OPEN SEASON: CABRIOS ON A BUDGET
Mini Cooper D faces off against the Renault Wind
Because, while taking The Renault Wind and the Mini Cooper D Convertible for a critical spin might not seem the most PH-ey of activities, like (most) things we do, there is method in our madness.
You see, in our PH Open Season quest to discover as many aspects of top-down motoring as possible, we have to delve into the less hardcore corners and lower-budget echelons of soft-top motoring.
Apart from that, all that's available is a gaggle of heavy, unappealing folding hard-tops a la Peugeot 207CC...and these two.
...which is potentially troubling for the Wind in this context, because the Mini Cooper D Convertible, as you might expect has just that chassis, albeit combined with financially prurient diesel power. The big question (at least on PH) is: regardless of their appeal to the non-enthusiast, can either of these two cut it as enjoyable open-top fodder for the true petrolhead?
The five-speed gearbox also feels like a bit of a handicap - in the Twingo it's not really a problem, but it grates in the Wind, and we're not really sure why. We suppose one possible reason is that, at 1173kg, the Wind is 124kg heavier than its hatchback brother, so you have to work the engine that bit harder - there's the sense that, with an extra ratio, the motor would feel less strained. That extra lard does blunt performance a little, too - it'll take you half a second longer (9.2secs) to get to 62mph from rest.
A less significant flaw - but a disappointing one nonetheless - is the low-rent feel of the cabin. Apart from some unexpectedly lovely leather seats (a £970 option), our test car's cabin was a symphony of drab, mismatched, shiny and scratchy materials.
But forget the hit-and-miss interior finish; what really nobbles the Wind from an enthusiastic driver's perspective is that everything that makes it the Wind and not a Twingo Renaultsport makes it less fun to drive. And that just doesn't cut it on PH - even a fast roof can't save it.
Mini Cooper D Convertible:
Thing is, when we hear the word 'diesel', combined 'Mini' and 'soft-top', mental images of about the most anti-PH car we could conceive of (this side of a Prius, at least) inevitably swim into Focus.
But the thing is, despite its hairdresser/estate agent (hairdressing estate agent?) image and wilfully sensible running costs (thanks to a CO2 output of 105g/km, the Mini attracts just £20 per year road tax), the pram-hood Mini also manages to be darn good fun.
The chunky 199lb ft of torque, meanwhile, gives it enough oomph to feel reasonably quick, and the motor manages to avoid the typical diesel clatter, save for when it's at its coldest.
All too often driving enjoyment, manageable running costs and soft-top motoring are mutually exclusive, but the Mini Cooper D Convertible comes pretty much as close as any car we've driven to balancing that tricky equation.