MINI Convertible review
"This MINI Convertible is the best yet, delivering the driving fun and style of the hatchback with the added thrill of top-down motoring"
- High-quality interior
- Reasonable running costs
- Fun to drive
- Expensive options
- Not very practical
- Windy for rear passengers
It may not be such a common sight on Britain's roads as the iconic MINI hatchback, but the MINI Convertible is an important part of the brand’s line-up. This is particularly true in the UK; the biggest market in the world for the soft-top MINI. In fact, it's often the UK's best-selling convertible.
Now joining in its third generation, the latest MINI Convertible feels more luxurious than ever, while its increased dimensions mean it’s more spacious inside, too. The electric roof has been improved and the boot is also bigger than previous generations.
The current generation MINI Convertible was updated in 2018, and has since been refreshed again in 2021 to mark 20 years since the first BMW MINI rolled off the Oxford production line. Now, the front grille is bigger, the headlights darker and a Union Jack roof comes as standard, plus there are extra wheel and paint choices. The Zesty Yellow colour shown in our pictures is new and exclusive for the Convertible, and is as bright as it looks. There’s also a bigger media screen and new buttons, plus new options including a digital instrument cluster and electric handbrake.
You can only choose the MINI Convertible with petrol power – there's a 134bhp 1.5-litre Cooper, the quick 176bhp 2.0-litre Cooper S and an even more rapid 228bhp John Cooper Works version to choose from. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, or there's a dual-clutch (DCT) automatic gearbox. The automatic is mostly smooth at slow speeds and when you’re driving the car enthusiastically, which is exactly what the car tempts you to do. Straight-line speed aside, MINI has done a great job of transferring the fun handling and dynamics of the hatchback to the Convertible, despite the compromise entailed by removing the fixed roof.
Cooper and Cooper S engines give you the choice of three trim levels. Entry-level Classic is well equipped, incorporating features from the former Pepper and Chili option packs. There's a multi-function steering wheel and standard 8.8-inch colour touchscreen for the infotainment system, as well as air-conditioning, automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers and projectors that light the ground with a MINI emblem when you open the door.
If the Classic is a bit mundane for you, the Sport and Exclusive offer two alternative takes on the MINI identity for a bit extra. Sport is the more aggressive-looking, with the same bodykit and badges as the John Cooper Works model and an interior to match, while Exclusive forgoes the sporty look in favour of a leather interior, classy chrome exterior highlights and more reserved-looking alloy wheels. As ever, there's a long and tempting options list, but the price can quickly escalate if you get carried away.
The MINI Convertible hasn’t featured individually in our Driver Power owner satisfaction surveys of cars currently on sale in the UK, but in our 2018 survey 10.3% of owners of the mechanically identical MINI hatchback reported at least one fault in the first year. MINI as a brand seems to have work to do, though, coming 26th out of 30 brands. While the Convertible hasn’t been crash-tested itself, the hatchback it’s based on was awarded four stars for safety by Euro NCAP.
As a desirable, stylish car that’s fun to drive, the MINI Convertible commands a high price. The Cooper gets our nod over the more powerful, more expensive Cooper S, as the extra power doesn’t make enough difference to justify spending more, and the JCW is too firm for UK roads. If you’re after a compact, fun car that delivers wind-in-your-hair thrills when the weather’s good, there isn’t much out there that can beat the MINI Convertible. In fact, we’ve given it our Best Convertible award four years in a row.