourne End in the blazing sunshine and upon another ferry crossing, I say good bye to the Mini Convertible. I will remember you on August 26th, when it is Mini’s birthday.

© HHR June 2009