Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Mini Convertible offers a choice of three petrol engines, and the cheapest is our pick of the bunch. The 1.5-litre Cooper is one of the finest three-cylinder engines currently in production. It’s very smooth, and its turbocharger helps it to pull evenly from low revs, responding with spirit when you rev it. The performance it offers for the money earns it our recommendation.
For those who want more, though, there are also two 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. The 192bhp Cooper S takes performance up a notch, and, with 231bhp, the John Cooper Works version delivers proper hot hatch performance. It makes a pretty invigorating sound, too, especially if you flick the car into Sport mode to unleash a few bangs and pops from the exhaust. Both engines are extremely flexible, so you can be pretty lazy with your gearchanges and still make rapid progress.
You need to be quite precise with the manual gearbox, though; it can be a bit obstructive if you rush your gearshifts and takes a bit of practice to get used to. If you fancy a bit more of a laid-back approach to driving, the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is generally smooth in auto mode and reacts quickly to manually induced changes.
The Mini Convertible weighs 90kg more than its hatchback sibling and has no solid roof to help keep its structure rigid. This can be noticed in the car’s ride quality: although things are reasonably settled on smoother roads, broken surfaces give rise to seat vibrations, steering wheel judder and pronounced levels of body shudder that can become uncomfortable.
Enthusiastic drivers might find its very quick steering more of a hindrance than a help, too; it’s inconsistently weighted and feels a little nervous. Push hard and the front tyres will begin to relinquish their grip on the road, causing the car to run wide, and you might encounter an unsettling twitch from the rear end.
So, although body lean is better contained than it is in the Fiat 500C, the Mini Convertible isn’t as good to drive as its hatch sibling, while the similarly priced soft-top Mazda MX-5 sports car is altogether more fun. However, when the windows are up and the optional wind deflector is in place with the roof down, this is one convertible that does a brilliant job of isolating those in the front seats from wind bluster. Trips on a smooth motorway are quiet, too, with both wind and road noise very well managed.