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: