Since its launch in March 2002, the new age MINI has been a runaway success with both public and press and will go down in design history as one of the great success stories.
It's combination of sheik, economy, and downright drivability has wowed everyone, and in less than two years the MINI has won 48 major automotive awards and sold 176,000 vehicles around the world.
Now there is to be a convertible MINI, to be exhibited for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show, and one which has been clearly fashioned to carry over the core values of MINI design to the new version.
Creating a convertible is a feat of engineering in its own right, as the integrity of the body is very important to the feel of a car which gets a large slice of its appeal from its go-kart-like drivability. More so, the limited space available in the MINI could easily have been compromised by the mechanisms required to remove and store the sun-roof and soft-top.
It appears that some ingenious design has enabled MINI to incorporate the old rigidity and new functionality without compromise, finishing the package off with a versatile and highly flexible luggage compartment.
In creating the fully-automatic Z-mechanism soft roof featured as standard, the designers and engineers in the MINI team have found a particularly elegant solution. Without requiring the release of any catches or clamps, the roof opens smoothly, converting the MINI for open-air motoring in under 15 seconds. While the folding roof collapses to the rear, the roof pillars automatically retract into the car and the two rear side windows move down completely. The roof is finally folded into three layers on top of one another, resting in a compact, space-saving arrangement behind the rear seats. With the Z-mechanism keeping the dimensions of the folded roof to a minimum, the luggage compartment capacity is only marginally reduced with the roof down.
That go-kart feeling so typical of the MINI.
If there is a characteristic which stands out most when driving a mini, it's the way the car sits on the road and steers so well at both low and high speed. The long wheelbase, a low centre of gravity, wide track, the multi-arm rear axle and the direct, electrohydraulic power steering all go together to provide the foundation for the excellent driving behaviour and go-kart feeling so typical of the MINI. The press information suggests MINI has been able to retain the stiffness of the body shell while removing the structurally important roof.
Both versions of the MINI Convertible feature a 1.6-litre four-cylinder power unit developing maximum output of 66 kW/90 bhp in the MINI One and 85 kW/115 bhp in the MINI Cooper. The top-of-the-range MINI Cooper S Convertible will be released later.
A smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox is standard on both models.
Top speed of the MINI One Convertible is 175 km/h, with acceleration to 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds. Fuel consumption in the composite EU cycle is 7.2 l/100 km (39.2 mpg).
Maximum output of 85 kW/115 bhp gives the MINI Cooper Convertible a top speed of 193 km/h with acceleration to 100 km/h in 9.8 seconds, and an EU cycle fuel consumption of 7.3 l/100 km (38.7mpg).
The MINI Cabrio will make its Australian debut at the Sydney International Motor Show in October, with deliveries beginning from January 2005.
No pricing has been announced.