Driven - March 2016

New MINI Convertible and Clubman driven.

New MINI’s added to the range for more fun and practicality

What happens when the roof of the MINI Cooper is cut off and replaced with canvas? Or when the car goes for a butt transplant and comes out with a much bigger rear? We flew down to sunny Cape Town to find out. The two cars in question was the new MINI Cooper convertible as well as the new MINI Clubman.

Already the new MINI is as popular as the car it replaced. The new vehicle definitely has a wider appeal to both men and women, whereas the previous model was generally seen as a “girly” car. We have always loved the MINI, not because of the way it looked but rather the way it felt. It’s always had this sense of “chuckability” that many hatchbacks didn’t. So starting off with the new MINI Convertible, we had to find out if the car still retained the “fizz” with the roof off.

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After an eighteen second wait the roof was down and we could admire the stunning Gordon’s Bay scenery whilst the exhaust pipes of the MINI Convertible S served as a lovely soundtrack. Accelerate for a few seconds and lift off to hear burbles, cracks and pops. Thereafter change up a gear and surprisingly the 6-Speed Steptronic gearbox obliges with ease. 141kW and 250Nm is what propels the Cooper S and despite added weight from reinforcing  the car to handle the lack of a roof, the vehicle still feels as nimble as its hard-headed sibling. Fitted with the JCW body kit, the Cooper S has great visual appeal and a sporty stance, again making it more masculine in appearance.

Enthusiasts always lament the loss of dynamic handling in convertibles versus hard tops, but you would really have to be an F1 racer to notice any real difference in the handling characteristics of the MINI Convertible against the hardtop. Besides, this car is not aimed at the “boy racer”, that’s what the JCW is for. If anything, one could say the drama of having the “wind blowing in your hair” whilst driving through Franschoek pass is more exciting. Colleagues who drove the normal Cooper Convertible also had no ill word to say about the car, in fact they loved the lively nature found in the 100kW 1.5 litre three cylinder engine.

What MINI have done with the convertible is simply give customers a different option. It’s still the same car you would buy three months ago, minus the roof of course. For those looking for a tan or perhaps looking for some attention, why not get yourself the MINI Convertible? We do have lovely weather in South Africa after all.

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Next up was the Clubman. Where the normal cooper sits, the Mini five door sits in the middle and the Clubman sits at the opposite end. This car should be called a Maxi because it feels completely different to the three door variant. Mature is the word to use for the car as it feels like the older brother of the lot. The most noticeable visual change is the rear end, with suicide doors making loading and unloading much easier. For once in a MINI there is an actual boot, one that can actually fit groceries, luggage and even a small dog. Not only is the new Clubman longer than the five door, it’s wider too. The interior is also different with a broader instrument panel creating more space inside the car.

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This time we opted for the standard Clubman, not the S version. Despite a power decrease from the S, the way that little three cylinder engine performs is very good indeed. A Clubman client won’t be disappointed if they opted for the standard version over the S.

All in all, these new additions play very different roles and speak to very different buyers. The cars are equally impressive though with the same connectivity options and technological equipment available in both cars. One nifty option (standard in the S models) is the MINI Driving Modes which give you an option of Green, Mid and Sport mode, which changes the throttle response of the car and the exhaust note (on the S model). If you’re a die-hard Mini fan, they have created a different set of the same car so that you don’t ever have to leave the brand because of circumstance. Before a MINI was just a MINI, now you can have a MINI, a bigger MINI and an even bigger MINI.

Prices:

MINI Clubman: R343 000 (Manual) and R361 000 (Automatic)

MINI Clubman S: R415 000 (Manual)  and R434 500 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible: R368 000 (Manual) and R384 000 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible S: R433 000 (Manual) and R451 000 (Automatic)

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