mReview: MINI Cooper Convertible - A Designer Handbag With Wheels
As it stands, MINIs have something of a cult following, it's hard to drive one without cries of “omg so cute!!” from an adoring fanbase (mostly from the women) and the male fans of MINI don’t fall far from that tree either.
Based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, there are only three cars that seem to be recurring choices when posing the “favourite car” question to women, the Suzuki Jimny, the Mercedes G-Wagon, and of course, the MINI Cooper.
The MINI Cooper Convertible in particular seems to be the pinnacle of the MINI-cuteness-scale with a fabric roof able to fold away quickly and at speeds of up to 30km/h. It works in two stages, a half-opened “sunroof” mode, and the fully-stowed-away mode. The allure and novelty of convertibles is one that still appeals to many people, even more so when the folding roof is attached to the already-sought-after Mini Cooper.
With the roof down, the Cooper Convertible is a stylish little thing, with its cutesy front fascia receiving a recent facelift. It sports LED daytime running lights and headlamps with a bit of a “Fu Manchu” situation going on in between. The front end is also fairly unmolested by grilles, with just two narrow horizontal slits to let air into the engine bay.
The front still retains the MINI aesthetic though, which is no doubt one of the reasons people still easily recognise and adore the lovable look of the MINI Cooper. It’s a similar story with the side profile and the rear of the car. With the roof up, the Cooper retains its boxy, hatchback design and with the roof down, the Convertible takes on a more fashionable look, ready for a spot of open-air motoring.
Simply put, driving the Cooper Convertible is a cinch. It’s powered by an equally miniature 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine that makes 134hp and 220Nm of torque and is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch ‘box. It’s a punchy little drivetrain and the lack of weight or physical size makes the Cooper Convertible feel peppy and eager to get on with the job of driving.
Its small size makes it feel like you’re driving a bee, effortlessly flitting through traffic and busy streets. The steering is on the heavier side but lacks in feel, though it does make up for it by being accurate and direct, a boon to the overall agility of the car. Despite being a convertible, the Cooper Convertible doesn’t suffer from the wobbliness you sometimes get in other convertibles when driven hard. The car still feels ready and eager to be pitched into corners and its short wheelbase further lends to its darty, agile feel.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Cooper Convertible is a hot hatch, it really isn’t. The brakes aren’t brilliant when going hard and the power figure could definitely be improved. But for getting to and from lunch appointments and navigating the busy city, there are few cars that are capable of accomplishing that task as capably and more importantly, as fashionably as the Cooper Convertible.
However, not everything is fine and dandy with the Cooper Convertible. It’s pretty sparsely equipped and misses out on a lot of creature comforts people might expect in a car today, especially one at this price point. The seats are manual, there’s just one single USB type-A port in the entire car, and its infotainment system, while functional, is rather outdated.
Practicality is also not the Cooper Convertible’s strong suit. Granted, the standard Cooper hatch is not incredibly practical either, but the impracticality is on a whole new level in the Convertible. With the roof up, boot space is tragic at best and with the roof down, you’re better off just chucking stuff in the rear seats (which I did).
Therefore, I feel, that the MINI Cooper Convertible is best likened to one of those expensive designer handbags made by the Chanels and Louis Vuittons of the world. Those bags also tend to not serve much function in the eyes of the practical man and yet still command a pretty premium. But like the Mini, the product itself is able to evoke a sense of desire in its customers.
People are able to overlook the foibles of the car/bag and even put down big money for what others might consider “not worth” or “not practical”. But to the stylish and fashionable folk that buy them, those are not even considerations. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people, but even I, a decidedly unfashionable individual, can see the vision of what the MINI-driving-lifestyle is about. It’s a world where you glide elegantly between your brunches and workout classes, your designer handbag loyally at your side, and a key with "MINI" etched on it kept within.
|MINI Cooper Convertible 1.5
|Price (at time of publishing): On application
|VES Band: B
Power & Torque:
134 bhp @ 4,500 - 6,500 rpm & 220 Nm @ 1,480 - 4,100 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Tank Capacity:
Dimensions (L x W x H):
3,863 mm x 1,727 mm
x 1,415 mm
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