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Hardware: Mini-Cooper Convertible

Cute as a button and fun in the sun -- that's the summary for the Mini convertible. We had a look at the Cooper version. There's a less powerful plain Mini version, and the more powerful Cooper S.

It was a very sticky sunny day that we set off for the first test. Our classical reviewer, Peter Wells, was at the wheel. Julie, the sales executive, was in the back, and the photographer and tester was in the passenger seat because of an expired license.

The new Mini shares a few characteristics with the original models. It is cute, goes and handles in quite a snappy way, and has reasonable fuel economy. It is also a bit short of room in the back, and not blessed with much storage space. If two people are going away on vacation, they'll need the back seats for storage space.

Where it's not like the original Mini is the quality of the bodywork and fittings. The original, after all, in its standard 850cc mode, was a people's car and very basic in every way except its handling. Its dynamics, which made it popular, were the result of light weight, a wheel at each corner, and the main weight over the driving wheels (which, being the front wheels, didn't work all that well on uphill slippery surfaces). The new model, in convertible form, is almost twice the price of a Fiat Punto, so we've wandered a fair way upmarket.

Even a comparison with something like the original 1275 Cooper S isn't all that helpful. The 1275 was a lot of engine in a small, light, car. The driving expererience was thrilling partly because the whole thing was so incredibly basic. This tester drove one that had been specially tuned and fitted with Recaro seats and wider rubber. It would out accellerate an E-Type Jag to 100 mph and a brave driver could see off just about anything else on a winding road. Driving it was a primal experience -- close to the road, and all noises and smells.

These new Minis come into a different world of Big Brother policing and bossy-boots governments making technical crimes wherever their po-faced self-righteous gazes rest. Why do people put up with this? Well, here isn't the place to explore that mystery but Fun is still possible in this world, especially driving this car with good company.

The first thing is to scan the instruments. They are big and easy to read with the important tachometer in front of the driver, and the huge speedo in the middle of the dash just like the original. Unlike the original, there are little LCD screens in each to check on things like fuel economy and there is an air of quality about the whole thing even if this sort of retro-futurist styling will get on some people's nerves -- but then they're not too likely to be looking at this car at all if that's the way they feel.

The only quibble about the tacho is that unless you're a certain height, you most likely won't be able to see it. Peter is over six feet and even with adjusting the steering column height, wasn't able to see it all.

The suspension is firm, and with the 175/65 rubber, there is occasional harshness when going over bumps. It is supposed to be a sporting car so that's no surprise. The Cooper S has 195/55 rubber on 16 inch wheels. The original had 12 inch wheels.

We're winding our way through this car's emotional habitat -- hedge lined lanes in the English countryside with ivy-covered pubs and cute old cottages dotting the roadside. Thankfully, we miss another characteristic of driving here -- nose-to-tail traffic going nowhere fast. School is out, which transforms the country as mothers in their SUV's are home instead of ferrying.

Peter is driving smoothly and legally and comments on the nice precision of the gear box and that the steering has a positive, weighty feel. That's not a feeling you ever got with the original gearbox, even with the shorter levers on the Cooper models. The steering on the old models always seemed light when moving, partly because there was much less rubber on the road and partly because the front wheels spent a lot of time spinning!

Accelleration is good and there's a nice growl from the engine. There is so much cornering force available that we're nowhere near any limits the car has. In that way, it is very safe but in another way it's frustrating. The top speed of this model is supposed to be 120 mph with a 0-60 time of 9.8 seconds. It's not going to see off anything important, but with the top down it's nice enough.

The convertible top also has a partly closed position that leaves the space over the front seats uncovered although I think the recommended top speed for that setting is 80 mph. When the top is electrically closed it seems quite dark inside and visibility through the rear window is almost non-existent. An option for a lighter lining might be nice here.

All in all it's a fun car but what would more power be like? The Cooper S has a turbo-charger and I asked Julie if it does that muscle-bound thing of going rrrrRRRRRRRR-chunk-Pswwwwsssssh-rrrrRRRRR-chunk-etc. For the unitiated, that's the sound of acceleration-gearchange-wastegate dump. Sadly the S doesn't do that but Julie says she would make the noises.

