GoAutoLogo
MENU

Car reviews - Mini - Hatch - Cooper S convertible

Our Opinion

We like
Sharp handling, dynamic transmission, purposeful tech updates
Room for improvement
Quirky interior design hinders usability, lacking bottom-end pull, lazy steering feedback, high price

Mini's updated drop-top sportster recaptures young appeal

Mini logo10 Oct 2018

Overview

 

EARLIER this year, Mini freshened up its hatch range which now spans three body styles, and three grades.

 

In truth, it was a minor update, bringing slightly more modern styling cues and added cosmetic touches to distinguish it from its predecessors.

 

The important changes were found behind the dash, with the new Mini armed to the teeth with high-end interior tech, connectivity and entertainment features.

 

Where racing history and design lineage were once the main-game for Mini's marketing department, clearly Mini is aiming to recapture the interest of a younger audience by offering what it believes young people want most.

 

To understand why this is significant, open up your textbooks to chapter three, here's a bit of history.

 

In the late 50s, the fine chaps at British Motor Company (BMC) designed what would soon be, arguably, one of the most influential vehicles of all time.

 

It was called the Mini, so named for its tiny proportions, simplicity and in turn, affordability.

 

But it didn't take long for punters to see the sporting potential of the newborn lightweight. It handled like a go-kart, was easy on rubber and fuel, and with only a few carburettor and cam adjustments could be given a healthy dose of vigor for the straight line stuff.

 

Soon, one John Newton Cooper of the Cooper Car Company lifted his checkered socks and adjusted his silk waistcoat – pointed at the Mini – and asked “what if we made it faster?”

 

Pip pip, tally-ho, the Mini Cooper was born.

 

When the marque was relaunched under BMW ownership in 2000, the designers were careful to stay true to Mini's origins.

A lot changes in forty years in the car world, but in design, and in philosophy, the new and old are comparable. Both share a boxy and unmistakably British design language, are light in weight, front-wheel drive, are powered by a free-revving and peppy engine, and are, of course, mini in size.

 

The iconic look and feel has unquestionably helped sales performance. A nostalgic drive for some, and a quirky accessory for others.

 

However, the latest update brings a new element of appeal to the British light car, with a plethora of new technology that rivals luxury vehicles well above its price point.

 

We recently sampled a Mini Convertible Cooper S; the rag-top two-door variant that sits between the entry-spec Cooper and the high-performance JCW.

 

Fitting the cliché, we filled it full of friends and went for a spirited drive down to Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.

 

Okay Google, shuffle Classic Rock Essentials, we're going cruising.

 

Price and equipment

 

The Mini Hatch range is available in three body styles, 3-door, 5-door and, as tested here, Convertible, with the line-up kicking off at $29,990 plus on-roads for the entry-level 3-door Cooper.

 

The rag-top is the most expensive of the three, starting at $37,900 for the Cooper and topping out at $56,900 for the high-performance JCW (John Cooper Works), with the model we have on test, the Cooper S, slotted right between the two at $45,900.

 

Mechanically, the facelifted model is mostly unchanged aside from a few engine tweaks to improve fuel economy.

 

What it did get however, is a strong suite of tech updates including a standard 6.5-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay, a digital radio and Bluetooth.

 

The Cooper S is also treated to 17-inch alloys, selectable driving modes, wireless phone charging, a USB port, sports seats, leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control.

 

Furthermore, all Cooper grades are fitted with a 4G sim card slot to give access to things like real-time traffic data, weather information, an automatic emergency call function as well as access to Mini's Connected smartphone application.

 

On the outside, the update brought new LED lighting front and rear, with the tail-lights loudly displaying the Union Jack. A bold design choice which, while a bit of gimmick, certainly adds to the charm.

 

Interior

 

In earlier generations, the Mini's interior was dominated by a very large speedometre at the top of the centre stack. The circular surround remains in the new model but now houses a widescreen infotainment display.

 

It's kind of a square in a round hole situation, and arguably puts style ahead of functionality.

 

This theme continues around the interior, with lots of quirky design elements that in some cases hinder usability.

 

However it must be said that the interior design is clever and gives the car a unique touch compared to the fairly conservative setups of its peers.

 

And it does well to blend both classic and modern styles, with LED strips and ambient lights actively illuminating, while chrome Aeroplane-style toggle switches are used for things like drive mode control, traction control and the engine start/stop switch. Very cool.

