Mini Convertible, car review: Sunny, well equipped soft-top is perfect for summer
Want a Mini Cooper, or a Cooper S or even a JCW? Now you can have any of them, and more, with a convertible roof. The UK likes its convertibles, and in fact the UK is Mini’s largest soft-top market. So this car matters. We are testing the entry-level Mini Cooper with the fully electric roof to see if Mini can keep all those owners happy under one roof.
Before you start talking about the roof in a convertible you have to look at how the chassis has managed to find the extra rigidity to stop flex and scuttle shake. In this case Mini has put the Convertible on the new UKL1 platform, which is a full 100mm longer and 40mm wider than the previous model. That’s a very promising start.
Then they’ve added strengthening in the form of reinforcing torsion struts, strengthened sills and an extra plate under the engine. Right, now that’s all sorted, we can talk about the roof with some confidence.
It’s electrically operated and is a full folding roof, not something you’d have on top of a pram. There is protection against noise and heat and you can even retract an area about the size of a sunroof as you’re driving along. Otherwise you need to be doing 18mph or less to move the whole roof, an exercise which takes 18sec from start to finish.
The result is a convertible which has excellent visibility in all directions, about the same as a hatchback. The cabin is equipped with the usual eye-catching and slightly eccentric Mini dials and gizmos, and comes in this version with a 6.5in infotainment screen and system. It works well, feels high quality and is true to itself, so you know what you’re getting.
With the roof down you can still enjoy that cabin and of course that does somewhat improve the headroom. Despite the larger dimensions, this is still a faintly cramped place for four adults, although the extra boot space is noticeable and welcome.
Under the bonnet in this instance is the three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo engine which gets good marks in other Minis. It’s quite a torquey, gutsy performer, and is refined under virtually all conditions. But it struggles here with gearing chosen to improve fuel consumption rather than performance. Tall gearing takes away the edge of performance and also removes some of the fun as well.
But the handling restores some of that fun. It’s what you’d want from a Mini – sharp, instant, responsive, but with a good amount of comfort and integrity as well. For a convertible, this feels a very sorted chassis, and you needn’t worry about scuttle shake or anything else intruding.
With prices starting at £17,900 (although most will cost more than that, as owners add what are seen as basic extras), you get a very well sorted convertible. The chassis has had a lot of work done on it and it shows. This is a properly sorted soft-top that you can enjoy fully with the top either up or down. We might think about getting the auto transmission to get round the very long manual gears, but this is a sunny Mini, just right for the coming summer.