Mini Cooper S Convertible 



When MINI unleashed its supercharged Cooper S in 2002, it was a gift from the gods for hot hatch fans. With enough power to exploit the MINI chassis to the full, the model has been a storming success. But how will the sporting flagship's powerplant work in the new Convertible bodyshell?


Having already been impressed by the normally aspirated versions of MINI's drop-top, we jumped behind the wheel of one of the first Cooper S Convertibles to roll out of the Oxford factory to see if the engineers had been a bit too 'roofless' with their hottest topless model.


To coincide with the launch of the new Convertible, MINI has taken the opportunity to refresh its hatchback line-up, too. For both hard and soft-top versions of the Cooper S, that means a 7bhp increase in power and 10Nm hike in torque, taking the 1.6-litre engine up to a credible 170bhp and 220Nm.


However, with the loss of rigidity as a result of removing the roof, and the 100kg increase in curbweight due to the stiffened chassis, does the drop-top do the Cooper S badge justice? The good news is that whether you are driving with the roof up or down, this Convertible is great fun. With the 0-62mph sprint covered in a light-footed 7.4 seconds - only 0.2 seconds behind the hatchback - and a top speed of 134mph in reserve, the drop-top never feels short of power.


It also retains what is one of the best six-speed boxes of any four-seater on sale today, which is a joy to use in any situation. However, there are compromises to be made if you want to  experience all the performance on offer with the top down. While body control and handling remain first class when cornering, the Convertible does becomes unsettled on bumpy surfaces.


Potholes cause obvious body flexing, and the noise from the windscreen pillars could become tiresome for owners who intend to drive their Cooper S as it's intended. Yet despite the loss of some stiffness, the range-topping Convertible is still an entertaining drive and retains the sense of fun that has made other variants so popular.


It's not only the driving experience that will bring a smile to your face. While it doesn't stow away with any elegance, the hood folds at the touch of a button, and the rest of the Convertible's characterful cabin will be familiar to any MINI hatchback owner. Unfortunately, it's on the price list that many MINI buyers will encounter their first stumbling block. The Cooper S Convertible weighs in at £17,595 in basic trim - £2,415 more than the hatchback version - but few buyers will be able to resist raiding the options list. The total cost of the car driven here, for example, was a hugely inflated £21,715.


However, the fact is that there simply aren't any cabrio rivals which can offer the same level of performance with four seats in such compact dimensions. Given the fact that there is a waiting list of several months for every other model in the MINI line-up, it's safe to say the Cooper S Convertible will fly out of showrooms. Maybe we're preaching to the converted...


Chris Thorp

Sept 2004