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Tony O'Kane | Aug 11, 2008

Some say it's the ride of choice for trophy wives everywhere, others simply see it as a must-have accessory for the offspring of fat-walleted parents. No matter what you say though, no-one can deny the commercial success of the MINI Cabrio, which has ended its production run at the top of its game after selling around 164,000 topless variants around the globe.

The last MINI Cabrio to roll off the BMW-owned brand's Oxford production line last week was a Cooper S Cabrio Sidewalk destined for an American buyer. The car's completion marked the end of a four-year production run, which saw the drop-head MINI exported to every major market. It was particularly successful in the UK and the USA, as well as Germany, Italy and Japan. Australia too warmed to the Cabrio's topless charms and was one of its top ten export destinations.

The MINI Cabrio was built in three variants and was based on the 1st-generation R52 chassis. There was the base Cooper Cabrio, the faster supercharged Cooper S Cabrio, the John Cooper Works Cabrio and the MINI One Cabrio, the last two of which never made it to Australian shores.

2008-mini-cabriolet-tmr-1

Although it was capable of a decent nought-to-100kph sprint time of 7.4 seconds, the MINI Cabrio will be remembered more for its innovative, dual-stage retracting soft top. What's best left forgotten however is its horrendous rearward visibility, a drawback that will hopefully be addressed when MINI eventually launches a newer R56 version of the Cabrio.

After building 164,000 MINI Cabrio models the Oxford home of MINI has closed the roof on production of the world’s most lovable drop-head. The four-seat MINI Cabrio converted many enthusiasts to ownership status thanks to a three model range that comprised the best selling MINI Cooper Cabrio, the high-performance MINI Cooper S and John Cooper Works Cabrios and (not in Australia) the MINI One Cabrio.

The MINI Cabrio is already being hailed as a classic. It was the first model derivative to follow the MINI hardtop into the new generation, and it came equipped with many innovations, such as the sliding sunroof section which could be opened even at high speed, as well as the Easy-Load-System which made accessing the luggage bay that much easier for bulky items.

The very last MINI Cabrio for the R52 generation rolled off the line this week. It was a MINI Cooper S Cabrio Sidewalk finished in metallic White Silver. It was snapped up by a keen MINI fan from the USA. American buyers were the second largest market for the MINI Cabrio after the UK, where the snug fitting weather-resistant hood proved more than a match for the English summer (and winter, though we’re not sure which is wetter or gloomier).

MINI Cabrio was popular in all markets where it was sold. Fans of open air MINI motoring in the UK, USA Germany, Italy and Japan were the most ardent and willing with their cheque books. Australia and Canada also rank among the model’s top ten markets. Funnily enough, in chilly Scandinavia almost twice as many people purchased MINI Cabrios as fair-weathered Greece; in Austria, there are at least five-times as many MINI Cabrio drivers as in sunny Portugal.

With the conclusion of production of the R52, Plant Oxford can now give its total attention to the MINI hardtop and the MINI Clubman. The MINI Cooper Cabrio accounted for 79,500 of the total sales with the MINI Cooper S Cabrio (and John Cooper Works versions) selling around 56,500 units. The remainder were MINI One Cabrio models, (never offered in Australia).

The MINI Cabrio inspires fashion designers and Hollywood stars.

Right from the start, the MINI Cabrio established itself as a guarantor for driving enjoyment that evokes desire and inspires imagination. At the market launch of the new MINI in 2001, many fans were already longing for an open-top model, which at this time was already being very carefully developed under the aegis of the BMW Group, to be launched just three years later.

The new body variant added a further facet to the unique MINI feeling. The brand’s typical sporty handling was now successfully combined with stylish open-air driving enjoyment. The aura of the MINI Cabrio also inspired the fashion industry. At the sales launch, designers of the Italian lifestyle label Bisazza had the idea to enrobe the MINI Cabrio in a dress of tesserae. More than 30,000 glass stones were used for this purpose. The result was radiant and unique design specimens.

In the following years, further lifestyle and fashion labels created special designs as a result of the inspiration of the MINI Cabrio. Just one year ago, the MINI Cabrio even became a Hollywood star. In the comedy “The Heartbreak Kid”, the leading roles, played by Malin Akerman and Ben Stiller, took it on honeymoon.

A very special MINI, an extraordinary Cabrio. T

he two-door vehicle secures its position as a very special MINI and an extraordinary Cabrio with numerous unique features. Thanks to an integrated sliding roof function, the soft top can be opened 40 cm wide, even while driving up to a speed of 120 km/h. In just 15 seconds, the soft top can be completely folded up behind the back seat.

Under the tailgate of the MINI Cabrio, when the roof is closed, 165 litres of storage space is available. Its load capacity is an impressive 400 kg. And with the Easy-Load-System, even bulky luggage can be effortlessly stored by folding up the back part of the top and using the large opening to the luggage compartment to pass through the luggage. In conjunction with the fold-down back seats, the storage space can even be expanded to up to 605 litres.

The mixture of driving enjoyment, cleverly devised details, premium quality and expressive design have given the MINI Cabrio a lead in the popularity stakes, which remained constant up until the end of its production period and will not wane even afterwards. The assessments of independent market experts, which give the MINI Cabrio an unusually stable value rating, already indicate this.

Back in 2007, the MINI Cabrio was already dubbed the “value master” of all classes by the industry magazine “Auto Bild”. This was based on the pre-calculated residual value of 70 percent of the new price after three years. In the current ranking for 2008, the value stability of the MINI Cabrio is only surpassed by one “competitor” from its own brand: the current MINI Cooper hardtop.

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