Wishing for sunnier days? Missing the warm weather? Well, then what you need to get you through is to purchase a car ready for the summer next year! And if you want to take full advantage then you need look no further than the Mini Cooper Convertible as tested by yours truly at Carsnip.
This is a car that many dismiss on principle, most who are looking for a small fun convertible would head straight for the more well trodden route of the Mazda MX5; but this is arguably not a versatile enough choice for the majority of people, the 2 seats and the tiny storage space are not usually enough to deal with everything that life throws at you.
The Mini on the other hand has 4 useable seats and a decent sized boot. It is a far more practical option than the MX5, and in my eyes, just as fun! But more on that later.
Don’t misunderstand, you aren’t going to be able to do much more than a shopping trip in this car, the boot may extend quite far back, but is very shallow. No large boxes are getting in here! The actual useable space is 160 litres with the roof down, and a respectable 215 litres with the roof up. Not bad.
Image from autocar.co.uk
But now onto the more fun stuff! The car on test was a Mini Cooper Convertible; with the turbocharged 1.5L 3 cylinder engine. This is good for 124 horsepower, and 162 torques – not exactly Ferrari territory – but in a car, with a kerb weight of 1295kg the result is a nippy and energetic experience. The buzzing little 3 pot engine (along with a surprisingly fruity sounding exhaust as standard from Mini) means that you get that sporty feeling, and puts a genuine smile on your face just from turning it on! I feel obliged to point out here that you won’t be winning any drag races; but if that’s your goal you are definitely looking at the wrong sort of car, so look at some of the alternatives:
The power developed by the engine only tells part of the story though. Due to the low kerb weight (as above) the power doesn’t feel particularly lacking, and actually is a great amount to have ‘easy fun’ – i.e you can put your foot to the floor and not be immediately in the license-losing territory! The nippiness is exciting, but the Mini’s party piece is only revealed when you get to a corner. This car has a properly well sorted out chassis, and the ‘wheel at each corner’ go-kart effect that you get from such a small car means that it can deal with whatever corner you throw it at with poise, and once again just an overall sense of fun and energy! Seriously, I had a bigger smile on my face driving this on a dry November day that i would have in any supercar on the same day. The usability of the thing and the responsiveness gives you a feeling that you just don’t get from many cars these days; and is a true rarity below the ‘hot hatch’ class, which this car definitely sits below.*
*Mini do offer a Cooper S and John Cooper Works options; both of which bring the same amazing chassis and fun but with more power (189bhp and 228bhp respectively). However, both are considerably more expensive. Also, both will very quickly put you over UK speed limits if you start pushing hard, which takes some of the fun out of the experience.
Now I’ve been waxing lyrical about the Mini for a while now, and not really pointed out any negatives. There actually aren’t many, and I consider myself a pretty harsh critic! However, there is one issue that no matter how much you try and ignore it, it always rears its head – particularly when you might just be driving normally to the shops, or to the office. What is it? This car is honestly one the most uncomfortable non-modified cars I’ve EVER driven (not including higher-end sports cars designed for fast lap times of course). Seriously, driving normally along the roads of the Midlands (notoriously poorly kept and full of potholes) is akin to rolling yourself down a cliff. Bumps you can see shake your spine to pieces, and the car actually manages to find bumps and undulations in the road surface that are not even visible to the naked eye. If it weren’t so annoying, it would almost be impressive!
Now you have to remember that the stiff chassis and suspension which cause this lack of comfort* are required in order for the Mini to feel as great as it does to drive. It is worth it. It is. But don’t say i didn’t warn you that it takes some getting used too!
*The seriously pretty 17” alloy wheels with the low profile tyres are also contenders for blame for the lack of comfort!
N.B: But of course comfort and feel is a very personal aspect of driving a car, so if you are interested do take a car out for a test drive and experience a variety of road types.
Onto the internal styling of that car, the seats look fantastic in the leather trim! They also have a lot of manual adjustment options so you can find the best comfort for you. We often talk a lot in our car reviews about long term usability, and particularly about how comfortable cars (and specifically their seats) are for longer journeys. The Mini didn’t do very well here where we took it for a spin, and after a couple of hours on a journey I couldn’t wait to get out and stretch my legs. However, when I got back in for the next stretch of the journey on a lovely little 12 mile country road, I cannot stress enough how quickly I forgot about my back, the seats, and the suspension and just threw myself into the art of the drive! With this car, the comfort may be its Achilles Heel, but it’s a price worth paying.
Image from autocar.co.uk
- The official MPG figure for the model I have on test here is 53.6 (combined cycle) but my testing in various conditions and lots of different types of driving yielded an average MPG of 39.7. Very reasonable I think, due mostly to the frugal 3 pot engine and the helpful hand of the turbocharger.
- Automatic wipers and lights are included, along with lots of other ‘tech bits and pieces’.
- Beautiful, premium-feeling interior, and a special mention the circular central screen – with the mood lighting bar around it. This is a feature that genuinely adds to the experience, and having a light bar that can represent the changes in temperature when you alter it (among many other uses) is something that I didn’t know I had been missing until using it. All of the switches and buttons also feel quite well made; which is to be expected from Mini these days buts great to know that the cost-cutting that has hit some other manufacture hasn’t affected Mini (yet!).
- The Mini may be front-wheel drive (never the purists choice), but this helps keep the cost fo the car lower overall. Don’t get me wrong though, I think if it were rear-wheel drive I would be heading out to a dealership to buy myself one right now rather than writing this article!
- And finally it just looks great doesn’t it? The Clubman (along with the Paceman and the Countryman) may all have been the visual embodiment of the phrase ‘a swing and a miss’ by Mini, but they certainly got this right. It’s very well proportioned (even a convertible which isn’t an opinion I give very often!), and I have to say that credit for this goes to the fact the retention of the folding soft roof (a very classical design). The Mini is still just about clinging to some of its classical roots, which is great to see.
So should you buy one? Yes, immediately. Winter is the time to buy a convertible; as during summer a motivated buyers market causes higher demand and pushed up prices. So look at the selection below from our trusted partner Dealers, and see if you can find your summer toy now. And if you’ve read the above and are still on the fence, take it from me, just drive one. It would take a heart of pure stone not fall in love with this fizzy little pocket rocket!
Carsnip is the UK’s largest used car search engine, with over 500,000 dealer sold used cars across the UK. We operate a natural language search engine, to help you find your perfect used car, and narrow down the choice by what’s most important to you.
About the Author
Sam Wardega is Carsnip.com’s very own in house car guru and journalist.
A lifetime Petrolhead who started with Hot Wheels aged 2, and now just spends his life savings on owning his dream cars. As they say, boys don’t stop playing with toys; they just get bigger and more expensive!