Mini Cooper S Convertible 2017 new car review

It's summer. The sun is (sometimes) out, the weather (sometimes) warm. What a time to enjoy some roof-down motoring!

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

It's summer. The sun is (sometimes) out, the weather (sometimes) warm. What a time to enjoy some roof down motoring!

Exterior full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

4

Drive full starfull starfull starhalf starempty star

3.5

Safety full starfull starfull starfull starfull star

5

Value full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

4

Overall score 4.1 / 5

The good
  • Gutsy engine
  • Smooth yet very efficient automatic
  • Acres of sky over your head
The not-so-good
  • ‘Mini’ rear-legroom
  • Flexible body

Mini New Zealand has timed it just right, launching their new Mini Convertible at the warmest time of the year. They have also stuck to offering the roof-down option only on their sportiest model, the Cooper S. We headed for the beach to give the car a full test.

Exterior

The new 2017 Mini Convertible is undeniably cute with its retro-styling, and huge round LED headlight clusters. But it is no longer small, with the current model now 1.8-metres longer than the 1950s original.

The obvious difference between the Convertible and Mini hatch is the large canvas roof.

For Anglophiles, you can opt to have the Union Jack embroidered into the top in grey. It can be used as a sunroof, where the first half slides back, or it can be folded electrically down to sit flat at the rear of the car. This is accomplished using a switch above the rear vision mirror, at speeds of up to 30kmh. You can also activate it remotely from the keys.

It is impossible to have a normal hatchback with the canvas roof. Instead, the Mini’s boot is hinged at the bottom and folds down.

Interior

This generation of Mini moves the speedometer from the large round centre cluster to a small pod on top of the steering column. In its place is a 6.5-inch LCD screen carrying navigation and infotainment controls – which can be manipulated using a controller mounted between the seats.

Lights surrounding the screen change colour depending on how the vehicle is being driven or is set up make for a fun touch. There is BlueTooth and USB functionality, while the Convertible gets a premium Harman Kardon speaker system.

The standard leather-clad front seats feel a little short in the base but are comfortable. In the rear, you can fit a small adult at an absolute pinch, but are more child-sized.

The climate-control air conditioning is powerful enough to keep you cool even with the roof down.

The boot is surprisingly spacious, and we managed to get luggage for two for a weekend away in it. It is very deep – as there is no spare tyre – and while access is a little awkward a quick-release system lets you lift the base of the roof to make it easier.

Drive

The Mini’s 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is great. Not only does it produce a healthy 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque, but it is efficient and sounds great at the same time.

The car has drive modes which change the engine's character, and in ‘Sport’ mode it is very responsive, and it snaps and crackles on gear changes. It will run from 0-100kmh in 7.2-seconds.

The six-speed automatic is smooth and lightning-quick to change.

It is more efficient, using 5.8-litres per 100km, compared to 6.2-litres per 100km for the six-speed manual. A $3500 option, it is worth it.

So why the lower rating for ‘drive’? The Mini rides comfortably on its standard 17-inch alloy wheels but suffers from the same issues as other convertibles - extra weight and reduced chassis rigidity. You can feel it flexing on undulating roads. It feels sporty – but not as crisp and tight as a standard Mini.

But for cruising the beach, it is perfect!

Safety

The Mini Convertible has yet to be tested, but the hatch version has an ANCAP five-star rating, as did the outgoing version.

It has a healthy list of safety features, including electronic stability control, front and side airbags and a rollover protection system – pillars that pop up at the rear corner of the cabin to protect occupants should the car end up upside down.

Autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist systems are not available.

A rear camera and parking distance control assist with keeping an eye out behind the Mini, as with the roof up vision can be a little restricted.

Cost of ownership

The Convertible is available for $53,990, but with a few options, you can easily make that figure close to $60,000.

The lowest fuel consumption figure of 5.8-litres per 100km is tiny for a car offering this level of performance, countered only by its need for more expensive premium petrol.

Minis run a system that only requires them to be serviced when the computer detects it is necessary, and free servicing for the first three years of ownership will save buyers thousands.

Overall

The Mini Cooper S Convertible is not perfect – the chassis is compromised by the loss of the roof – but it is still cute and fun to drive. If you are looking for a small sporty Mini, the hatch is a better bet. If you want to look great around town and get a little sun, consider this model.

Note: This was reviewed as a new vehicle.

Details

Price

$53,990 (As tested $58,550)

Engine

2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, 141kW and 280Nm

Transmission

Six-speed manual or automatic

Fuel economy

6.2-litres per 100km (manual) or 5.8-litres per 100km (auto)

Fuel type

Premium

Turning circle

11 metres

Safety rating

5 stars (hardtop model)

Warranty

5 years

Spare wheel

None - run flat tyres

Servicing

After 12 months or at 25,000km. First three-years free

Length

3850mm

Width

1932mm (includes mirrors)

Height

1415mm

Weight

1275kg

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Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

I've been writing about the automotive industry for 16 years, and lead a range of publications through Auto Media Group. I play with my 1984 Toyota MR2 and travel in my downtime.

Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.