<strong>THE FACTS:</strong><br />MINI JCW CONVERTIBLE<br />6-SPEED<br />MANUAL<br /><br /><strong>PRICE:</strong> £23,470<br /><strong>0-62MPH:</strong> 6.9secs<br /><strong>TOP SPEED:</strong> 146mph (limited)<br /><strong>CO2 G/KM:</strong> 169g/km<br /><strong>MPG COMBINED: </strong>39.8<br /><br />THE Met office came in for flak last week after admitting its forecast for a “barbecue summer” was just a little wide of the mark. Darn that jet stream. <br /><br />Well, I’ve come to learn during my road-testing years that waiting for the summer months to test convertibles is no guarantee of good weather – you’re as likely to get wet as at any other time. <br /><br />So it came as no surprise when a phone call from BMW to confirm the delivery of this car included the following words: “With this convertible comes a change in weather – the heatwave has come to an end”.<br /><br />But who am I to complain? The UK is the number one market for convertibles in Europe, despite the fact that we have the most unreliable weather. But we go out in it, regardless, stoic to a fault. And so that was the spirit in which I went out in this pedigree Mini.<br /><br />I drove the hardtop John Cooper Works Mini a few months ago and couldn’t get enough of it. It is such a great drive for steering, handling, performance, grip and fuel consumption. I gave the car back having covered much of the south of England in a week on the same tank and without any sign of the fuel light coming on. Does it get any better than that?<br /><br />This latest convertible weighs slightly less than the older model, but unsurprisingly more than the hatchback given this car’s roof and all the hardware it involves. But the supercharged 1.6 litre engine is so punchy with its new, larger turbo, increasing power from 173bhp at Cooper S level to 211bhp here. It’s also five seconds faster than the Cooper S on the 0-62mph sprint – using all that torque to get there is pure fun.<br /><br /><strong>VERY INVOLVED</strong><br />There is so much grip that you feel supremely confident that the car will cope with everything you throw at it, as if it’s velcroed to the road. The steering is really well weighted, offering lots of feedback, and because this is a small car and you sit so close to its four wheels, it offers a very involved drive. There’s also some slightly stiffer suspension with this car, which enhances the Mini’s overall dynamics. On top of all this, it sounds fantastic, popping and banging as you go through the smooth-as-anything gearbox, with a good throaty exhaust note. <br /><br />Rear visibility has improved – it really wasn’t all that good in the last version, so BMW has sunk the roll bars which now sit a fair way lower and only come up in a roll situation. There was a little scuttle-shake – this is where the roof and its components vibrate due to the car’s structural rigidity – but nothing too bothersome that it became irritating.<br /><br />It seems the most popular Minis are always the red and yellow ones, though I’m not such a fan myself. Nevertheless, it looks good, and air-intakes, spoilers, bonnet stripes – and anything else that can be lobbed on it for added kudos – has been.<br /><br />All of this comes at a price though – this may be a very confident and sporty car, but it’s too costly. Knock three grand off it and I’d say it would be about right.