I’ve had a wonderful summer as far as press cars go, mainly because of the many convertibles I’ve had. And with the weather being great all summer, having the top down made it that much better. I had the fuel sipping Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost and the monstrous 5.0 Mustang GT, both convertibles; I’ve had the wildly popular Mazda MX-5; and I've had the elegant Jaguar F-Type. All four had manual gearboxes…save the manuals, indeed!
And of course, I had a wonderful week in the 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible, also manual. I’ve always like the MINI brand and all the offerings I’ve driven from them have scored well with me.
But there’s something about having the top down with a DIY gearbox in summer heading up to a cottage in Minden, Ontario that’s unlike anything else.
I managed to fit two passengers and lots of luggage with a touch of space to spare for my weekend away at Laura’s work retreat with the top down almost the entire trip and loved every minute of it.
There’s certainly no mistaking this Cooper S for anything else on the road due to MINI’s signature look. The S trim comes with a hood scoop and centre-mounted dual exhaust that give it a sporty look. Our ragtop came with the Union Jack etched onto the roof and the optional 17” wheels framed the car nicely. Whether the roof is up or down, this small yet mighty car looks wonderful.
Power-wise, the Cooper S comes with a 2.0 L four-cylinder engine producing 189 powerful ponies and 207 lb-ft. of torque. Yes, this small car is incredibly fast, the gear shifts are incredibly smooth (unsurprisingly since parent company BMW makes some of the best manual gearboxes in the industry), and the “go-kart” handling happily continues. Cornering and handling score high marks, steering feel is responsive and exciting, and when you open up the engine at higher speeds, the car comes alive.
Fuel economy rates at 10.0 L/100 km in the city and 7.0 L/100 km on the highway on a tank of 44 L of 91 octane, which is necessary for optimal performance. Really, it’s only a few extra dollars at the pump that you’ll spend to make the most of this car.
The Cooper S rivals the Fiesta ST for being my favourite powerful small car, with both having explosive power and top-of-class handling. Simply put, the MINI is known for its brilliant handling and excitement behind the wheel and the convertible S doesn’t stray from that at all.
Inside, it’s predictable MINI with the large circular 8.8” infotainment screen, along with their signature switches. The leather Chester Malt Brown seats with a beautiful stitching pattern were very, very comfortable for everyone who was lucky enough to drive with me for the week. Even over long distances, the seats held up nicely comfort-wise. There’s very little guess-work in navigating the interior buttons/functions/switches and everything is within easy reach for the driver. The handbrake is slightly awkward to reach due to the centre arm rest but definitely not a deal breaker by any means.
With the top up, visibility (as is the case for all convertibles) suffers but between your three mirrors, awareness of your surroundings, and always backing into parking spots, you can counter that easily.
Trunk space is, well, it’s not great, but it is creative. Since it’s a convertible, MINI has their trunk lid fold down to access the 160 L of space with the top open, which is good enough for groceries and smaller city-based items. Or in my case, a small suitcase and a duffel bag. This MINI’s cool creative aspect is described by them as: “The Easy Load Function increases the size of the luggage compartment opening by pushing up the roof base – making loading your cargo an effortless task. And when the top is closed, the luggage compartment offers a generous cargo capacity of 215 L.” And yes, those extra 55L of space were well utilized at a bakery stop on the way home from the cottage.
The roof has a middle setting which can best be described as a sunroof. Since the roof slides straight back over the four seats and then collapses into the trunk at the end of its journey, you can choose to stop the reclining motion half way through to give you a sunroof effect, complete with plenty of free-flowing air.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the 2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible. Priced at $32,240 for the S before you starting managing the long-listed option sheet, you’re getting plenty of car for the money.
If you want the three-cylinder Cooper option, you’re price point drops to $27,990. My test car was full of options/packages including navigation, heated seats, larger infotainment screen, fog lights, LED lights, the Chester leather, among many others, which brought the as-tested price to $42,230. Keep in mind MINI is a premium brand so before you balk at the price, consider what you’re getting.
If you’re looking for excitement behind the wheel, great looks, a convertible, and superb handling, MINI’s Cooper S convertible is waiting for you with the top down and should be on your list of considerations.
Enjoy the full gallery below: