They don’t have the stiffest bodies or quickest-operating roofs, and they’re heavier than expected, but there’s something inexplicably fun about driving a MINI Convertible.
It’s also even more exciting when the Convertible in question is either a Cooper S or range-topping John Cooper Works (JCW) variant. These models have louder and more powerful engines to dial up the exhilaration potential.
It would seem then, that the Cooper Convertible – the least powerful one in the family – wouldn’t have the same character due to its slower performance. But surprisingly, this wasn’t the case.
STATS DON’T TELL THE FULL STORY
We glance at technical specifications because they help us form performance expectations. In the Cooper Convertible’s case, it offers 134bhp and 220Nm of torque from its turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine.
With a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the Cooper Convertible can hit the century mark in 8.7 seconds. Now, at this point, it seems uninteresting compared to the Cooper S and JCW, which do the same in 6.9 seconds and 6.5 seconds.
The Cooper Convertible test unit looks tamer, too. It gets 17-inch instead of 18-inch wheels, a single-side exhaust instead of racier centre-mounted dual exhausts, and no bonnet stripes. Buyers can use the configurator to specify the stripes and larger wheels, but you can’t option a nicer exhaust.
Now, despite being the entry-level variant, the Cooper Convertible’s interior is well-equipped. You get ambient lighting with several colour options, the Connected Navigation Package and Driving Assistant. The latter includes Lane Departure Warning – handy for longer expressway drives.
Like its siblings, the Cooper Convertible also features an 8.8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment, while the instrument panel has bold colours and a matte finish, which effectively prevents glare.
A STRANGE START
I was ready to enjoy the Cooper Convertible’s effervescent personality, but instead, the first day with the car was spent trying to figure out what was going on with it.
Perhaps it’s because the vehicle was new and had fewer than 1,000km on it, but I got the feeling that the front and rear of the car weren’t talking to each other. The rear felt less settled and over woolly surfaces, I ended up doing a strange ‘shoulder-shimmy’ without even trying.
Then again, it could be those Pirelli run-flat tyres and their stiff sidewalls transmitting every bump and undulation into the cabin. Whatever the reason/s, the first day was unsatisfying.
Even with the soft-top opened, the engine’s eagerness and thrummy soundtrack could not distract from these characteristics. MINI Convertibles are at their best as mobile tanning salons, but everything just felt off.
All that changed the following morning. Maybe it’s because the car had covered more kilometres and had time to settle itself, but the Cooper Convertible felt like it had rediscovered its true self.
Indeed, the heavy thunderstorm that greeted me could not quell the car’s exuberance. It now felt like a single entity, with no hint of an unsettled rear end. And it delighted in being driven hard.
As the roads dried, the Cooper Convertible was eager to please. Are you ham-fisted and heavy-footed? No problem, it has grip to offer and the electric power steering, though still artificial in feel, seemed to have a better weight balance.
Wringing the Convertible’s neck felt satisfying as the effervescence that fans love bubbles to the surface. Sure, it doesn’t have the zing of the Cooper S, but in the Cooper, you can rev it harder without immediately zooming past legal limits.
The only real downside is that the soft-top’s sound insulation when you’re driving in tunnels needs improvement. Tyre roar, especially from large trucks, is bothersome. It’s almost as if the car is telling you to just embrace it all by dropping the top. After all, isn’t that what a convertible is for?
BUT A LOGICAL CONCLUSION
The Cooper Convertible and I may have started off on the wrong foot, but the more I drove it, the more it entertained me. Yes, it’s heavier than it should be, and its body could be stiffer still, but it remains inexplicably fun to drive.
That said, the main issue that the Cooper Convertible must grapple with is that it does not offer a significant price advantage that would make it more attractive. At time of writing, it is going for $247,888, while the Cooper S Convertible costs $268,888.
Forking out an additional $21,000 at this price point is not a big ask, especially when there is a significant performance advantage to gain and sportier styling to boot.
This story was first published in Sgcarmart.
MINI Cooper Convertible 1.5 (A)
ENGINE 1499cc, 12-valves, inline-3, turbocharged
MAX POWER 134hp at 4500-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 220Nm at 1480-4100rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 98.5hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 205km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.6km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $247,888
AGENT Eurokars Habitat