Why it’s running: To discover if a Mini drop-top could be the perfect summer car
A Mini Convertible: The Best of Both Worlds
The Peaks show off its handling prowess.
So southern is my soul that I once sang a slur about the north to Watford fans. We beg for forgiveness because I have never been to the Peak District until recently.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The lush hills become sheer-faced mountains. They are joined by wide valleys that are covered in heather, peat bogs, and sheep grazing. The serpentine roads that meander through picturesque villages are woven over a railroad line, miraculously preserved from an era gone by. They are flanked with flint walls, cottages, and other amenities that soothe the soul of city dwellers.
Although not all roads on these roads are speedy (not if your safety is at stake), some allow you to go up to 60 mph. As you’ll know, speed is not a requirement for corners to be enjoyable. It’s about how easy it is to get from one corner to the next.
My Mini Convertible Cooper S was a joy to drive with my friend from Nottingham. We drove through Bakewell, up to Blue John Cavern and back to his home in Nottingham. I learned a lot about the Convertible’s light chassis, precise and weighty steering, and its strong performance. (A shout out to the gentleman enjoying his 1960s Alfa Romeo Spider, who saw our intentions and recognized his relative lack in speed, allowed us to pass; it was the opposite of Derbyshire’s most cautious Kia Sportage driver.
You can keep the Mini moving into the corner at the right speed. The Mini will follow your lead until it reaches the top. After that, the Mini will get its head down to power off.
Mini’s “go-kart handling” is a description I don’t like. If you have ever been in a kart you will know that the chassis lacks sophistication. This car couldn’t be more true. Mini’s handling is a trademark. It shined even when it was strained because of the wet road surface.
You can make it even more fun by putting the automatic gearbox in manual mode. The steering wheel-mounted paddles allow you to anticipate which gear you need for a turn and then to accelerate quickly.
It would have been nice to have the soft top extended for longer than just a few minutes during our jaunt. Despite it being July, there was mist all over the place and rain was always nearby. This is the price of verdancy.
It was almost as disappointing as the ride comfort. Although I can understand the Mini’s agility, I found it to be a result of the suspension stiffness. On particularly bad roads, I find myself paying more attention to avoiding bigger potholes or ruts.
A couple of times, my passenger has jumped and expressed concern after I clattered on one. On less-than-smooth roads, it was obvious that I was too active during lockdowns. I wonder if the Sport trim, which I have, would allow me to let the car relax a bit more.
Along with a new appreciation of my Mini and the Midlands I also learned something on this trip: “Party mode”. A friend of mine used to work at Mini. He explained that the ambient lighting switch can be held through all colour options and then it will fade slowly between them. This creates a wonderful night-driving atmosphere.
Welcome the Mini Convertible into the fleet
“You’re a journalist, you said?” a fellow attendee at the British Grand Prix joked as we discussed my new hi-vis-jacket-coloured Mini Convertible. “Not a hairdresser?”
You can’t miss it – and everyone has an opinion about this car. Apart from that joke, which made me laugh, the opinions I have heard from family, friends, and strangers range from “that’s so cool!” to “I absolutely love this car” to “shame over its colour” and, amusingly from a homosexual man, “ugh! That’s so gay car!” My friend and me were even laughed at by a young man driving a Ford Fiesta as we waited at traffic lights.
Although I don’t care what others think, it’s not my fault. I love this car. It’s compact and looks great. I love the Zesty Yellow. The car’s handling is excellent to match its exciting performance.
It’s the Cooper S. This is because it sits above and below the hot John Cooper Works. It is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engine of 176bhp. This engine is similar to those in the BMW X1 and the Toyota GR Supra. It can be driven by either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch auto with paddle shifters behind it.
The Cooper S is priced at PS25,080 for Classic trim. You can also upgrade to Sport or Exclusive for a cost of PS27.330 or PS27.665. Exclusive is for the “connoisseur of finer details and lover luxury”, while Sport is for the “driver who enjoys the thrill of driving on the track”.
It means that the Convertible has additional air intakes in its front bumper, bonnet air scoop, and central twin exhaust. This gives it a purposeful appearance. Inside, you’ll find a nappa leather steering column, an electronically adjustable leather sports seat, aluminum trim, and multicoloured ambient lighting.
We have then accumulated PS6275 worth options, many of which are available in packs. Navigation Plus adds a head-up display and connected services to the standard 8.8in touchscreen.
Comfort Plus offers electrically folding mirrors and a rearview camera. Heated front seats, automatic air-con and parking assistance are all part of the Comfort Plus package. This is a deal that I think few would overlook.
Driving Assistant now adds active cruise control and automatic emergency braking to the vehicle. Mini deserves credit for this. The heated steering wheel was also installed along with the Harman Kardon 360W 12-speaker stereo. It sounds amazing. This is a great addition to my life.
One more thing. What about the Union Jack pattern on your roof? Exclusive trim is required to get the Union Jack pattern on your tail-lights. Some people love it and some don’t. Although I am neutral on the issue of the car, I have found 15 such motifs, which I feel is excessive.
Because of the lifting of societal restrictions, I have had ample time to think about the Mini. Visiting friends in Nottingham provided a wonderful opportunity to take a drive through the Peak District, even though it was rainy. I also took the Mini to the Goodwood Festival of Speed (it was again …)) and it was in blistering heat (at least). Up to Silverstone. For 130 miles, I had my top down. I get annoyed when I see a cabriolet driver driving with their roof up on a sunny day, while I am sweltering beneath a fixed tin lid.
Soft-tops and small sporty cars have always been my favorite, so I love the Convertible Cooper S. There are very few rivals when you search for them. Hot hatches are the exception. There is the Abarth 595C, which is a great car, but it is a landaulet. It is also very difficult to handle.
It is really encouraging to see that Mini, despite having a small market share, has not sat on its laurels. We’re actually testing a car that’s been around since 2014. It was updated in 2014 and has a controversial new look. This includes the digital dial display, which we first saw in the Mini Electric. There are also new infotainment software features, more personalization options, and a new adaptive suspension for cars with Sport trim.
It seems like I’ll have a summer I’m going to enjoy – not because I can do it again.
Are you struggling to get your kids to school? My tip is to invest in a Mini Convertible: When Kris borrowed my car, Kris and I ran out of the house every morning to argue over who could retract the roof. Although the back space is limited, their seats fit perfectly and the two-stage top was perfect for all weather.