MotoringFile Review: Cooper S Convertible

My week with the MINI Cooper S convertible has come and gone all too quickly. While I’ve never had much of a soft spot in my heart for open top cars I’ve really grown to appreciate the MCSc. My Cool Blue MINI Cooper S convertible came lightly equipped with just the premium pack, dark blue leather seats, and a dark blue top. Feedback was generally mixed on the exterior color combo while the interior (especially the seats and the chrome) was very well received. One thing is for certain… it wasn’t quite my preferred spec. First off, heated seats would have been on top of my list as they would extend the top down season by at least a few weeks. Secondly, I would have opted for a non-leather seating surface. As great looking as the dark blue leather seats are, one can’t help but cringe at their price ($1300). Especially when other, fairly noteworthy options, were omitted on this $28,000+ car. Granted, it’s hard to fault any spec choice on the convertible. As always MINI has done a great job in giving an almost endless options list for customers to create their own look.

But looks can only go so far. Questions remained from quite a few MINI enthusiasts out there. Does the weight and change in structure give it a different feel than the hardtop? Is the open top experience worth the extra cost? And finally, most importantly does this car live up to the Mini/MINI heritage?

In the end I found the convertible to be quite an endearing car. While it is indeed softer, weighs more, and is certainly less practicality than the hardtop, it offers intangibles that far out weigh those faults. But lets take a moment to talk about some of those faults.


The convertible MINI suffers from one of the worst blind spots I’ve ever seen on a vehicle. While it was nice of MINI to throw in the rear backup sensors to help alleviate the problem, it does not come close to solving it. No amount of readjusting of the side mirrors eliminate the issue either.

Also there’s the problem of that added 200lbs. That, coupled with the lack of Sport Suspension Plus, allow the car to lean a bit more in hard corners than a typical MCS.

Not that those 200lbs didn’t go to a good cause. The MINI convertible is an incredibly stiff open top car due to the extra thick door sills, incredible strong A-pillars and other reinforcements. While that superb structure helps reduce body flex and cowl shake, it does not eliminate it. Going over some of the larger potholes gave the car and the structure quite a work out. As much as MINI’s engineers worked to create an extraordinarily stiff car, no amount of engineering can overcome the poorly maintained roads that seem to litter the northern part of the US. Driving the MCSc up and down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago daily for instance proved to be quite a workout for the car. If the Nurburgring is where BMW goes to test handling and suspension, Lake Shore Drive is where they should go to test ride.


This leads to real differences in performance between the hardtop and the convertible MINI. In fact the very qualities that the convertible loses ground in are some of the most important elements that make the new MINI such a great iteration of the original. Simply put, when pushed hard, the convertible isn’t as composed as the hardtop MINI. You feel extra body flex and lack of SS+ suspension when diving hard into high speed corners, corners where the new MINI typically creates little drama.

But let’s not lose sight of the big picture as the positives of this car are many.

First off, there’s that unique, multi season top. The MCSc is really the first convertible I’ve ever driven that I could conceivably have the top open on any given week of the year in Chicago. That makes this convertible almost practical and certainly more usable (in top down mode) compared to others out there. Suddenly that extra $4500 seems a little more of a justified expenditure.


Further, at 9/10s the ability of the hardtop there are few things on the road that are more fun to get in a drive than the MCS convertible. And then there’s the truly unique driving experience that I enjoyed every time I stepped into the car. With the A-pillars and windshield so far out in front of the driver, the MINI convertible delivers a true open top motoring experience like few others.

So would I dump my hard top sensibilities for the convertible after a week? In a word, no. However, would I recommend it to someone considering both? Absolutely. In the end, the MCSc succeeds as both a convertible and as a MINI. It’s not as dynamic a corner carver as the hardtop but it’s got the intangibles that make it a viable choice for those with a bit more of an open attitude.


