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Big birthday for such a little car.

Byline: By JACKIE VIOLET

WOULD you have the confidence to go topless at 50?

Some may abhor the thought that others could be as brazen as Trinny and Susannah by bearing all to the nation.

The rest would probably think, well you know what, with a nip here and a tuck there why not?

This is what MINI has done to the Cooper and Cooper S Convertibles to celebrate the car's 50th birthday in August this year.

The second generation MINI Cooper and Copper S Convertibles have been given new wheel options, roof colours, exterior colours - including the stunning Interchange Yellow - and some enhancements to the body.

Distinguishing the MINI Cooper S is a bigger bonnet bulge, large twin tailpipes, a large diffuser in the rear bumper and a twopiece rear fog lamp.

Inside sees new upholstery, new instrument clusters, increased luggage area by five litres and air conditioning as standard for the first time that winds its way into the lockable glovebox, thus keeping the chocolate bars from melting.

Fifteen seconds is all its takes to go completely topless, but for the more reserved drivers the electric roof can be retracted to around 40cm to create a 'mini topless' experience.

Die-hard fans of open driving can even record the time spent driving topless if the Openometer is fitted as an optional extra.

To accommodate the unpredictable UK weather, the automatic roof can be operated up to speeds of 20mph and the partial sunroof at speeds of up to 75mph.

At the heart of the MINI Cooper Convertible is a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, plus a MINIMALISM system keeping the fuel economy healthy and CO2 emissions down.

This means money saved and will pay for the long list of optional extras or 'personalisation' choices MINI owners are tempted with.

Impressive the Cooper's engine may be, but bang on a turbocharger and it's a different story for the MINI Cooper S Convertible with power that will destroy any expensive hair do.

Whack on the overboost and extra power can be reached for about nine seconds that will ensure overtaking manoeuvres are performed safely, but all traces of hairspray get taken out.

What does stay in tact is the MINI on Tarmac courtesy of a 10% strengthened body structure and chassis technologies such as dynamic stability control with automatic stability control and traction plus hill assist.

Add on ABS, EBD and corner braking control, and reassurance in the new MINI Cooper Convertible is guaranteed.

There are four airbags, crash sensors, three-point safety belts with pretensioners and an improved active singlepiece roll-over bar situated behind the rear seats that will extend within 150 milliseconds should the car register it is about to turn over.

This new arrangement has helped rear view visibility, but it is still not that great which is probably why the MINI comes with park distance control despite being such a small car.

The only niggle is when the engine cuts out if the driver is in neutral for some time in a traffic queue. As soon as the clutch is engaged, the engine springs back into life quickly.

Apparently this will not wear out the starter motor and the advantage is to conserve fuel and reduce CO2 emissions.

For drivers who still cannot make up their mind about whether driving topless really is the order of the day, in the case of the MINI Convertibles they have until March 28, which is delivery day in the UK, to make up their minds.

CAPTION(S):

GOING TOPLESS - the MINI Cooper's roof will drop in an impressive 15 seconds; CELEBRATIONS - the MINI will turn 50 in August of this year
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2009
Words:615
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