Some specs (European)

No. of doors/seats  2/4

Length/width/height (unladen)  mm

3,635/1,688/1,415

Wheelbase  mm

2,467

Track front/rear  mm

1,458/1,466

Turning circle  m

10.66

Tank capacity  approx.ltr

50


Weight unladen DIN/EU1 

kg

1,175/1,250

Max. load (DIN)

kg

400

Max. permissible weight (DIN)

kg

1,575


Luggage comp. capacity VDA

l

120/165-605

Drag coefficient

cX x A

0.37 x 1.97

Engine
 
  

 Layout/No of cylinders/valves
 

Engine management
 

Siemens EMS 2000

Capacity

cc

1,598

Bore/stroke

mm

77/85.8

Compression ratio

:1

 10.6:1

Fuel grade

RON

91-98 RON

Max. output

kW/bhp

85/115

at engine speed

rpm

6,000

Torque

Nm

150

at engine speed

rpm

4,500


Chassis and suspension
 
Front suspension
 

Single-joint Mc Pherson spring-strut suspension, anti-dive

Rear suspension
 

Longitudinal control arm with central transverse arms, Z-axle

Brakes, front
 

 Disc brake vented

Diameter

mm

276x22

 Brakes, rear
 

 Disc brake

Diameter

mm

259x10

Driving stability systems

Hydraulic dual-circuit-braking system with antilock system (ABS),
Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Cornering Brake Control
(CBC). Optional Automatic Stability Control + Traction (ASC+T) and
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Mechanical hand brake acting on the
rear wheels.

Steering

Electro-hydraulic steering (EHPAS); 
 2.5 revolutions from lock to lock



Tyres

 175/65 R15 84H

Rims

 55Jx15" Alu

Performance
 
  

 Power to weight ratio (DIN)

kg/kW

13.8

Output per litre

kW/l

53.2

Acceleration 0-62 mph

s

9.8

 0-1000 m

s

-

in 4/5th gear 50-75 mph

s

11.6/14.4

Top speed

mph

120

Fuel consumption (EU cycle)
 
  No. of doors/seats

2/4

Length/width/height (unladen)

 mm

3,635/1,688/1,415

Wheelbase

mm

2,467

Track front/rear

mm

1,458/1,466

Turning circle

m

10.66

Tank capacity

approx.ltr

50

Cooling system including heating

ltr

5.3

Engine oil

ltr

4.5

Transmission fluid incl. final drive

ltr

Life filling (1.9)

Weight unladen DIN/EU1 

kg

1,175/1,250

Max. load (DIN)

kg

400

Max. permissible weight (DIN)

kg

1,575

Permissible axle load front/rear

kg

870/770

Max. trailer load2
 
  

 braked (12%)/unbraked

kg

650/500

Max. roof load/trailer nose weight

kg

-/-

Luggage comp. capacity VDA

l

120/165-605

Drag coefficient

cX x A

0.37 x 1.97

Engine
 
  

 Layout/No of cylinders/valves
 

 Inline/4/4

Engine management
 

 Siemens EMS 2000

Capacity

cc

1,598

Bore/stroke

mm

77/85.8

Compression ratio

:1

 10.6:1

Fuel grade

RON

91-98 RON

Max. output

kW/bhp

85/115

at engine speed

rpm

6,000

Torque

Nm

150

at engine speed

rpm

4,500

Electrical system
 
  

 Battery/location

Ah/-

46/front

Alternator

A/W

90/1,260

Chassis and suspension
 
  

 Front suspension
 

 Single-joint Mc Pherson spring-strut suspension, anti-dive

Rear suspension
 

 Longitudinal control arm with central transverse arms, Z-axle

Brakes, front
 

 Disc brake vented

Diameter

mm

276x22

 Brakes, rear
 

 Disc brake

Diameter

mm

259x10

Driving stability systems

Hydraulic dual-circuit-braking system with antilock system (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC). Optional Automatic Stability Control + Traction (ASC+T) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Mechanical hand brake acting on the rear wheels.

Steering

Electro-hydraulic steering (EHPAS); 
 2.5 revolutions from lock to lock

Overall steering transmission

:1

 13.18

Transmission
 

 5-speed manual

Transmission ratio I

:1

 14.400

 II

:1

 8.327

 III

:1

 5.476

 IV

:1

 4.105

 V

:1

 3.509

 R

:1

 14.065

Final drive ratio

:1

Overall gear ratio

Tyres

 175/65 R15 84H

Rims

 55Jx15" Alu

Performance
 
  

 Power to weight ratio (DIN)

kg/kW

13.8

Output per litre

kW/l

53.2

Acceleration 0-62 mph

s

9.8

 0-1000 m

s

-

in 4/5th gear 50-75 mph

s

11.6/14.4

Top speed

mph

120

Fuel consumption (EU cycle)
 
  

 In town

ltr/100 km

10.1

Out of town

ltr/100 km

5.7

Overall

ltr/100 km

7.3

CO2 

g/km

175

Miscellaneous
 
  

 Emission classification

-

EU4

Insurance classification

HPF/VK/TK

-

Ground clearance (unladen)

mm

140

Max. speed when raising or lowering the top

km/h

Vehicle must be at a standstill

Max. speed when opening or closing the sunroof

km/h

120

In town

ltr/100 km

10.1

Out of town

ltr/100 km

5.7

Overall

ltr/100 km

7.3

CO2 

g/km

175



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