Price: £16,415 - £26,560
- Fun to drive
- Roof operates quickly and easily
- Low running costs
- Firm ride
- Wind noise with the roof down
- Tiny boot and rear seats
"Because it's great to drive and very desirable, the MINI Convertible offers a near perfect way to enjoy the sun."
The appeal of the MINI is pretty universal, and the key to its success has been maintaining certain key traits across its whole range. The MINI Convertible carries over the key characteristics of the hatchback – its distinctive and good to look at, and it's great fun to drive – while adding the extra enjoyment of open-top, wind-in-your-hair motoring. It may be as impractical as a car can get, with the electric fabric roof severely limiting boot space – but its entertaining drive and fast folding roof go some way to justifying its negatives. The range has also increased from any initial three specifications to a varied seven, encompassing One, Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D, Cooper SD, John Cooper Works, and the special edition Highgate. All are expensive, but they are relatively economical, with the addition of the diesel models improving efficiency substantially. The MINI John Cooper Works convertible is the fastest in the range, but has a limited appeal as it's not cheap to buy or run.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Remarkably economical, with prepaid servicing softening the initial high price
If you want the best of both worlds, balancing economy and performance, go for the Cooper D. The diesel returns a whopping 70.6mpg in fuel economy and emits only 105g/km of CO2, which isn’t tax-free but is remarkable for a quick convertible. The basic One petrol model, meanwhile, returns 49.6mpg and emits 133g/km of CO2, while the Cooper S petrol, which can go from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, returns 47.1mpg and emits 139g/km. Add to that the £200 ‘tlc’ pack, which buys five years’ servicing, and the MINI is an admirably cheap to run convertible, offsetting the initial premium price somewhat.
Interior & comfort
The wind makes its presence felt with the roof both up and down
The convertible does make more of a meal of uneven road surfaces and potholes than the standard hatchback – which is becoming more of an issue every day on UK roads. Also, even with the roof up, wind and road noise is pretty intrusive, but that's always going to be the case when there's only a fabric hood between you and the elements. If you choose to have the 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels added, the ride gets even harsher, so we’d recommend avoiding them if comfort is important to you. Ignoring the noise issues, the roof is actually very impressive, folding down very quickly and storing itself neatly on top of the boot. Once down, though, you’re at the mercy of the wind, which swirls around the interior, especially on faster roads. For many, this may be the very experience they looking for in a convertible, but if not you need to think long and hard about buying one. Beyond that, it's just like the hatchback, so great space up front for the driver and passenger, and virtually no space in the small back seats for anything other than a laptop bag and a small dog.
Practicality & boot space
Tiny boot and impractical rear seats do the MINI Convertible no favours
Okay, so the MINI Convertible is admittedly not one of the most practical cars that money can buy. Although it shares the same profile as the standard car, the convertible roof means that it's no longer a hatchback, turning the boot into a glorified 125-litre glove compartment. If you were to look at the Smart ForTwo convertible, for example, that has a comparatively huge 220 litres of boot space. And then of course there are the two seats in the back, which really aren’t good for any human being to get comfortable in, even children. However, if you use the rear seats as extra carry space instead, the MINI becomes a more-practical two-seater. The useful folding roof can be folded partially back or all the way by pushing a button at speeds of up to 20mph – a great feature that stop you getting caught in a typical British rain shower!
Reliability & safety
Owners aren't very happy, but BMW quality means it should be reliable
The MINI Convertible doesn’t rank in the top 150 cars of the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction, and its hatchback siblings only managed to place 141st. With MINI itself only placing 28th in the top manufacturers list, dropping seven places since 2012, customers clearly have a love/hate relationship with their retro pride and joys. It mainly suffered due to criticisms of practicality (see above) and poor ride quality (er, see above), so it's nothing you shouldn’t already be aware of as you shop around. On a basic level, MINIs are built by BMW, so the quality is excellent and very little is likely to wrong. While the convertible hasn’t been through the Euro NCAP crash safety tests itself, the hatchback did score the maximum five-star rating and the convertibles comes with front, side and head airbags, and a set of pop-up roll hoops that help prevent injuries in the unlikely event the car rolls over. Electronic stability control is standard, too.
Engines, drive & performance
Great handling and strong performance make the MINI fun to drive
The hatchback's famed ‘go-kart’ handling is intact in the Convertible model, making the MINI still one of the most fun to drive drop-tops on sale in the UK. The driving position is low and fully adjustable, and the front of the car feels spacious. The basic One model feels a bit underpowered thanks to the extra weight of the convertible, but matters improve dramatically in the Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S models. The S is particularly impressive, with a turbocharged engine that really shows off the convertible's sporty side. Not as much as the performance-focused John Cooper Works convertible, admittedly, which is easily the fastest model on offer thanks to it's 208bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, 148 mph top speed and slinky dimensions. However, as open-to driving is more about wind-in-the-hair excitement, a lack of power may not bother many buyers – especially as the price naturally goes up with the increased performance.
Price, value for money & options
Expensive to buy but retains its value well on the used market
No MINIs are cheap, but superb resale values in the used car market will keep monthly lease rates low and will get outright buyers a pretty decent deal when selling it on further down the line. You will pay up to £2,500 more for the convertible over the hatchback, however, and the MINI's nearest rival – the Citroen DS3 Cabrio – is a bit cheaper. Cooper models are more expensive than the entry-level One but are much better equipped and more powerful but with the same excellent fuel economy and efficiency.
What the others say
What's more, the familiar styling and excellent quality inside mean the One doesn’t lose any of the desirability that is an absolute essential in this competitive sector. The sturdy cloth roof takes only 15 seconds to open fully, and the process can be carried out at up to 20mph.
It may look very similar, but in fact it is totally new with a stiffer body for better refinement with the roof down. MINI has also changed the rollover hoops which used to block rear visibility, making the model much more driver-friendly, especially when parking. As with any MINI it is great fun to drive while the engines offer a strong combination of performance and economy.
Exterior styling changes may demonstrate the reality of the word “subtle” but they are sufficient to freshen things up a bit. The major interior improvement is the replacement of ugly, vision-blocking fixed rollover bars with a hidden pair that can pop up in 150 milliseconds to help reduce a looming crisis to drama status.
The Mini Cooper Convertible provides all the open-top driving thrills you could ask for, while residual values are exceptional.
Last updated: 31 Oct 2013