2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible Quick Take
In a perfect world, everyone would own a convertible at least once. There's something magical about lowering a car's top and motoring down a highway. Heck, even a run to the market is transformed from duty to delight.
Convertibles are endowed with a fun, carefree attitude. They prioritize enjoyment over practicality, and often come at a higher cost. Spend a few days in a convertible, though, and you'll understand why owners cherish them. You may even be smitten enough to start planning a purchase.
That was the case for my wife and I after a long weekend with the fully revamped 2016 Mini Convertible. By design Minis are zippy and dynamic. Subtracting the roof only adds to their character. In fact, the convertible Mini amplifies just about every trait of the original Hardtop, for better and worse.
Mini's self-admitted likeness to a go-kart isn't just marketing. These little British cars (whose brand owner is BMW) are a hoot to drive. Small, quick and nimble, they can't help but make you smile. One's mood brightens just looking at these cute little cars, which can be customized about a zillion ways straight from the factory. Fold the power-operated fabric roof, and the driving experience intensifies.
Part of a Mini's charm is its individualism. Whether it's their solid switchgear, that massive orb of a center screen/speedometer or the way they sip fuel while still zipping you up an on-ramp, they surprise and delight.
The Mini Convertible goes its own way with a folding fabric top that can also be partially opened. Slide it back, and you get something like a large sunroof that lets in plenty of the outside while still offering some protection from the elements. I enjoyed driving this way, but it took some experimenting with lowering the windows to reduce wind buffeting.
At higher speeds, I lowered the top completely, which takes only 18 seconds. Unlike the 2-seat Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Mini Convertible's roof bunches up behind the rear seats, which limits rear visibility. With the top down and all windows up, there was acceptable isolation from wind, but the noise level is moderate. Thankfully this model was equipped with a solid sounding Harman/Kardon audio system that out-blasted exterior noise. Oh, and of course this Mini Convertible has the "Always Open Timer" which tracks in time how long you've motored with the top down.
As a convertible, the Mini excels as an automotive toy. This Cooper S model, with its BMW-developed 189-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and optional 6-speed automatic transmission, has deceptively quick acceleration to complement its razor-sharp handling.
Minis reflect their name when it comes to storage space, and the Convertible is even more, well, mini. Storage space behind the two small rear seats, accessed by a tailgate that drops like a pickup, is tight. But even here, the Mini has a few tricks up its sleeve like the tailgate, which can act as an impromptu seat (its weight limit is listed at 176 pounds.)
Getting stuff in and out of the Mini Convertible's low and narrow partition can be awkward. Thankfully there is the "easy load" feature. By raising a couple of bars, you can lift the lower portion of the fabric roof where it meets the tailgate. This widens the cargo bay to make it easier to stow and retrieve larger items. Aligning the bars and lowering and locking them back into place took some practice, though.
The Convertible also intensifies the Mini experience in terms of cost. A base 2016 Mini Cooper Convertible starts at $26,800, over $5,000 more than a base Hardtop. The more powerful Cooper S Convertible like this one begins over $30,000, and our test model nearly kissed $40,000 with options. Exhilaration comes at a price, but in the case of the Mini Convertible, it’s justified.