Emma Jayne Williams

The British are here: Mini’s lineup for 2016 includes the redesigned Cooper Convertible

The soft top of the Mini Cooper convertible is fully automated and fully electrically powered for the first time.
The soft top of the Mini Cooper convertible is fully automated and fully electrically powered for the first time.

Mini, the iconic British car line now owned by BMW, offers a variety of fun vehicles with distinctive “pedal-car” styling, and unique exterior colors and trims that include mirror graphics/colors, hood stripes, roof graphics/colors, and special wheel patterns – more than a dozen choices).

These exteriors are matched to fun interiors with round and elliptical components such as the Mini Connected + Visual Boost XL screen with dynamic light ring, door handles, rear headrests, air vents, seatbelt anchors, and more.

There are also interesting seat upholsteries, interior surfaces and color lines, in addition to Mini Yours and JCW (John Cooper Works) features. The manufacturer says it has 10 million possible combinations.

Seven Mini Cooper variations are available: the two- or four-door Hardtop, the Countryman, the Clubman, the Convertible, the Paceman, and the JCW.

Arguably the most fun of the bunch, the Convertible was added to the U.S. lineup for 2005, and updated for 2016 using BMW engines for the first time.

It’s also now offered in three trims, priced at $25,950 for the basic Cooper, $29,600 for the Cooper S and $35,600 for the new John Cooper Works.

The soft top is fully automated, fully electrically powered for the first time, using a toggle switch overhead or a button on the remote key fob. It can be opened or closed in 18 seconds even while driving at speeds of up to 18 mph. The front portion can be partially opened like a sunroof.

With the top fully opened, the stacked top unfortunately reduces rear visibility, which can be somewhat compensated during back up maneuvers by the Rear View Camera option ($500 purchased alone).

Two tops are available – the standard Soft Top and a Mini Yours herringbone woven Union Jack for $500 extra. Two roll bars of high-strength aluminum are invisibly integrated and extend automatically as needed, combining with the reinforced windshield frame to help protect occupants in the event of a rollover accident.

The “Always Open Timer” is an interesting option, basically an odometer that tracks top-down time, complete with a round gauge adjacent to the steering-wheel-mounted speedometer featuring a Mini graphic with the top down. Mini insists that convertible buyers strive to keep their tops “Always Open.”

The Mini Connected app now has a “Rain Warner,” which will send an alert to the driver’s smartphone if the vehicle is parked with the top down, or to the center screen if being driven with the top down, warning of approaching rain showers.

Three engines are available for the Convertible: a 1.5-liter, 134-horsepower three-cylinder; a 2.0-liter, 189 horsepower Twin Power four-cylinder; and a 2.0-liter, 236 horsepower four-cylinder. Standard is a six-speed Getrag manual transmission; a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters can be added for $1,500 (S and JCW models only) or without the paddle shifters for $1,250.

My tester was a Mini Cooper S Convertible in Melting Silver Metallic ($500), with exclusive Chesterfield Leather seating (inspired by classic British Chesterfield furniture style) in Malt Brown with diamond-patterned stitching accents and white top stitching and piping around the bolsters ($1,750).

The car rode on striking 17-inch two-tone propeller spoke wheels, upgraded via the Fully Loaded package for $4,750.

My Mini had the 189-horsepower TwinPower 2.0-liter engine (the superpowered version of an already turbocharged engine) paired with the manual transmission and driver-friendly clutch for quick, precise, fluid shifting, which resulted in an extremely fun ride.

Four non-metallic and nine metallic ($500 extra) exterior colors are available, including Volcanic Orange, Thunder Gray, White Silver, Electric Blue, Chili Red. and Caribbean Aqua.

The exterior included up-to-date interpretations of classic Mini features such as circular headlights and taillights with chrome surrounds, hexagonal grille, black lower body cladding, and white side turn signals.

Interiors come in several exciting combinations in addition to my beautiful Chesterfield Leather, including Mini You Lounge Leather with braided welt on the bolster edges, a Union Jack signet and Union Jack on the seatback, for $2,250; Double Strip Cloth; Lounge Leather (tucked with contrast piping); and Cross Punch leather (perforated diamond design) with a Dinamica band.

The cabin of my tester was trimmed with Mini Yours Interior Style in Fiber Alloy ($350), real aluminum plating embossed with a fine herringbone pattern, reminiscent of English tweed; Carbon Black Color Line, textured detail on the lower dash and door armrests, $100; and the Chrome Line Interior ($250) on the air vents, front and rear door handles, the oval gearshift lever, seatbelt mounts, and oval door-mounted speakers.

The car had accents of Piano Black on the Mini Yours Sport Leather steering wheel ($250), premium hand-stitched with the Union Jack on the lower spoke, and cruise and stereo controls. Other trims include Mini Yours Interior Style in Black Cottonwood ($350); the Glowing Red Color Line; and the standard Black Checkered dash.

A standard Mini Excitement package had adjustable mood lighting with 12 settings and 255 colors accenting the doors, foot wells and center stack. A fun feature was a small light on the driver’s side mirror that projected the MINI logo onto the ground when the doors were locked or unlocked.

Standard equipment included run-flat tires, car jack and wrench, and a space saver spare; heated mirrors and windshield washer jets; body-color mirror caps; passenger seat height adjustment; Sport front seats; rain-sensing wipers; automatic headlights; daytime running lights; on-board computer; satellite radio preparation; and enhanced USB and Bluetooth connections.

Also standard were Performance Control, Mini Driving Modes, automatic climate control with active cabin filtration, and Dynamic Cruise Control with following distance and an extra braking function, including Curve Speed Limiter.

The Fully Loaded Package brought upgraded wheels (15 choices), the rearview camera, park distance control, navigation with real-time traffic info, Mini Connected XL, LED headlights, convertible wind deflector, Harmon/Kardon sound system, a comfort access system, heated front seats, and satellite radio.

With $7,950 in options and $850 destination charges, total delivered price of my Mini Cooper S convertible was $38,400.

My Mini was fun to drive, especially with its go-cart style handling. The rear seat, however, was more suited to stowing stuff – purses, purchases – as the seating surface was rigid and upright, and legroom was almost non-existent with the front seats in a comfortable driving/riding position.

But, hey — with 10 million possible combinations, no two Minis should ever be alike.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.