Sunshine Minis meet cold front in NZ

A Mini cabriolet with John Cooper Works treatment is a fast track to a quick tan. So what's keeping it?


Difficulty forecasting the demand for any kind of open top Mini is keeping the distributor from signing up immediately to the most specialist version of all, for a just-announced range sizzler.

BMW New Zealand presently doesn’t offer any kind of convertible here and the strong swing to sport utilities means they’re unlikely to follow Australia in releasing the latest Cooper and Cooper S editions that become available across the Tasman around mid-year.

Given the lack of potential for mainstream open Minis, the chances of of it therefore rushing to add the new 170kW John Cooper Works flagship edition just announced overseas would seem to as likely as the sight of Christmas snowfall in the Far North.

However, that doesn’t mean the forecast is wholly gloomy: If market conditions change, the brand has hinted, then the fastest of the three derivatives might have the best chance of gaining residency, a spokesman has told Motoring Network.

For now though, Auckland-based BMW New Zealand is treading water.

“At this point we are not planning to launch a Mini JCW cabriolet in New Zealand,” corporate communications manager Edward Finn said.

“Mini does not currently offer a convertible model in NZ … however there is consideration to reintroduce one Mini convertible in time, should demand.”

“This could open the door to the Mini JCW convertible becoming available locally.”

Finn pinpoints the soft top derivative as being another victim of a strong market swing toward sports utilities.

“New Zealanders have a significant preference for SUV models such as the Mini Countryman.”

BMW has just released photos of the JCW cabriolet ahead of the model’s global debut at the New York motor show, opening to media on March 23.

The open-air edition has the same fiery turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, transmission and chassis re-engineering that has gone into the JCW hatch that’s been on sale here since mid-2015.

The convertible would undoubtedly carry a hefty premium over the hatch which hatch costs $54,800 – though the version tested by Motoring Network had enough options to lift that by around $10,000.

With around 30kW more than the Cooper S and loads more torque – 320Nm versus 280Nm – the hottest wind-in-the-hair Mini can can accelerate to 100kmh in 6.6 seconds when fitted with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, or 6.5s with the optional six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

That’s not quite scalp-tearing as the lighter hatch hits that limit in 6.1s with Steptronic or 6.3s with a manual gearbox. Yet it does show the benefit of a 10 percent power lift over the old Mini Convertible JCW, beating that generation by 0.3 seconds in manual and 0.6s in automatic. This while using less fuel now; the optimum economy is rated at 5.9 litres per 100km in auto.

Like the hatch, the JCW cabrio announces its presence with a louder sports exhaust system, which Mini says is even easier to enjoy with the roof down.

While the convertible shares all of the hatchback's JCW suspension modifications and takes uprated springs rates, it also gets additional torsion struts to compensate for the missing roof, which can reduce chassis stiffness.

Front brakes are uprated to Brembo four-piston callipers, housed by unique 17-inch Track Spoke design wheels, but these can be upgraded to black versions or a larger 18-inch Cup Spoke rim set.

A JCW aerodynamic bodykit adds larger air inlets, pumped-up bumpers, rear diffuser, hexagonal grille with honeycomb mesh and matching badges, while LED headlights are standard. The interior features John Cooper Works sports seats plus many badges.

The folding fabric roof takes 18 seconds to open or close, is “particularly low noise,” according to Mini, and can be opened at speeds of up to 30kmh.

For those wanting to acknowledge the Mini's motherland, the fabric roof can be optioned in a special Union Jack fabric roof with the United Kingdom's flag embossed in grey and black.

Extra Cabriolet features include optional dual-zone air-conditioning, heated windscreen and seats, rain-sensing wipers and light-sensitive headlights, Comfort Access, heated exterior mirrors and a self-dimming rearview mirror.

Standard entertainment equipment includes Radio Mini Boost with AUX, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and Mini TeleServices. In-car entertainment can be upgraded with a Harman Kardon sound system, Mini Connected and Professional navigation, which brings a larger 8.8-inch screen with Mini Touch Controller.