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Tony O'Kane | Dec 1, 2008

We gave you a little glimpse of it back in September, but now it's finally here: MINI's thoroughly-revised Cabrio.

Although the 2009 MINI Cabrio looks outwardly similar to its predecessor, there have been a host of revisions made under the skin that effectively make the MkII Cabrio an entirely different car. For instance, the headlights are now fixed to the front fenders rather than being attached to the bonnet and the rear suspension has been comprehensively redesigned. The Cooper S also gets a turbocharger rather than a supercharger and virtually every bit of sheetmetal has been subtly changed.

To the casual observer these changes won't make a lick of a difference though, and that's a good thing. Despite its almost un-FWD-like handling characteristics and zippy range of engines, the MINI's greatest calling card was always that retro exterior. Messing with it would have surely upset the applecart, and BMW's decision to keep the exterior of the MkII virtually identical to that of the MkI was a smart one.

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What HAS been changed, however, has been changed for the better. The roll bars that dominated the driver's rearward visibility in the old model have been repackaged into a pop-up arrangement, which deploys the bars into the extended position only in the event of a roll over. Otherwise they stay neatly tucked behind the rear seats, keeping the MINI Cabrio's derriere neat and unspoiled.

Luggage capacity has also improved with the MkII. Thanks to a 50/50 split-fold rear seat, maximum luggage space is boosted to 660 litres with the rear seats down and the roof up - although that shrinks dramatically to just 125 litres with the roof down and the seats up.

Speaking of that roof, the MINI Cabrio's folding soft-top carries over the 'sliding roof' feature of the old model and can retract fully in just 15 seconds - even at speeds of up to 30kph. As we mentioned a couple of months ago, the MkII Cabrio also comes with a gimmicky Always-Open Timer, whose only function is to log the amount of time spent driving around with the roof down. Why? We don't know, but MINI says its bound to motivate drivers to "enjoy the thrill of open-air motoring as frequently as possible". Whatevs.

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The MINI Cabrio will go on sale sometime in the second quarter of 2009, with the Cabrio range being made up of two models: Cooper Cabrio and Cooper S Cabrio. The base Cooper gets a 1.6 litre inline-four that generates 88kW and 160Nm, while the Cooper S also gets a 1.6 litre four-pot: albeit one that's fitted with a twin-scroll turbocharger and is capable of pumping out a solid 128kW and 240Nm of torque.

A six-speed manual is standard with a six-speed auto a cost option, with fuel consumption being just 6.1 l/100km for the base model and 7.2 l/100km for the Cooper S with the manual equipped. That's a 19 percent improvement over the old model, for those keeping score.

Dynamic Stability Control is standard, as is an automatic air conditioning system, Bluetooth connectivity and a stereo system with built-in inputs for external music players. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we should have more for you closer to the MkII Cabrio's release date.

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