Engine: Twin-scroll turbocharged 1.6 litre, four cylinder.
Power: 175bhp and 177lb.ft (192lb.ft. on ‘overboost’)
Performance: ) to 62mph in 7.4 seconds and
Fuel Economy: 44.1mpg (combined)
Price: from £18,995
On sale: From March 28
MINI'S golden anniversary year is upon us and the sun-hungry new convertible is the first car to emerge into the cold, stark reality of Britain in 2009.
Thankfully it was during a sun-bathed foreign test drive that I sampled the tasty new convertible range and was able to sample its most bizarre addition...the 'Openometer.'
Meaner and greener, the range comprising of Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works goes on sale on March 28 with a budget MINI One convertible following in early 2010.
Prices are £15,995, £18,995 and a heart-stopping £23,470, respectively.
The headline figures are unlikely to be the cost, however, but the updated range of engines which bring lower emissions across the board.
Despite offering feisty 1.6-litre 120bhp and turbocharged 175bhp and 211bhp engines MINI remain the UK's cleanest car manufacturer with an average of 137.92g/km.
It might take a tutored eye to differentiate the new car from the old from many angles but a number of developments have made the cuddliest of convertibles more appealing.
A deeper, slightly more bulbous nose and higher shoulder-line mark out the changes at the front three-quarters.
At the rear the utilitarian boot hinges have been ditched and there's that now familiar latest-generation MINI trait of an exposed rear suspension assembly...kind of like it’s just emerged from the toilet with its skirt tucked in its knickers.
Cleaning up the convertible's look is the addition of a pop-up pair of roll over hoops—they emerge in the event of a crash—rather than the prominent silver hoops which obscured rear vision and made the previous generation car look like a child's toy, complete with a handle to push it around.
The MINI marketeers believe the new look is more grown-up, less "toy towny," and it's hard to disagree. That's not to say that the rear seats are any bigger than the average toy box but it looks every bit the premium offering.
Always key to MINI has been its playful handling and on French tarmac the new convertible proved it was blessed with the marque's patented brand of kart-like athleticism.
An eager turn-in and the kind of hunger for direction changes that only a well-tuned short wheelbase chassis can summon it shares the same unmistakable DNA as its hatchback sibling.
It's the type of focus made possible by leaps forward in the rigidity of the convertible MINI's chassis which has all but eradicated the previous generation's tendency to suffer scuttle shake (flex) which could affect the handling and occasionally undermine the otherwise athletic character.
The S feels stiff though, sitting on optional 17-inch alloy wheels shod with run-flat tyres but the dampers do succeed in taking the edge off most bumps in a ride generally marked out by its taut focus.
The standard Cooper, still agile, is the more comfortable day-to-day car if you can do without the prestige of that bonnet vent and turbocharged slug of torque but, overall, the convertible range is every bit as much fun as its hatchback sibling.
A sprint to 62mph in the S takes 7.4 seconds (versus 7.1 for the hatch) and the exhaust note which is bassy, a little blowy, with a satisfying 'pop-pop' on the overrun.With 177lb.ft. of torque and a potential nine second 'overboost' of 192lb.ft. overtaking is a breeze and fast progress easily achievable while features like auto Stop/Start (cutting the engine at an idle standstill) help S return a staggering 44.1 miles-per-gallon (claimed) and lowly 153g/km of CO2.
MINI said that the aim of their convertible was to offer the excitement of owning a drop-top but the ability to make their purchase with a clear conscience.
In environmental terms and cost of ownership they've made huge leaps forward and done just that.
The only pang of guilt you're likely to feel will be when you have to leave larger friends, or your partner's luggage, behind due to a lack of space...
Oh, and the 'Oponometer?' It racks up how many hours you have your roof open for an optional £150. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.