Why would I buy it?
- For being one-of-a-kind
- Open-top driving thrills
Why would I avoid it?
- Upright and cramped rear seats
Flamboyant to the core, not as good as a hatchback, and yet distinguished like no other. The Mini Cooper S Convertible wows with its open-top driving experience. This three-door car isn't practical with limited space inside, but comes packed with features and is quick and fun to drive. And with a well-engineered open and close mechanism for the roof, it doesn't restrict its utility in pollution and vulnerable climatic conditions like ours. Well, if it wasn't for its high CBU pricing, it wouldn't have been difficult to recommend. Still quite capable of reigniting the spark of interest, not just in this part of the motoring world, but for anyone's glazed over look.
Engine and Performance
Under the hood is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as this newcomer shares this similar unit seen with its BMW cousin - the 2 Series. And in this Cooper S trim, this mill cranks out 189bhp and 280Nm of torque. It comes mated to a seven-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, which does a good job with quick upshifts. I still wish it was a bit quick in downshifting as you can sense a slight delay. Yet the paddle-shifters give better control and add to the fun with this dual-clutch gearbox.
Now, whenever you give it the stick, we’d recommend the 'Sport' driving mode. Leave the 'Green' for more efficient driving or even the 'MID' mode for some other time. The Sport mode changes everything on the display in red, hinting at faster responses and allowing to hold on to a gear till higher revs. Thankfully it doesn't feel snappy, but once you transition back to MID or Green, the gearshifts feel even smoother with the engine noise not audible in the cabin. Still, be it battling it out in the city hustle-bustle or sprinting out on an open stretch of highway, the engine tirelessly performs with good levels of refinement. Never does it feel short of breath with an instantaneous supply of power.
And, it's a hush-hush affair till you put your foot down for that burbly exhaust sound, which gets addictive. It's not a loud or outrageous one, or like the pops and crackles you'd get from its JCW cousin, but still fun along with the thrust it provides. And yes, the car is fast, boasting a remarkable straight-line acceleration. In our V-Box tests, it clocked the 0-100kmph sprint time in 7.34 seconds, that too, in wet conditions! So, it’s not a surprise that its in-gear acceleration figures are impressive as well. The 20-80kmph run in kick-down is indicative of the city runabouts and was completed in 3.93 seconds. Meanwhile, the 40-100kmph sprint in kick-down hints at the car's performance in the city. This was achieved in 4.91 seconds. What's more, we also managed to complete a fuel efficiency run in real-world driving conditions with the city fuel economy coming up to 6.25 kmpl.
Ride and Handling
A glance at its wheels and the low profile tyres might suggest the ride to be punishing. But that's not the case. These 17-inch tyres along with a well-tuned suspension do keep most thuds at bay. However, one still needs to be careful about sharp-edged potholes and better avoid any larger obstacles under its belly. Customers still do get an optional adaptive suspension should they wish to choose for a more comfortable ride.
Also, Minis have always been adept in the handling department and this one isn't very different. It's quite athletic and eager to hug the bends even with its drop-top form. No true go-kart feels, but it certainly darts in the direction it's pointed at while sticking onto the tarmac. Its steering is sensitive and sharp. Also, with less than two-and-a-half turns from lock to lock, manoeuvring it is very easy. That said, you might face some difficulty in seeing what's straight behind your back with the hood down. Still, the reverse camera does a good job of covering this blind spot.
Interior Quality, Space, and Comfort
Its funky style and unrivalled appeal are in abundance inside as well. Thanks to its distinctive elements like a circular infotainment system cluster, turbine-styled different shaped and sized air-con vents, aeroplane-type toggle switches instead of conventional buttons, ambient lighting, and more. Every panel, control, or for that matter even the upholstery is uniquely designed. Most are robust in nature, and have an impeccable quality - very British! Also, all things fall within reach and are easy to operate.
Then, in terms of space and comfort, it's going to be a mixed opinion. Let's first address the elephant in the room which is the second row. With the roof closed, getting in seems very impractical through the front, only to find yourself in a very cramped space with an upright backrest, negligible legroom, and restricted visibility. You can only liberate some space for yourself by requesting the passengers in the front to oblige and sit closer to the dash. Even kids might get cranky in that tight space. But then, open the roof, and you have practically infinite headroom transforming the experience like no other.
The front seats are anyway comfortable with adequate padding and manually adjustable thigh support. Although, electronic adjustments could have made things easier and more convenient. Even then the seats adorned partly in leather and fabric work well on both fronts - comfort and feel-good factor. Though there are cup-holders, the slim door-pads cannot hold any bottles.
Now with the soft-top folding into the boot, you might think all that space is occupied. Thankfully, that's not the case as the tailgate opens downwards against the conventional way, only to open up 215litres of space for one small suitcase or two medium-sized soft bags. Then, a 50:50 split-folding rear seat enables you to expand the space to 433litres (one seat folded) or 661litres (both seats folded).
Features and Safety Equipment
At its sticker price, it's true you don't have too many luxury appointments and mind-blowing tech. But, it's more unique thanks to the soft-top roof that can be raised or lowered in just 18 seconds at speeds of up to 30kmph. One can even partially open it to use as a sunroof if needed. There's a standard deflector that helps in keeping the wind noise down. Whenever not needed, it can be folded and stored in the trunk.
Besides being a convertible version of the Cooper S, it packs in all the other goodies from its cousin. For example, dual-zone automatic climate control, paddle shifters, automatic LED headlamps and wipers, height-adjustable front seats, and more. All these features are easy to use with the standard 8.8-inch touchscreen displaying a chunk load of information. It's not the quickest but its interface and the way things are on display are all pleasing along with the ambient lighting. However, a 5.0-inch digital instrument display is optional. Needless to say, a gazillion options to choose from like wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, MINI Navigation system, a Harman Kardon audio system, front parking sensors, hands-free parking, heads up display, adaptive suspension, TPMS, etc.
Moreover, there's no compromise on the safety suite, and this open-top version comes packed with safety equipment like dual airbags, rear parking sensors, rearview camera, speed-limiter, traction control, ABS, and stability control, amongst many other features.
An on-road price of Rs 56 lakh might be too much for a sub-compact car with a USP (soft-top) that might not be very useful in extreme weather conditions like ours. But then, the open-top driving lends a unique experience you'd seldom get otherwise anywhere. And it's a CBU unit, so it's a given that with the current taxing system, this one was never going to be a very affordable option. Thankfully, it's still not ludicrous. Look at it as a true two-seater offering a wow-factor in every way and you wouldn't be disappointed. There's no compromise in performance or driving dynamics. Also, it’s more pleasurable now by combining it with the fun of open-top driving. Wind through your hair and a smile on the face - guaranteed!
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi