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For the front cockpit anyway, MINI has maximized comfort and ergonomics in the Cooper Convertible. Even those surpassing six feet tall will find ample room and a hospitable driving environment, courtesy of three seat levers that allow both front seats to conform to a rider’s physique. Along with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, this tidy car is uncanny in its ability to suit drivers large or small. One ergonomic letdown is marginal rearward visibility due to prominent rear seat headrests. A premium 10-speaker stereo is optional, as are a Nav system ($2,000) and a USB iPod interface ($250) that augments the standard aux-input jack.
Amplifying the brand’s eccentric joie de vivre in the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible are touches like the seemingly silly Openometer, a prominent analog gauge to the left of the tach that tracks hours spent with the top down. But even as a tool to make you take the world less seriously—as well as work on your tan and soak in some Vitamin D—the Openometer ends up playing perfectly into the Convertible’s grin-inducing kitsch. A surprising touch is a convertible top that features a built-in sunroof for fresh air without the full alfresco experience; if you want to go all the way, the automatic top scissors back and down in only about 15 seconds with the touch of a button. Radio and conversations can still be heard well with the top down at freeway speeds as long as the windows are up. Another nice touch is the convertible’s tailgate that makes the rather tight luggage space accessible and convenient.
The 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible includes Dynamic Stability Control and anti-lock brakes, even at the base Cooper level. Airbags are front, side-seat-mounted (thorax protective on the convertible), and side curtain units on Coupe and Clubman models. Dynamic Traction Control comes standard on Sport models. Notable safety options are xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps, Park Distance Control, and run-flat tires with certain wheel/tire combos (standard on S models). NHTSA testing for the Coupe results in a decent four-star performance in most measures of impact safety (small, light vehicles do have their limitations), though the MINI’s low center of gravity gives it a perfect five stars for rollover resistance.