For more thoughts on the MINI Cooper Convertible check out the daily updates that we’ve run the past week:

Day One with the MCS Convertible
Day Two with the MCS Convertible
Day Three with the MCS Convertible
Day Four with the MCS Convertible
Day Five with the MCS Convertible
Day Six with the MCS Convertible

  • Would blind spot mirrors work on this car? I use 'em on my truck and they make a world of difference. They essentially remove the blind spot in its entirety and allow me to see that there's nothing along-side me before doing lane changes, without having to look over my shoulder. The mirrors may be too small, however…

  • Excellent review Gabe. Spectacular photos as well!

    LSD used to be my standard for bad roads (as well as irving park and other chicago roads as they were being ripped up and paved)…but Moving to Boston really taught me a lesson. Quarter the quality of the worst road there, then apply it to all roads here, no matter in the city or the burbs! It is the single reason why I chose 16s over 17s. The bright side is, not a commute goes by that I don't get to slalom autocross style in attempt to avoid things. 🙂

    There are many times even here in New England that I can see it would be great to have a convertible. Especially on those cool but sunny days in the the winter where everyone else has to be sealed up!

  • indimini

    It sounds like the cornering performance is somewhere between a hardtop MC and MCS – is that fair to say? How would you compare the sportiness of the MCSC to an MC? That's the move I'm making, so I expect I will still see an improvement in performance compared to what I'm used to with the added benefits of the drop top.

  • Thanks for the week of reviews Gab, it's been very interesting to read.

    You might find this a little hard to answer, but:

    I read a lot of reviews saying similar things to yours, Gabe. That the MCSC doesn't corner as well, and is much heavier. But what I've found over the years from reading expert reviews (for any product) is that what the experts pick up on, I rarely do.

    For example, read a review of the MiniDisc format from a high-end stereo reviewer and they'll slate it, saying the sound quality is terrible and incomparable to vinyl. Me? Well, I owned a MiniDisc player for years and couldn't have been happier with the portability, convenience, or sound quality of it.

    Granted I never sat in an acoustically perfect room and listened to both MiniDisc and Vinyl to compare the two, but I certainly never noticed anything amiss or lacking when listening to my MD player on a day to day basis.

    So, what I'm building up to here is: as a keen driver (but not an expert) who'll rarely be pushing the car to its cornering limits are these issues really going to be something I notice?

    If I stepped into a MCSC tomorrow and took it out for a hard drive, would I come back and complain about the cornering? Or would I just have a big smile on my face?

    I want the convertible, but I don't want a flawed car. I don't care if it's not quite as good as the hardtop, but I still want to be able to hammer the thing and not feel like I'm driving my girlfriends mushy Honda as I corner.

    So, what do you think? Would a regular person pick up the problems in a one-off, no-comparison test?

  • michael Boice

    Hey Gabe,

    Based upon your experience, how would you spec 'your' Mini Convertable? You've only noted a couple of items. My sister is considering a Mini Convertable – she is a convertable freak(Saab). Thanks

  • MacGuruTX

    Indimini — I'm the proud owner of a 5 day old MCSC whereas my Girlfriend as a 2 month old Hardtop Cooper (automatic)

    Comparing the two, my S is SO much more responsive then hers. I'm not sure how much of this is the automatic vs the manual. Put the automatic Cooper really feels like I'm missing power in the low end. I won't just pull into traffic with it. With my S convertible, the car positively squirts out there.

    Dunstan — I'm just getting the feel for the car and like you, don't always notice what the professionals do. I'm coming from an SUV, 92 Pathfinder. I'm trying to hold back on the car since it is still new, but have noticed that if I take a corner sharply (90 degree type turns) with some speed then I do get the sensation that the back end is “hopping” at times. Not sure if this is different then the hardtop or not. I have the sports package with performance runflats. Perhaps someone else can advise.

  • Howard

    I wish someone would do a review on the Mini Coovertible non S. Every review I've seen for the Convertible so far has been for the S. If people are complaninig about the extra weight on the Convertible with the S, that means on the non s its twice as bad since the acceleration isn't as good.

  • BudD

    I agree, excellent review. My 02 MC I bought for the handling and speed (yes, frequent over 115 MPH not that unsual). My new 05 convertible is for cruising, so weight and handling is not so much of an issue this time around.

