While it may not be the most ultra-masculine machine we’ve ever come across (especially in the color seen here), the 2016 Mini Convertible is being heralded as one of the greatest slices of “open driving excitement” money can buy when it goes on sale in March next year. It may not be the kind of car for guys with face tattoos and viking beards, but it sure as hell looks like a great option for their lady friends, who probably prefer something in this shade of aqua in order to better complement their eye shadow.
Boasting a claim to being the first open top MINI to be powered by both BMW Group engine technology and architecture, the newest revision to the iconic product line has been redesigned to be larger, safer, and more powerful in order to offer a four-seat, soft-top driving experience that yields “unlimited open-air motoring fun.”
Like all other MINI models in the product portfolio, the new MINI Convertible is designed around customization, and from the looks of things the company is hell-bent on becoming the new standard in the premium convertible market. Rolling into showrooms in 11 different colors (including “Caribbean Aqua”), the fun little British soft top is clearly pulling from its classic MINI roots for inspiration as it reminds us that the car colors of yesteryear will always remain some of the most fun.
This feeling of fun carries over to the interior, as the quirky center stack and dash layouts remain, complementing a number of premium seating options like Malt Brown leather with diamond-stitching Chesterfield sofa inserts, and more tech than you can wave a stick at with infotainment, safety, and connectivity leading the charge. There will even be a soft-top option that allows buyers to rock an embroidered Union Jack on their roof now, complete with herringbone-patterned detailing.
David Duncan, vice president for MINI of the Americas, sums it up adequately by proclaiming that “the new MINI Convertible has a great balance of playful personalization and sophistication.” He has a very valid point: This certainly does look far more grown up than previous generations, due primarily to the fact that it physically is more grown up. Compared to its predecessor, the new convertible model has blossomed out by 4.5 inches in length, 1.7 inches in width, and 0.8 inches in height, thus giving it a longer wheelbase (+1.1 inches) and a wider track width (1.9 inches at the front and 1.6 inches at the rear). This expansion process generates more space for all four occupants, giving the new front seats a far larger adjustment range, while making both entering and exiting the car a much less arduous task. Luggage volume has also expanded by more than 25%, and the car can now hold up to 7.6 cubic-feet of stuff once the top is closed, as opposed to the 5.7 cubic-feet when it is open.
But before everyone starts bitching about how a MINI isn’t really “mini” anymore, please note that this little speed freak is now powered by BMW Group-developed three- and four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo Technology engines. The 2016 MINI Convertible comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, which makes us happy because we love a good manual transmission, and will be a standard option in both the three-cylinder Cooper version and four-cylinder Cooper S model. Drivers can choose between a highly efficient 1.5-liter three that puts down 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, or the 189 horsepower 2.0-liter version, which cranks out 207 foot-pounds of twist. Both engines will be built in Europe, and for anyone not wanting to fiddle with a clutch, a six-speed “steptronic” automatic transmission can be opted for, making this car that much more appealing to the masses.
As with all MINI purchases, the levels of customization with this thing are virtually endless. LED lights are now an option for every corner of the car, both inside and out, and safety features run a mile long on the 2016 model, with driving assist, lane departure warning, and active cruise control leading the way. Attach that to heated, power folding mirrors, a head-up display, 18-inch alloys, and a sunroof option that enables the soft-top to open midway, and we are seriously looking forward to test driving one of these little micro machines next spring.
MINI has long been known for being quite the quirky offering, and in the 2016 Convertible things are no different as all models will come equipped with an industry-unique “Always Open Timer,” which gives owners the ability to track the exact number of hours they’ve driven with the top down. Other outstanding standard features include the MINI Connected infotainment system, a 6.5-inch high-resolution screen, and automatic dual-zone climate control just to name a few. Anyone needing a larger screen can opt for an 8.8-inch display that includes navigation and a rain warning app, which notifies Florida drivers if hurricane “Impending Doom” is about to make landfall.
Final thoughts on our end are quite a bit upbeat: The two engine options alone in this little guy are going to be a blast to put to the test, and with even more interior room at our disposal, the thought of heading to the beach in one of these machines is becoming more appealing by the minute. While pricing will not be announced until January, we remain doubtful that it will vary greatly from the current models, for even with a fresh powerplant, automakers know they can’t hike prices up too drastically for fear of losing customers.