MINI Cooper S Convertible Review
2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

MINI Cooper S Convertible Review

Car Tested: 2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible; Road Test No. 714

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 45.40 lakhs

The MINI Cooper S Convertible is a car meant to make you feel special without splurging a lot

Imagine yourself as a person who has achieved a lot in life, or has inherited a lot. With a big business to manage or a job with long hours at the desk, driving daily just isn’t your cup of tea. It is the chauffeur driving your luxury sedan which gives you the most comfort and even lets you work on the go. After the five rather boring days of the week comes a weekend which you certainly deserve to enjoy. But, driving the rather tame luxury sedan can’t be too exciting, right? This is where you need another car. A car which is enjoyable, a car in which you can take your partner out, a car which isn’t prohibitively expensive yet gives you the thrill you seek on the weekend. And for the intended purpose, the MINI Cooper S seems to be the perfect fit. But can there be something better? Of course yes, the MINI Cooper S Convertible.

Motor Quest: The current generation MINI Cooper uses the UKL platform which is borrowed from BMW. It underpins the BMW 2-Series as well and is a front-wheel drive platform. The MINI has grown considerably in size over the years. This has also increased its weight from a feather light 635 kgs to a relatively hefty 1300+ kgs. However, the brand has tried to retain driving fun as much as possible.

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The Cooper S Convertible is arguably the best looking hatchback in India

Exteriors – There are very few hatchbacks in this world which can one up the MINI Cooper in terms of looks. In the convertible avatar, looks only go a notch higher. With the roof down, the Cooper S Convertible looks BEAUTIFUL. There can’t be a single person around the car who wouldn’t notice it. Driving around town, the attention this hatchback managed to grab exceeded what some flashy sports cars costing more than twice the money could. The front end looks very aggressive with the new design language which gives it an edgy bumper design and gorgeous looking headlamps. On to the side, the rather large door occupies most of the side profile.

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The MINI has grown in size and the rear gives that away

Seldom do hatchbacks look sexier than the MINI Convertible, put the roof down and all the attention is yours

Bigger alloys would further improve the looks at the cost of practicality. At the rear, things are very similar to the Cooper S with the huge tail lights demanding attention. The roof when folded down covers quite a bit of space above the boot lid and doesn’t look particularly nice. It also hinders the rear visibility making the inside rear view mirror almost useless. Since it doesn’t come with rear parking camera as standard, parking it in tight spaces can be quite a task with the roof down. The fabric roof when up blends in well and doesn’t look too out of place. The Union Jack on the roof is an option, a rather expensive one, like most other nice to have goodies.

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The interior layout is practical and has that retro appeal

Interiors – Step inside the MINI and you will immediately notice the retro appeal in the design. The dashboard houses the music system in the centre instead of the speedometer like the older MINI’s. The instrument cluster is now housed in the conventional position and we prefer it this way. The seats offer good support and do not let you unsettle while pushing hard into corners. However, look at the standard interiors and you would be disappointed. The seats aren’t leather nor are they electrically adjustable, something which isn’t acceptable in a car costing close to entry level luxury sedans.

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Rear seats are not meant for humans, shopping bags won’t complain

There isn’t much equipment offered as standard, interiors are disappointing

Move on to the rear seats and you would immediately realize that they are built only for very young kids. A slightly older kid would be able to kick on the front seats and this would be rather annoying. Being a convertible, headroom is a little better than the standard Cooper S. The most surprising and annoying elements for me was noticed with the roof up. Rattle! Yes, the roof of the MINI Cooper S Convertible rattles when it is in closed position. The even more annoying part is that the rattle isn’t a minor one, it is pretty loud. So much so that I ended up driving with the roof down on a harsh April afternoon.

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Excellent power-to-weight ratio makes it a hoot to drive

Performance – Talking about the performance of the MINI Cooper S Convertible is what makes me happy, afterall that is what the car is all about. The 2.0-litre petrol engine borrowed from BMW is a brilliant unit and gives the hatchback excellent performance. 189 horses in a car which weighs just under 1400 kgs is a recipe for fun. Ample torque is available low down in the rev range which lets one drive peacefully in city traffic. Move on to open roads and the MINI won’t disappoint you there either. Put your foot down and it will shame many bigger cars thanks to its excellent power-to-weight ratio.

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The 2-litre engine is a gem, 6-speed gearbox performs well too

It is difficult to beat the MINI Cooper S Convertible in terms of fun-to-drive factor, it is addictive

To give you the best of all worlds, the MINI Cooper S Convertible comes with three driving modes – Sport, Green and Mid. As is obvious from the names, the Sport mode is the most fun while the Green mode gives the best fuel efficiency. The Mid mode is the best for driving in most conditions as it gives optimum balance of performance and fuel efficiency. I ended up driving in Sport mode for majority of my stint with the car as I just couldn’t get enough of the exhaust sound which is the best in this mode.