  • indimini wrote: “It sounds like the cornering performance is somewhere between a hardtop MC and MCS – is that fair to say? How would you compare the sportiness of the MCSC to an MC?”

    A: Actually I'd say the MC is really the best handling MINI of them all. In it's stock form it's has the exact same suspension as the Cooper S Convertible. It can also be equipped with the Sport Suspension Plus (the same suspension that's in the MCS hardtop) something the Cooper S Convertible owners can't get. And to top it off it's lighter than not only the convertible but the hard top MCS as well.

  • Dunstan wrote: If I stepped into a MCSC tomorrow and took it out for a hard drive, would I come back and complain about the cornering? Or would I just have a big smile on my face?

    A: Great question… I can't imagine anyone coming back from a drive and complaining about the cornering of this car. While there is a subtle difference the typical driver would not really notice it on public roads.

  • Howard wrote: I wish someone would do a review on the Mini Coovertible non S.

    A: I was scheduled for one but it ended up falling right in the middle of my move. I would recommend reading a review of the Cooper vs the Cooper S and then reading the review above. Hopefully that will give you a decent picture of the MCc.

  • Gabe, excellent article.

    Someone up there pointed out that (they too!) don't always notice the really fine points, usually on the down side, by reviewers. There are people who complain about the MCS. Not me 🙂

    That said, however, my S is one smokin' car to drive. I know I'm going to give back some for the rag top. Do you think this can be made up any with aftermarket stuff: better springs come to mind since you mentioned cornering. Thanks again, for the review and the site. David

  • Vanwall

    Thanks for the excellent review – it's prolly the first really in-depth one on the MCSC out there. Did you notice any of the wear issues that have come up on the top in other forums? Did you get a chance to try out the rear-window defrost? Thanks again –

        Rob in Dago

  • Russell

    I live in San Diego and I am the proud owner of a 2005 Triple Black MCSc.

    I had a 2004 JCW and with the revised gearing of the '05, I'd say they are both just as quick off the line.

    The MCSc is truly amazing! What a feeling. I have a couple of Go-Fast parts on it and I must say that this is the most fun I have had in a daily driver. I have had them all.


    Russell from Encinitas, CA

  • Evan

    As always, great review and nice objective observations.

    I think that any MINI- convertible or hardtop with or without SS or SS+ is a far better handler than anything else out there- or at least anything even near its price point. I drive my girlfriend's Civic and feel like I'm all over the road, bounding up and down with a light feel and really weak brakes. And Civics are always reported as great handling cars. All I know is that my MC smokes it. She even admits that driving my car is a lot better. Next time she can get her own…

    The convertible gives up a little to the hardtop in the performance arena- but it'd be a miracle if a chopped off, heavier car did do better. I belive the MINI convertible wears the badge well.

    Oh- it's funny that Josh said that about the Boston roads b/c I moved from Boston to Chicago for school and find the roads in Chicago to be far worse than anything in Boston. At least it is more fun to do a slalom run every day to avoid the potholes. Plus the MINI actually handles them better at speed.

    All MINIs actually like to be at speed- that's when they're alive!

    Motor On. MC, MCS, MCc, or MCSc- any more iterations and we'll need a translator!

  • elmor fudwel

    From Above: “In it's stock form it's has the exact same suspension as the Cooper S Convertible”.

    So the MCSc drives softer or more comfortable than the MCS? The MCS seems to have a brashness. I've considered changing out the runflats to regular tires to enable a softer suspension.

  • Jeff


    Would you recommend the 17″ wheels on the convertible? I know many people feel these are rough riding, but with the lack of SS+ could they be a better choice than the 16s?

  • IMHO I would always recommend 17″ wheels They just look so right on the car. – there I said it 🙂

    I have 17″ wheels without runflats on my MINI and they are less harsh than the 16″ wheels w/runflats that came on the car. The runflats are a healthy part of the harshness issue.

  • Greg

    What is the reason for no SSP?

  • Q: Did you notice any of the wear issues that have come up on the top in other forums?

    I didn't notice any wear issues however I did notice wrinkle/fold marks on the top behind the windows. The marks were made to look worse by a fine white dust that was on them. A damp cloth remedied the situation.

