Why would I buy it?
- Attention magnet
- Unmatched driving fun
Why would I avoid it?
- Better alternatives available for its price
Engine and Performance
What the 189bhp of power on the spec sheet doesn’t tell you is the amount of driving fun the Mini Cooper Convertible delivers. There’s just enough firepower to keep a smile plastered on your face all day when driven with a skilful right foot. Even though the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder does take its time to spool up before its dramatic slingshot, the throaty burble accompanied by the downshift is music to our ears – especially with the top down.
It cranks up with a guttural exhaust note and settles down into a fantastic sounding idle. We know that the BMW-sourced four-cylinder has a good torque supply at slow speeds. With 280Nm accessible from as low as 1,250rpm, you can potter around at city speeds knowing that there’s a surge of twisting force waiting to be unleashed with one downward motion of the throttle pedal. This makes the Mini eager to drive around the city with an aberrant capability of closing into tight gaps in traffic at a moment’s notice.
Complementing this eagerness of the motor is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sending power to the front wheels. It upshifts quickly to keep the motor running smoothly and effortlessly. At highway speeds – with no urgency – maintaining triple-digit speeds is easy as the motor churns away under the 2,000rpm mark. But give it some beans and triple-digit speeds arrive quickly.
When timed on our V-Box, the 0-100kmph sprint in 7.34 seconds (in wet) might not seem like it – but the drama that ensues is what makes you put your money down on the Mini than any other premium hatch (or small crossover for that matter). As mentioned earlier, the kick-down is quick and dramatic and when accelerating from 40-100kmph, the Mini took 4.91 seconds which is impressive by any standards. Moreover, a 20-80kmph run was done in 3.93 seconds on wet – over half a second quicker than the BMW 220i which shares the same engine and underpinnings (but is heavier).
Not to forget, there are three driving modes provided here. Keeping up with fuel-saving measures, the Eco mode keeps all the drama subdued. And the Medium mode might get you excited only if you smash the throttle pedal to the floor. That’s where the Sport mode restores the Mini’s interesting persona and it is accompanied by melodious euphony from its dual-tip exhaust as well. There are peddle-shifters provided, too, for the times when you decide to take over gearshifts manually.
Ride and Handling
Right off bat, you’d be surprised how heavy the Mini’s steering is. At slow speeds, the steering input requires a tad more effort than one is accustomed to. That said, the heavy steering complements the driving dynamics of the Cooper rather perfectly. If it was any lighter, it would have throbbed this pocket-rocket of the driving fun it caters.
Another commendable highlight of the steering is how direct it is off the centre and it’s terrifically quick too – going less than two-and-a-half turns lock-to-lock. This is especially helpful when attacking some tight corners at scary speeds. That, combined with a well-controlled understeer, lends you good confidence to push this Mini harder each time. Around the fast twisties, the Mini managed to emerge on the other side unscathed with the driver holding a grin like a Cheshire cat and no soiled pants.
We did encounter monsoon ravaged roads with the Cooper S Convertible and it managed to plod over it dexterously. And surprisingly, it didn’t kiss its belly over those oddly made speed breakers either. Riding on 205/45 R17 profile Pirelli tyres, the Mini Convertible is set up on the stiffer side and yet it trudges over even the sharpest and deepest of potholes and fissures without unsettling its composure. There was barely any rut or creases that filtered into the cabin, and we could only hear than feel that when the top was down. The grip levels around the corner, when pushed hard, were impressive as well. On the flip side, the brakes do need a better initial bite.
Comfort, Convenience, and Features
It doesn’t take long to admire the cabin of the Cooper Convertible which has remained unchanged over the last decade, yet looks funky and adorable at the same time. A large circular dial in the centre console is redolent of the original Mini’s instrument console, which now houses a touchscreen infotainment system. Meanwhile, the driver gets a cutesy little screen mounted on the steering column with a rather matte finish to it and yet has all the relevant information on offer. Even though the steering wheel in itself is minimalistic and simple, it feels nice and perfect to hold.
We are a fan of the toggle switches in the centre console – the big red one in the centre for engine start/stop looks charming. It’s a snug cabin, especially with the cloth roof put up. And it is considerably made to feel better with the well-tailored front seats providing support in all the right places. There’s also a folding armrest here.
And two cup holders in the centre console is all the practicality you can ask for in an open-top Mini. As you’d expect, visibility all around is fantastic with the roof down – but rear visibility is hindered with the folded roof sitting atop right in your rear-view mirror. With the roof up, the visibility isn’t bad either with a thin A-pillar and large window, and you could see around the back as well pretty easily without much trouble.
If you are wondering, it takes around 18 seconds for the roof to either go up or down and you can do it on the move as well – but at speeds under 30kmph. Answering one of the questions we received – no, it doesn’t leak or let the rainwater seep in. It’s a soft top, so sound insulation isn’t something to write home about though. At high speeds, with the top down, the air-con and music system work overtime too. But it’s more about the air-in-the-hair experience than anything else, right?
Of the space at the back, kids can sit here comfortably and there are ISOFIX points as well for child seats. Adjust the front seats judicially and two full-grown adults with a not-so-large frame might be able to sit for a couple of hours (both with roof up or folded down) before beginning to nag – more so owing to the awfully upright backrest.
Surprisingly, there is a usable boot space here. The tailgate opens like the one in the older Land Rover and you’d find around 215-litres of cargo space, which is just enough for a couple of duffle bags or a medium-sized suitcase. The split seats do fold down, but there’s a narrow space opening up the additional area. You get a parcel tray as well – with two adjustable heights. Weirdly though, the roof won’t go down if this parcel tray is kept at its upper position.
Equipment-wise, the Mini Cooper S Convertible does come with an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with navigation, a premium Harman Kardon music system, wireless charger, dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps and wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, ambient lighting, voice command, and cruise control. In terms of safety and driver-assist hardware, there are dual airbags, rearview camera, three-point seatbelt for all seats, ABS with brake assist, traction control, front and rear parking sensors, TPMS with run-flat indicator, and roll-over protection.
Like the Porsche 911, the Mini Cooper hasn’t deterred from its root design. It’s one of the reasons why the Mini has remained an iconic car over the six decades it has been around. Although it's grown considerably in size from the original, the reborn Mini from the year 2000 onwards has retained bulbous circular headlamps, clean sheet metalwork, and a Bulldog-like stance.
With the 2021 design, there’s a new grille up front which looks fantastic in motion in rear-view mirrors more than anywhere else. Paying tribute to its heritage, the tail lamps and now the black soft roof adorns the Union Jack in the most subtle manner. But I must admit, the Cooper Convertible does look quirky and (sometimes) disproportionate from certain angles. But all of that is forgotten if you get yourself one in any of the many funky colours Mini offers. Our car here is finished in Zesty Yellow and we believe its sole purpose on the street is to grab eyeballs and turn heads.
With an ex-showroom tag of Rs 44 lakh (Rs 55 lakh on-road Mumbai), this Cooper Convertible falls in the league of luxury sedans and SUVs in terms of pricing. At this price, the alternatives will get you comfort, brand value, practicality, and – to an extent – peace of mind. But you don’t buy a Mini with these things in mind, do you? You buy a Mini because you want to stand out of the ordinary. You buy a Mini because it is fun. And you buy a Mini Convertible for all the attention it can garners.
Now, if you were ready to sign a cheque for a Lamborghini only because you want to be conspicuous, spectacular, flamboyant, sensational, and want something that’s just as quick as it is fun to drive – tear up that cheque, walk into a Mini showroom, and get yourself a Cooper Convertible S for a fraction of that price.