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Addictive exhaust note will make you drive with the roof down

The exhaust is very sweet sounding and one might forget that the sound is coming out of a 4-cylinder engine. The barks on downshifts and lift off are very addictive and made me use the paddles very often. The paddle shifters are a delight to use and let you eek out every single drop of performance from the car. For the drag racing fanatics, the MINI Cooper S Convertible gets launch control too. To use the same, one has to switch off traction control, apply full brake with left foot, accelerate fully with right foot and then lift off the brake. Do it right and you will be able to get a 0-100 time of under seven seconds, very close to what MINI claims.

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Not as fun to drive as the old one, it is still very good

Driving Dynamics – The increased weight and size over the previous generations is offset by the increase in power and thus the performance isn’t affected. The suspension is set-up well and gives the Cooper S Convertible excellent cornering ability. However, the ride is pretty stiff and many bumps are felt by the occupants. Our test car came shod with Hankook Ventus which aren’t the best when it comes to grip and the car definitely deserves stickier tyres as they are an essential part of the package.

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The steering doesn’t feel direct, EPS robs off the feel

The previous generation Cooper S certainly felt better to drive but this isn’t too far off the mark

The steering feel is very good and it gives good feedback too. At high speeds, it weighs up decently, and performs nicely for an electric unit. A hydraulic power steering would be much appreciated but then MINI can’t be blamed as the world is moving towards electric power steering. The brakes perform their duty well and never does one feel nervous no matter what speed you end up hitting the brakes at. As a package, the Cooper S Convertible is extremely fun-to-drive but the fun would be a level higher if the minor negatives are sorted out.

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Safety is at the forefront in the MINI Cooper S Convertible

Safety and After Sales Service – When it comes to safety, MINI hasn’t left any stone unturned. The most critical safety feature for a convertible car, Active Rollover Protection Bar is present. Six airbags are in place to protect the occupants in case of an unfortunate crash and so is corner brake control along with ABS and EBD to prevent the crash. Coming to the after sales service, MINI benefits from BMW’s wide service network and there haven’t been many complaints regarding the service quality too.

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The perfect weekend car, not too heavy on the wallet either

Verdict – We started with finding the right car for a person to have fun on weekends after a tiring week. Is MINI Cooper S Convertible the car for him then? Well, as per what I have deduced from my stint with it, it certainly is. It gets him the needed thrill, attention, practicality and all this while not being prohibitively expensive. But not expensive only till the point the person doesn’t end up ticking too many options as the optional equipment is frightfully expensive and can take the hatchback to the wrong side of fifty lakhs in no time. But, all is forgotten as soon as you get behind the wheel and start driving.

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Standard equipment is very basic, lots of necessities are an option

What’s Cool

* Looks
* Potent engine
* Addictive exhaust note
* Did I mention looks?

What’s Not So Cool

* Spartan interiors
* Basic equipment missing
* Exorbitantly priced optional equipment

Alternatives: Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione

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The car grabs a lot of eyeballs on the roads due to the looks

2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible Specifications

* Engine: 1999cc, 4 cylinder, Turbocharged Petrol
* Power: 189 BHP @ 4700-6000 RPM
* Torque: 280 Nm @ 1250 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
* 0-100 km/hr: 6.8 seconds (Claimed), 6.96 seconds (VBOX)
* Fuel Consumption: 8 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Active Damping Individual Suspension
* Tyres: 295/45/ZR20
* Brakes: Disc brakes (front), disc brakes, ABS
* Safety: 6 Airbags, ABS, EBD, CBC, ESP, Active Rollover Protection Bar

2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 3860 mm X 1730 mm X 1415 mm
* Wheelbase: 2495 mm
* Kerb weight: 1372 kgs
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 45-litres

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It is one of the most fun cars I have driven in the recent past

Testers’ Note:

“The MINI Cooper S Convertible packs the best of both worlds – exciting performance and open top motoring. Being a MINI, the vehicle looks stunning and attracts a ton of attention, more so when you drop the top and experience wind in your hair. The icing on the cake is of course the fantastic sound the 4 banger makes, becoming more audible with the roof down. The MINI Cooper S Convertible is the cheapest way to experience the sky while also having exciting performance underneath your right foot.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“I drove the MINI Cooper S Convertible right after driving a big American gas guzzler. The transition felt too big but it is the MINI which I enjoyed driving more. Its tiny size, adequate power and excellent driving dynamics make it a hoot to drive in all conditions. Of course, there are very few things cooler than driving a car with the roof down. The wind in the hair experience at this price point is a virtue not many brands offer in India. And out of the few options, this seems to be the best. I would buy one if MINI decides to offer more equipment as standard.” – Aman Sancheti, Road Tester, MotorBeam.

Photography – Adil’s Photography