Caribbean Aqua Metallic, in case you were wondering, is the official name of the colour of the MINI you see in these pictures. Lord knows that everybody who encountered the car had a go – turquoise, cyan and even teal were the suggestions received – nobody quite nailing the colour but unanimously agreeing that it looked fantastic.
I must declare up-front that I really like new MINIs, so much so that I even bought the R56 Mark 2 version as my first car. Never was there anybody more excited about receiving their first factory-built and personally specced car, and never a salesperson more frustrated with my constant changing of options until the build week was confirmed!
However that is what MINIs are all about – personalisation, customising, creating a car that is unique and boy did I have fun doing it. I could have sold MINIs I knew the option combinations that well, and could even quote some of the internal code numbers if challenged. I enjoyed MINI ownership to the full, right up until I discovered the Audi TT. Strange too, as I have no interest whatsoever in the original classic Minis – I guess I just like shiny new stuff!
Having previously tested and reviewed the absolute riot that is the John Cooper Works version of the Mark 3 MINI, and with the weather forecast dry and sunny for the week ahead, I was looking forward to some top-down motoring fun in a funky new MINI Cabrio.
Between you and I, grey with black stripes and some top-of-the range 18” rims is what I has hoping for, but when I first clocked my press car I couldn’t help but think that however non-masculine the spec, it was actually quite funky looking!
There are five versions of the new MINI Cabriolet – the MINI One, Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D and Cooper SD, the example I tested being the Cooper version fitted with the ‘Chili Pack’ and like all demonstrators, almost every option available.
The ‘Chili Pack’ includes a host of optional extras that lift the appearance of the car inside and out for a total less than the cost of speccing each option individually. LED headlights, larger wheels and and a multi-function sports steering wheel are all included, as is the ‘Excitement’ pack, one of the features of which is something that you will either think is ridiculous, or if you’re like me, absolutely awesome! LEDs recessed underneath the MINI’s driver’s side door mirror project the MINI symbol Batman-style onto the ground at night when the car is unlocked. And the LED fun doesn’t stop there, for within the door handle recesses, LEDs glow upon unlocking too, and elliptical shaped LED DRLs in the front headlights illuminate.
If all of the excitement of the external ‘Excitement’ pack wasn’t enough, the LED light show continues on the inside, for in almost every recess ambient lighting in a colour of your choosing lends the car a really cool vibe. Ambient interior lighting is usually an inexpensive option when speccing a new car, makes a massive difference to the car’s interior at night, yet for some reason very few customers or dealers spec it. The mind boggles.
The MINI’s cabin remains as funky, colourful and idiosyncratic as ever. The circular central display, once an enormous speedometer, is now home to the MINI’s infotainment centre as everything from the car’s fuel consumption to the satellite navigation is displayed in bright, crisp graphics, accompanied by LED lights that race around the circumference in different colours.
The speedometer now sits alongside the rev-counter and fuel gauge in a separate standalone unit behind the steering wheel.
The new MINI has three driving modes – Green, Mid and Sport which are so self explanatory that I need not elaborate any further, other than to say that when Sport mode is selected, a little speech-bubble pops up on the screen to let you know that the car is in “maximum go-kart mode.” Even for me, this could be a bridge too far, but a novelty nonetheless!
To drive, the 136 bhp cabriolet is typically MINI – peppy, engaging and fun. The steering is wonderfully precise, the handling very well sorted and the manual gearbox (a paddleshaft automatic is optional) a pleasure to use. As long as you don’t want to select first gear, as until one becomes acquainted with the closely placed selectors you can find yourself putting it into reverse or third by mistake within the first few minutes, much to the surprise of the driver behind you in traffic. I did the very same thing when I had my own MINI within the first few miles.
When the sun is shining, there really is nothing like open top motoring. Handily, the MINI’s fabric roof can either fully retract at the touch of a suitably retro looking button, or partially retract exposing a sunroof sized opening on days when it isn’t quite warm enough to drive completely al-fresco. With the roof down buffeting inside the comfortable cabin is minimal, and in any event, a wind deflector is optional should you wish to arrive at your destination completely unruffled.
The Cooper model as tested reaches the 60 mph milestone in 8.8 seconds, while the 192 bhp Cooper S and 170 bhp Cooper SD arrive 1.6 and 1.1 seconds faster respectively. The Cooper’s top speed is limited to 130 mph, and the car never feels anything less than cosseting, even on dark and rainy evenings blasting along the motorway.
On the outside, the Mark 3 MINI is dimensionally larger than its predecessor in every direction, and for this reason, its styling details are larger too. In isolation the rear lenses and door handles for example appear quite large, yet work very well given the new model’s increased overall dimensions. It must be quite challenging for MINI’s designers to constantly refine a shape that must still bear so much resemblance to its predecessors – at least the new MINI is only in its third generation – think of the challenge Porsche 911 designers must face!
In Cooper spec, the new MINI has a friendly and cute appearance, in Cooper S a tad more attitude, and in John Cooper Works form looks very cool indeed with its aggressive aero kit and larger rear spoiler. Although the added aggression and pocket rocket appearance would be somewhat diluted if it arrived in Caribbean Aqua Metallic!