Big adventure in a mini package
When BMW launched the new Mini, the company tagged its adverts "A Mini Adventure" and it's easy to see why.
Although I've always been a fan of the small car, it's not one I really wanted to drive in the UAE, having thought the 4x4 army would run such a tiny car off the road. But after being told it's a very safe car due to being so nippy and able to get out of sticky situations quickly, I decided to give it a go. And boy, am I'm pleased I did.
The Mini Cooper S Cabrio might be small in stature but it is big on both personality and performance.
Being so small, it is quick off the mark, easy to weave out of sticky situations, zoom round the endless U-turns and manoeuvre around any car park without fear of tight corners.
This model – there is also the lower Cooper Cabrio edition – features a 175hp engine with a top speed of 217kph. The fuel consumption has been reduced by 1.9l/100km to 6.4l/100km, and CO2 emissions reduced to 153g/km from 199g/km.
It has a six-speed automatic transmission, with optional sport and manual mode with steering wheel-mounted paddles but is responsive enough not to switch to manual mode.
This latest edition – which first hit international roads last year – has a number of upgrades from its predecessor, including a reduced electromechanically operated rollover bar situated behind the rear seats to provide better driver visibility.
The car is 10kg lighter making it even nipper when changing lanes, while also has a unique "always-open timer" next to the rev counter to show how long the roof has been down. However, last week's rain put paid to using it.
With the roof up, there is more noise than I'd expect of a car worth Dh155,000. For the first day of driving, I was constantly looking over my shoulder, or feeling for drafts. I also checked the roof was fully up on more than one occasion such was the level of noise.
Although there is clearly not oodles of boot space, Mini's 2010 incarnation has individually folding rear seats increasing the luggage capacity to some 660 litres – 55 litres more than before.
As a member of the BMW Group, it has adopted a few internal features from its parent company, including the styling of its radio buttons, but it is not the easiest of cars to get to grips with inside purely because a number of things are not placed in their conventional spots.
Take the window controls. Instead of being placed in the door, they are in the central panel below the radio and a/c controls. Nevertheless, everything is neat and tidy with chrome levers on a black background, including the controls above the rear view mirror that control internal lights and the all-important roof retraction, which can be opened in 15 seconds and at speeds of up to 15kph.
There is not much wrong with the Mini Cabrio, indeed it is difficult to pinpoint many things that need changing. However, no car is perfect and I found the speedo increasingly frustrating being located at the top of the central panel rather than behind the steering wheel, a space used by the rev counter instead. It's distracting to keep looking to the right to check whether you are over the speed limit so I'd like to see the two dials swapped around in the future.
The dark brown leather seats are comfortable yet close to the road to fit with the go-kart feeling the manufacturer has tried to create. The car is supremely responsive, just tap the accelerator and the car is off. Rarely do you need to
floor the pedal to get this car to shift.
With various models to choose from, including the Clubman "estate", Mini's product range continues to grow but in these climes the Cabrio is the perfect choice. But next time I get behind the wheel, the roof will come down, I just hope it's as comfortable over long distances as it is around town.
A Mini adventure maybe but maximum fun.
Unveiled in the region at last year's Dubai Motor Show, Fiat is hoping to pull some of the Mini
loving public into its breech when the new 1.4-litre petrol 500c hits showrooms at the end of this month
Alfa Romeo Mito
It might not be a convertible but the MiTo is dubbed the "Italian Mini". It is compact and full of technology so ticks many boxes
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