The last time I got behind the wheel of a convertible Mini was in 2016 when the current generation models were launched. I still remember how the drive made me feel – the car was nimble, with a dose of sportiness.
Fast forward to 2018 and Mini has introduced refreshed models. Changes are subtle and some of my friends had a difficult time pinpointing the differences.
The refreshed @MINISouthAfrica Cooper S Convertible has landed on my driveway. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine with 141 kW and 280 Nm.
— Ntsako Mthethwa (@NtsakoMthethwa) July 24, 2018
There are new headlights, brake lights, a seven-speed gearbox and upgraded connectivity technology for the infotainment system.
The exterior gains LED headlights with Matrix function for high-beam mode, the rear LED lights feature an embedded Union Jack design and, lastly, there is a new MINI logo with enhanced body finishes in Piano Black.
Jump inside and you are greeted with a premium interior. My unit came fitted with leather seats but they lacked a heating feature which could have been useful when driving with the top down.
There is a new gear lever, upgraded multi-function steering wheel, a radio with 16.5cm colour screen, USB, Bluetooth interface and a navigation system with a touchscreen monitor as standard.
Expensive at R515 559, the Mini Copper S Convertible is not as practical as its three-door sibling, and biggest downfall with this car is space.
The back seats are cramped and probably best left for kids. I have a beautiful four-monthold daughter who has her own car seat.
Getting her and her mother into the back was not a delightful experience. The same applied to getting in and out of the rear seats.
Similar story with boot space – there is just enough room for the roof to fold away, meaning you only get space for small luggage. But, for some reason, you forget about the downfalls as soon as you get into the driver’s seat.
Under the bonnet lurks a capable 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 141kW of power and 300Nm of torque channelled through a new seven-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels.
With that power lurking under your right foot, the convertible can do a sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.1sec before maxing out at 206km/h.
You get three driving modes, activated by a switch on the lower panel of the dashboard, Green is suitable for comfortable and efficient driving situations, Mid makes the vehicle a bit less energetic but in a good way, and Sport makes the car ready for some harsh treatment.
With driving done mostly in Mid mode, the Mini is still fun to drive with go-kart like handling.
The suspension feels firm but also not in a bad way – something I expected from a convertible – and that adds a huge advantage to its handling prowess.
It has well-weighted steering, a grippy chassis, a slick gear change and it feels nimble around corners. The driving position is comfortable, but you tend to feel every imperfection on the road as a result of the convertible losing the extra bracing of a fixed roof.
There is small wind noise with the top up but that was not much of a problem. Drop the top and there is a huge amount of wind coming into the cabin, however the removable wind deflector minimizes the problem.
The engine noise is more audible with the roof down – you get louder pops and bangs from the dual tailpipes, which can be good fun if you are in the mood.
It is a pleasurable little car to drive, if you are looking for something that has presence on the road.
However, space remains a challenge.
If you want to remain within the Mini brand but are looking for something to suit your whole family, there are other options that offer amazing space.