    I did use the defrost once… it seemed to work as advertised.

  • Josh

    Gabe, is there any way to get SS+ after the fact? I'd be interested if it could be installed on an MCSc or even my MC hatch. The regular SS just seems to roll a little more in the corners than I would like.

    Also, would the JCW suspension work on an MCSc?

  • Absolutely – you either need to find an MCS owner who is upgrading to something else or just order the parts and have it installed. Obviously for the Cooper (hardtop) owner it would be much cheaper to get it from the factory.

    The JCW suspension is not listed as being available for the MCSc.

  • Jake

    I am very happy with my ten days old Cooper convertible. It's true, the rearward visibility is poor but that's only a problem when you try to back into a parking space. That really takes some exercise. However, I don't feel insecure while driving, for example when changing the lane. I also have to admit that the convertible is not very practical, mainly because the boot slot is so narrow and Easy-Load mechanism much too complex. Despite of these drawbacks I have so much fun with this car! There is nothing that can compare to an open MINI drive feeling. And I don't know any other car that creates such a positive feedback on the street.

  • Michael,

    My spec would include:

    Hyper Blue/Blue Top (or maybe orange) Sunrise/Navy seats Sport Pack (with Web-spoke wheels) Cold Weather Pack Premium Pack Chrome Line Trim Limited Slip

    Or something like that 🙂

  • Took my '02 MC in for its 25K this morning and was loaned an MCc CVT–cute little thing, isn't it? The handling was still far better than on most non-MINIs, and the difference between getting onto the expressway with my MC versus the definitely heavier MCc was mostly remedied by hitting the Sport Drive mode (gives an extra 1K RPM, essentially). The lack of rear visibility was a much greater concern overall than the acceleration and cornering, and the larger rearview mirror doesn't make up for it–I just got a much bigger view of the backseat.

    Nevertheless, I think it's got all the MINI character I'd expect and the added benefit of the ragtop for those who want it. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a convertible, though I'd still say an MC or MCS is a far more practical choice overall (in Chicago, anyway) and that those models offer a more immediate motoring experience.

    Ultimately, of course, I sure wouldn't kick it out of my hypothetical three-car garage 🙂

  • Melanie

    After one week with my 2005 MCSc (Chili Red/Black, chrome in/out, white w/black edge bonnet stripes, all 3 packages) I can't rave enough. It took just a little time to get used to the bumpier ride vs. my other car, an Audi A4Q, but that was totally eclipsed by the awesome handling and power of the MINI. I just step on the pedal, visualize where I am going to go on the road and the car ends up there is a heartbeat. It's incredible. There have been a couple days warm enough to drive with the top down, which is totally awesome! The car draws lots of stares, even here in San Francisco (where there can be a lot to stare at.) The lack of rearward visibilty took some getting used to. I think it's made me a better driver because I really double check before a lane change. I did get a small wide angle mirror for the passenger side and that helps – but also, as I drive it, it's less of a problem and I have become more comfortable with it.
    The interior (with the red dash and door panels)looks just awesome, very nicely appointed, even with leather (the pleather is so nice that when a friend – who has a Mini on order – sat in it yesterday he thought it WAS leather!)
    It's the coolest car I have ever owned, and is just like a big go-kart on wheels to drive. I'm a very happy girl!

  • Paul

    Question for Gabe or anyone who would like to chime in: I would like to buy a Cabrio, but I am unsure that I need the S. I have not heard any complaints about the power/acceleration of the standard cabrio. Can you comment?

    thank you

  • Ian

    Paul, you really need to drive both and make your own decision. Sub 10s 0-60 is nothing shabby and you will find the base Cooper quite impressive, unless you also test the S version 😉

  • Paul – I own a Cooper and live in the city. I find the only place I really want for more power is out on the highway or in more rural settings. The Cooper is plenty fast 0-30.

    That being said the Convertible adds roughly 200lbs to it is a bit more sluggish than the hardtop Cooper.

  • Paul

    Thanks to Ian and Gabe. I’m looking forward to joining the ever-growing club of MINI owners in the near future!


  • James

    Very proud owner of Purple Haze MCSC+JCW. I don’t understand why the blind spot and weight of the cvt seems to be such a big issue on all of the forums/message boards. The weight difference is actually about 175lbs. I drive my car to work and back by myself every day during the week. On the weekends, with my friend in the car, we go crazy fast through the mountain passes in WA. and I really do not notice a difference in perf/handling. As for the blind spot, I know, it is terrible; but with the power you have in such a little car, all you have to do is accelerate before changing lanes. Your blind spot will move and you can then see if it is clear or not.

    Long story short, this car is amazing. The JCW was absolutley worth the price since I am not a grease monkey. My advice to people concerned about the little things, don’t.

  • My wife & I have driven the new cooper a total on 85700 miles in 31 months, so starting with 02 standard, ending with 05 rag top, so I dwyan , thank having that much driving experience, with both cars, have something to say.Both cars handle off the chart, and if you think the rag, has a disadvantage in the corners with the top back, according to the digital scales on all four wheels the weight distribution is actually 18% better than a hard top, and don’t forget about the x-cross bracing system on the under far as performance the 05 has a factory tuned header creating better mid-range torque (3200/5200) rpm range. having 30 years automotive experience we are currently doing up grades on brakes and soon to install turbo-charger.having master ase certification would invite any questions. let’s motor!! see you at Deal’s Gap(tail of the dragon). the shark.

  • Gary Wilkinson

    I am proud new owner of mcs convertible with 17 inch run flat tires. Any comments on using regular tires instead? Do the kits of sealant work well on flats? I am a bit nervous about riding around with no spare with either regular tires or the run flats. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Gary in Williamsburg, Va

  • SimpleDylan

    Greetings from Australia…Not many MCSc’s getting around down here. Although i am proud to announce that i snatched one up!

    A ‘spirited’ test drive on the tuesday, in my driveway on friday. An anwesome experience.

    I’m in love =D!

  • SimpleDylan

    an awesome!**

  • Great review- really enjoying the site!

    Just ordered my MCSc today. I opted to not get the Limited-Slip Differential and HK audio system. Figure the extra 250lbs. of up-armor on the convertible will help keep the wheels on the ground for my needs (I don’t race.) As for the HK audio, I don’t think I’d get true enjoyment out of it unless I was in a hardtop. The outside noise (top up or down) would probably make for little discernable difference between it and the standard stereo during high speeds.

  • mark

    Good site-i have been doing gradual research since getting my mcsc six months ago. which i replaced a boring jaguar xk8. the mini is way more fun. and even has much more room for my 6’3” frame.

    my question for you mini guys is about the bmw endorsed DINAN upgrades. i stumbled across a guy who had a mcs with a “dinan stage 3” mini performance package. it “looked” better than jcw package with its cooperSS badge and the chrome strut tower brace looked great with the go-fast items on display with the hood up. the dinan packages are installed by bmw and covered with full dealership warranty. you can upgrade in phases. or put a top of the line “stage 5” kit. check out

    so has anybody else had an experience with the dinan-mini parts. they seem a unique, less expensive, and yet still a factory endorsed alternative!!

  • Mark – just an fyi – according to a MINIUSA memo released a few years ago any aftermarket product has the ability to void the warranty. It’s important to keep in mind that MINIUSA and Dinan have no official relationship. In fact the only relationship that Dinan has to MINIUSA at all is that some MINI dealers also sell Dinan parts. Basically Dinan has it’s own warranty that some MINI dealers will honor. So keep in mind quite a few MINI dealers will not cover Dinan parts.

    Otherwise most people I’ve talked with have been very underwhelmed by Dinan’s response to the MINI market. From what I’ve seen the parts seem well made but certainly not up to the level of the JCW parts. That said they are cheaper.

  • Cheri Christensen

    I’m considering purchasing a Mini Cooper S Convertible, but I’m concerned about the lack of visibility in the back. Does anyone know if Mini is going to address this problem in 2006? I won’t really be using the back seats, is it possible to take the headrests off? Any info or ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Allison

    am in a pickle! have an 02 MC and just test drove both the MC convertible and MCSc today while waiting for my 40k service…the car is beautiful and a true joy to drive…especially the S (but I just don’t think I can justify the added expense of the S since I live in a city).

