DS 3 Cabrio 1.2 Puretech 130 Elegance
List price £19,195
Target Price £18,863
Updated looks and engines for the facelifted DS 3 could make it a strong rival for the new Mini Convertible.
Fiat 500C 0.9 Twinair 105 Lounge
List price £17,200
Target Price £16,121
Also tweaked this year to refresh its wide-eyed looks, the 500C is the cheapest, but least powerful car here.
Mini Convertible 1.5 Cooper Pepper Pack
List price £19,815
Target Price £18,379
The all-new Mini Convertible looks a bit pricey, but if it's as good as the hatchback, then it's going to be hard to beat.
The Mini Convertible won’t need much introduction; this compact fashionista is one of the most recognisable cars on the road regardless of bodystyle, and it remains a hugely popular choice. We’re here to find out whether losing its roof has corrupted the tidy handling, good refinement and peppy performance that’s made the latest Mini hatch such a big hit.
We’re testing all three cars with turbocharged petrol engines and six-speed manual gearboxes. The Mini and DS have three-cylinder engines: a 134bhp 1.5 and a 129bhp 1.2 respectively. Meanwhile, the Fiat uses a tiny two-cylinder 104bhp engine, although its power shortfall is reflected in its lower price.
What are they like to drive?
The Mini Convertible is the best handling of our trio. Despite losing some rigidity and gaining some weight over the Mini hatch, the Cooper Convertible swings gamely into corners, grips tenaciously and keeps its body well tied down. Like the Mini hatch, its steering is a little numb, but it delivers enough confidence in fast driving, tracks steadily on the motorway and remains light enough around town.
The DS 3 Cabrio is also eager through corners. Its steering is lighter than the Mini's and there’s a touch more body lean, but it’s still playful and engaging.
Fiat’s cute 500C, on the other hand, isn’t sporty at all; it doesn’t grip as well as its rivals and sways about more through corners. Vague steering and a sluggish throttle response also disappoint when you’re outside the city limits.
The Mini’s firm ride makes it bob about on undulating surfaces, and it can thump over bigger bumps. However, effective damping takes the sting out of most potholes, so it’s rarely uncomfortable.
The 500C has a softer suspension set-up, but it shimmies around constantly and thuds over potholes.
The DS is also softer than the Mini, but its damping isn’t as slick and there’s more flex in the body, so it often feels fidgety; coarse or rutted surfaces send tremors through the interior.
Performance is a DS strong point, however. Its 1.2-litre engine is smooth and delivers a healthy surge of acceleration from low revs, so you don’t have to shift gears too often in town.
The Mini’s engine is better still, however. The Cooper version is faster than these rivals, and while you do have to rev it to get the best from it, there’s enough response in the mid-range to satisfy. The only down side is that the Mini has quite long gearing that forces you to change down more often than you might expect, and it is more noticeable in the heavier convertible than in the hatch.
The 500C’s characterful, burbling engine likes to be revved, but it’s slower than the others. It’s also the noisiest and sends lots of vibrations through the steering wheel.
There’s plenty of wind noise in the Fiat, too, whereas the Mini and DS keep wind flutter well suppressed and transmit fewer engine vibrations through to the driver. The Mini is quietest overall, it’s just a shame it has a rather heavy clutch. You also need to be a bit more forceful to engage the gears, although the Mini’s shift is more satisfying than the sloppy, imprecise DS 3 gearshift.
The 500C and DS3 keep front seat passengers relatively well protected from the wind with their roofs down, but you get a fair bit of buffeting in the Mini, particularly if you don’t add the clunky £235 wind deflector.
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