 

The power folding fabric roof works in two stages so you can have it half way open for a sunroof-style experience, or all the way down.

 

When on, the roof holds in wind noise well for a rag-top, however the cabin can get fairly blowy with the roof retracted.

 

The weather dropped below the 15-degree mark during testing, and so the driver and passenger seat warmers equipped on our test car were a welcomed addition.

 

Another interior feature that was well received was the centre console-mounted wireless charger which locks devices in via a spring mechanism. This stops your phone from flying around the cabin when the going gets twisty. A subtle, yet ultra-convenient touch.

 

Engine and transmission

 

The Cooper S is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine tuned to the sound of 141kW at 6000rpm and 280Nm between 1350-4600rpm.

 

With the recent update, Mini managed to shed 8kg from the four-cylinder unit, however the weight drop had no affect on output.

 

Mini claims a 6.5L/100km fuel economy figure on the combined cycle, however the best we managed was 8.6 after a day of driving in varying conditions.

 

Standard is a six-speed manual transmission, but our test car was equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which comes at a $2800 premium.

 

The self-shifter was surprisingly slick, reacting rapidly via the the wheel-mounted paddles.

 

You also get a great noise from the exhaust, which is amplified when the roof is down, making lairy downshifts a pleasure.

 

When compared with other warm hatch-style vehicles in its price range, the Cooper S can occasionally feel underpowered. While no slouch, it feels as if there is an extra 30kW dying to be unleashed with an ECU reflash. It is a 2.0 litre, afterall.

 

We gave the Mini a nudge up Arthur's Seat, an iconic mountain pass on the Mornington Peninsula with lots of tight hairpins and off-camber turns.

When travelling up the hill, it took careful pedal work and aggressive paddle-shifting to efficiently power out of the corners, and even then, the 2.0-litre felt slightly lackluster.

 

Of course, an extra $9000 nets you the JCW version that adds an extra 29kW and 50Nm.


Ride and handling

 

Think Mini. Think handling.

 

The Cooper S has always been a quick steerer, and while slightly dulled over the years with modern power steering and increased weight, the latest iteration still holds up.

 

It’s sharp and predictable, with less torque steer than many of its rivals, and good grip on all four corners.

 

In Sport mode, the adaptive suspension improves things significantly, however it does reveal some scuttle shake in white-knuckle runnings.

 

As spirited drivers, we would have liked to have seen a bit more feedback, particularly through the steering, as it felt a bit disassociating in fast sections.

 

It's always a compromise between on-road ride comfort and driver feedback, and the Cooper S leans more towards the former in that regard.

 

Safety and servicing

 

Standard on the drop-top is ABS, dynamic stability and traction control, electronic differential lock control and an emergency call button.

All new Minis, including the one you see here, are covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Service and maintenance costs can also be covered by a one-off payment with Mini's Service Inclusive program, which takes care of scheduled servicing for five years/80,000 kilometres.

 

Two packages are available, Basic and Plus, with the former covering scheduled servicing and the latter also dealing with “selected” maintenance items.

 

Verdict

 

True to its namesake, the Mini Cooper S is an exciting and unique experience, particularly in drop-top guise.

 

With such competitive offerings on the market, that can offer more go and better value, it might not appeal to die-hard spirited drivers. But again, that’s what the JCW is for.

 

But its iconic looks, build quality and strong equipment list will help it satisfy a different crowd; those who favour cutting edge tech and fun, unintimidating performance.

 

While a long way from the historic vehicles upon which it gets its name, it's still a Mini, and that ain't gonna change.

 

Rivals

 

Mazda MX-5, from $34,190 plus on-road costs

It's difficult to mention convertibles without bringing up the tried-and-true MX-5 range. A focused two-door sportscar that puts driver engagement and enjoyment at the forefront of its philosophy. If practicality and day-to-day usability is important, then consider something else. But that just ain't what the humble Five is all about.

 

Audi A3 Cabriolet, from $49,000 plus on-road costs

The rag-top A3 range is particularly versatile, offering four grades that range from the comfortable 1.4 TFSI to the full-fruit performance S3 2.0 TFSI quattro. High-end build quality and a strong list of standard equipment make the A3 a venerable model in the convertible segment.


Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Enquire on or Test Drive a New Hatch

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires

Agreement

This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
close
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only
*** Prices exclude on road costs and dealer delivery fees

Hatch pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.