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Mini to the max I may have looked like Mr Bean, but you still can't beat a MINI in the all-round handling department


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MINI - Convertible Cooper Sport

I have been called many names during my almost 47 years on this planet but last week was a new one for me.

Let me begin. I signed up to test drive the new MINI convertible a few weeks ago and, as always when I book what has been one of my favourite cars of all time, I was super excited.

Anyone who knows me can testify that I have had a massive love affair with this little road runner and have previously owned a 1961 model myself.

However, when the latest convertible model landed on my doorstep last week, my first thoughts were to run as fast I could for my shades.

I think my young daughter hit the nail on the head when she said there is a 'highlighter marker' outside the door for you.

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But the biggest insult came in the city centre last week, when a passer-by said: "check out Mr Bean (maybe because my mother was a Behan) and his little MINI".

What could I do but laugh along with him?

Apart from the luminous yellow colour and the fact that I am too old to pull a roof down on a convertible car, this little MINI still rocks.

Colour aside, on the outside, the first thing that struck me was the size of the radiator grille.

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Like its BMW siblings, it has put on a few pounds during lockdown and the German designers seem to have gone mad with this new beefed-up look.

Both the front and rear headlights have been upgraded to LEDs as standard; however, my test car came with Union-Jack style rear tail-lights that just might put a few customers off.

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It reminded me of a funny story about another car manufacturer wanting to call a new model the 'Provo' until a certain Irish motor marketing guru stepped in to inform them it might be a faux pas for the Irish market.

If, unlike me, you do fancy getting a bit of wind in your hair, the MINI's folding roof comes with clever functionality.

It's fully electrically driven, and thus particularly quiet textile soft top can be opened and closed within 18 seconds at a time. The soft top can also be activated while driving at speeds of up to 30 km/h.

If you don't fancy whipping the top off completely, the soft top can be continuously retracted by up to 40 centimetres to give you a slightly longer blow-drying time.

On the road, you just still can't beat a MINI in the all-round handling department. It still remains the closest thing you will ever get to a go-kart track-like experience from a family car.

My test car came in the extremely sporty John Cooper Works guise, which certainly packs a punch.

The 231bhp four-cylinder turbo engine enables acceleration from zero to 100 km/h in just 6.6 seconds, but I was unfortunately averaging close to 8l/100km during my week-long test drive.

Still though, it's a punchy little pocket rocket and I loved the fact that it had an old-school manual gearbox even though it is available with the optional eight-speed Steptronic transmission.

Now for the bad news. If you fancy getting behind the wheel of one of these little beauties, you will have to fork out just shy of €30k. My test model came in at €33k with a few added extras.

You can do yourself a favour and save almost €800 by avoiding the naff 'Zesty' yellow colour on offer or you will end up like this Mr Bean.

Robbie farrell

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