Barbie isn’t the only icon celebrating a 50th birthday this year — it’s also 50 years since the first ever Mini hit the road.

Throughout 2009 MINI fans all over the world will be toasting this unique tiny, democratic car, both the original and the new, chunky BMW version. They’ll also be able to get their hands on the new MINI convertible.

When the first “new” MINI convertible came out, I took it on an epic voyage from the launch in Seville back to London.

En route it acquired admirers whether it pulled up outside hip music festivals, nightclubs, luxury hotels, motorway service stations or crowded beaches in Spain and France.

It was perfect for a MINI adventure: Comfortable, powerful, solid, and with just enough boot-space to fit in the party dresses and shoes required by two Sex and The City-style holidaymakers.

Does the MINI cabrio still have the capacity to thrill?

It certainly does if you consider that the car only comes in sporty Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works editions.

The new car doesn’t mess much with the winning formula of the original, even if it is longer but smaller and lighter.

Rear visibility is improved but still not great through the rollbar and boot space is still a doll-sized 125 litres, but otherwise it’s a delight to drive, feisty and responsive with a six-speed gearbox.

It’s more powerful than the old model, but it’s also is more economical and ecological, with auto stop-start that cuts the engine when it’s idling.

The roof closes in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 32 km/h for when you travel through car-jacking territory, and great gimmicks include the air-conditioned glovebox, and the “MINI Always open timer,” a gauge that measures how many hours you’ve driven with the roof down.

It’s might be more expensive than many of its rival cabrios but then it’s also of superior quality.

However, given that MINI is one of the rare car companies that increased sales last year don’t expect popularity to be a problem for this new cabrio.

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