We have enjoyed a few MINIs of late here at Business Insider. And by “enjoyed,” I mean we were joyfully terrified by the John Cooper Works high-performance version of the car, and equally joyfully not so terrified by the 2016 Cooper S Convertible that MINI loaned us for some late-summer motoring.
I’m not sure this is the best small convertible that you can currently get. We can never forget about the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car we also checked out and richly enjoyed. But the thing is that MINIs are very likable cars. And the Convertible S version is the most likable of them all.
Our $ 38,300 test car was close to automotive perfection, in a wonderful small package.
Here’s what we thought:
The MINI John Cooper Works was the last ride from the plucky BMW-owned brand that we checked out.
The JCW was a frightening little thing. It thrashed me hard and left me wanting more.
Read the review here.
The Cooper S is more subdued. Ours arrived in “melting silver metallic,” with a Chesterfield leather interior, in “malt brown.” Absolutely lovely on both fronts.
The distinctive MINI headlamps and “S” badging define the front of the car.
Pretty sharp from every angle.
The rear design is a bit more straightforward. But the Cooper S identity is on display.
Not everybody likes the top-down look of MINI convertibles. I’ve always been a bit unsure about it myself, but it definitely grew on me. If you like, you can retract the top partially, like a sunroof.
Whereas the lines of the coupé are classic and purposeful, critics complain that the cabrio treatment for the MINI Cooper leads to a box-with-the-top-chopped-off vibe. Maybe. But convertible experience is still pretty good.
So that the mechanical soft top can be stowed, you give up something in terms of cargo area. Still, the Cooper S Convertible was fine for a run to the grocery store.
The driver is presented with a familiar setup. The infotainment system is located in the large round screen to the right. The instruments and controls are idiosyncratic and always have been, so they take some getting used to. But the learning curve isn’t steep.
Let’s go driving! Flip the bright red start-stop switch to fire up the 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It has a tasty 207 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph is a very jazzy 6.2 seconds.
I kept it in Sport Mode, for the most part, to max out the pleasure. Obviously, this decision affected the 23 city/33 highway/27 combined fuel-economy rating. You can also select Mid and Green Modes. All the usual Bluetooth integrations, SiriusXM satellite radio, auxiliary media inputs, and navigation are present, and they all work fine.
The heart of the MINI Cooper S isn’t actually that terrific little motor — it’s this fantastic six-speed manual Getrag transmission. The ease and precision of this thing fills you with driving confidence. I don’t think I missed a rev-match on a downshift for days.
For what it’s worth, the simple six-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system sounds really good, even with the top down. We drove the car to a Blink-182 concert and listened to both the band’s new record, “California,” and the greatest hits album on the way. Erstwhile guitarist Tom DeLonge’s tone on the old songs came through well. And the new material also sounded excellent.
The quilted-leather, topstitched interior was thoroughly comfortable and stylish.
Here’s a cool feature. Like some luxury cars, the MINI Cooper S projects a lighted welcome mat at night.
Okay, so the MINI JCW scared the daylights out of me, while the Cooper S Convertible made me feel like I could do no wrong. This isn’t an overwhelming car in any way. It’s loads of fun, and it keeps you within yourself. It was certainly the ideal car to send summer out with a bang — and although it isn’t a classic MINI, it’s the MINI perfected.
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