    Has anyone noticed any kinks that need to be worked out with the convertible (other than addressing blindspot if possible)? I’m not sure if I’m better off waiting for 2006. I love my car, but as with any new model, I definitely have experienced some bugs that have since been addressed in later model years…can I expect the same thing with the convertible?

  • Jaybo54

    Hello All,

    I have not bought a Mini yet but I am looking. I have some ideas about how I want to go about the Mini and maybe some of you can tell me if its feasible. I am very technically capable(21 year acft insp at major airline) so I can do much of the work myself if needed

    See here is the issue,the packages give me more than I want, ie 17″ wheels on the sport package, heated mirrors on the cold weather package.

    So what I want to do if I can, is obtain essentially a base model Mini, but with a 6 speed transmission and the 16″ wheels. Then add the heated seat, the supercharger, the DSC, and some of the rest later on my own.

    Is this a plan that can be successful?



  • Cindy

    I live in Ontario and took delivery of my Cooper convertible last March. I’m still smiling!!

    Mine is cool blue with black top, heated fabric seats (not leather), chrono package (twin gauges on the steering column instead of the tach), all-weather package, CVT transmission and interior chrome package.

    We took the car to the British Car show in Oakville on the weekend and among about a dozen new minis, it was the ONLY convertible (which shocked the heck out of me).

    Reaction: the car was swarmed. A couple of people from the US commented how hard it was to find them there.

    Generally, people fixate on the dash because all the chrome looks so COOL. Mine also has chrome roll bar covers.

    Problems: only this week, the passenger door latch stopped working (Bowden cable had to be replaced) and upon getting the car back from service, the passenger window was making a weird thunk when opened and closed. Then, the door windows started to operate when pressing the rear windows switch! So it went back to the shop and apparently now fixed; we’ll see when I pick it up tonight.

    Performance: I love squealing the tires going around a corner, turning right from a stopped position. It’s only a little squeal mind you, but ‘way fun. And I’ve said a couple of indelicate words when passing stinky big trucks on the highway and noticing I’m doing 160kmh (100 mph!).

    I guess I should prepare my “why Cindy should keep her driving license” speech for the judge in case I get caught!

    Regrets? NO WAY!

  • Cindy

    Forgot to mention that I chose “Anthracite” for the interior trim accent colour (instead of aluminum or body colour). It was the perfect choice to highlight the chrome.

    Okay enough from me now.

  • Ben Holliday

    I have an 05 MCSc…

    Blind spot is not a problem on the highways. I feel the mirrors are fine for merging, turn the head a little like any car. Backing up is a little difficult but if you are careful as you should with any car, and use the backup sensors there should be no problem…

    I have not spent much time in the hard top but i love my handling… I have a sway bar in the front that adds a little stability, and i tear through the corners like the rest of them.

    The rough ride is purely from the run flats… If you put regular tires onit the ride is much smoother and performance even better.

    Personally, i love tearing through the corners with the top down… it gives the car a lower center of gravity and i would not be suprised if it out performed in the twisties.

    As far as the extra weight, adding a few simple and inexpensive modifications can more than make up for the weight differential from a power perspective.

    Top down, windows up, and speeds greatly exceeding limits, 100+ (on the track of course), wind is still minimal in the front cockpit… absolutely superb! This is head and shoulders above all other convertibles i have driven.

  • Teresa

    The key to solving any problems would be to get the convertible with the sports package. It is kind of a waste to review one without it.

    My MCSC has the sports package & I can’t imagine it being able to corner any better. Whenever I go on rides with fellow hardtop owners I keep up with them through the twisties just fine. I also would not recommend getting a non-S convertible because the added weight would make it too slow. Stick with the S on convertibles.

  • Just to clarify – The sport package on the convertible has the same exact suspension as the non-sport package MCSc. MINI doesn’t sell any convertible with the SS+ suspension found on the hardtop.

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