Convertible tests during winter invariably mean few real opportunities for that open-top experience; who wants to drive topless in a high of 13 degrees?
But you can if you’re tough, especially as this one has heated leather-like seats and a wind breaker.
Roof operation in the Mini Cooper S Convertible takes about 15sec so it’s not the end of the world if the weather sours. Moreover, in this car you can go to the half-way point instead, which is like an extended sunroof situation.
The downside of the top down is that luggage space shrinks because the hood impinges on the upper boot area.
But given it mainly rests on the top of the luggage enclosure, the space it eats into is seldom used anyway. Numerically, it reduces overall capacity from a hardly huge 215L to a trifling 160L.
Unusually, the boot lid on the Mini Convert opens outwards to horizontal like a ute’s tailgate, and is capable of supporting 80kg. That means you can sit on it when fitting golf shoes once you reach the course.
Naturally, there will be nothing in the boot because a) the opening is too small to admit a trundler and b) you’d have to saw the clubs in half even to fit them in sideways. You could splitfold the seat backs to their flat position but the golf bag wouldn’t fit in the opening anyhow.
So we put our clubs on the back seat and the fold-up trundler in the passenger seat footwell. Yes, you can go golfing in this. It would have been even easier with the top folded away but the weather conspired against that, as usual in the big wet of 2023.
Otherwise, the lack of doors aside, this is mechanically similar to the Mini Clubman S we’d driven earlier, except that’s AWD and this isn’t. And that had adaptive suspension and this has conventional damping.
The Convertible line-up consists of this, the base model at $69,300 or the Mini Resolute, a dress-up variant for a few hundred dollars extra.
But holy hell, you can buy the Mini Clubman for less ($62,675) and get much more metal for your money. If you want that open air feel, you can option in the panoramic roof to the Clubman and still have change compared with the Convertible’s ask.
You get less gear in the drop top too – the seats are manually adjusted, as is cruise control, and the handbrake is the old school type.
Furthermore, the ride is nowhere near as sophisticated, with clattering from the roof supporting structure over bumps, and vibes making their way up from the wheels through the steering column.
Given the wheelbase is also shorter by almost 200mm it’s small wonder you notice the sharper bumps more.
And the handling isn’t quite as smooth or secure either, but then this is a front driver, innit. It turns a bit quicker, with a slightly sharper steering rack but it’s more the ride difference that’s noteworthy.
So you’d have to really want the Convertible with its compact rear seats – even the dog will look at you funny – and be prepared to part with more money for less real estate. It’s therefore a heart decision when buying this vehicle. Your head will be in the clouds.
Not that it doesn’t go okay; it has the same powertrain as the Clubman S and with 100kg less weight to push, it gets to 100 and manages an overtake almost a half second quicker than its sib, despite its FWD vs AWD status. The braking distance from 100 was also a bit better but hardly reference level.
With the same 2.0 powertrain and transmission, it has the same effortless feel when puddling about town; there’s bulk twist from really low revs. Fuel use as a result is reasonable.
We averaged in the 8s, though most of the running was at open road speeds. That’s only a bit above the 7.0L/100km quoted by rightcar.co.nz. The ‘Mid’ drive setting is the one you’d select pretty much the entire time.
There are still paddles here to manipulate the seven-speed twin-clutch by yourself but we never used them.
Our Convertible featured the optional head-up display. It’s the type that emerges from the top of the dashboard and displays speed and speed limit information (the latter right on the money).
But honestly, the lone gauge is such a model of clarity that HUD is superfluous to needs.
All in all, not the best Mini, certainly not for the money. But we can see how some singletons might find it in their heart to take the plunge.
We’d rather a manual Mazda MX-5; that way only the SO gets to ride with you.
|Model||Mini Cooper S Convertible|
|Clean Car Discount||Fee – $1,093|
|Engine||1998cc, IL4, T|
|Power/Torque||141kW@5000-6000rpm / 280Nm@1350-4600rpm|
|Drivetrain||7-speed twin clutch, FWD|
This story first appeared in the October 2023 issue of NZ Autocar magazine