After taking over the old British MINI organization, BMW introduced a revived—and revised—version of the original MINI, as a 2002 model. Three years later, a Convertible emerged as a companion to the Hatchback. For those who recall the original, as well as newcomers to the brand, the soft-top model intensifies the roadgoing fun and adorable character of the MINI experience. With a little squeezing, a Convertible can seat four passengers.
Midway through the 2016 model year, the Convertible re-emerged with a substantial overhaul, in accord with the previously-redesigned Hatchback. Body proportions didn’t change, but the grille grew a bit, headlights swept back more, and taillights were enlarged. The body itself was 4.5 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider, on a wheelbase that gained 1.1 inches. New BMW-derived TwinPower Turbo 1.5- and 2-liter engines replaced the prior 1.6-liter units.
What's New for 2017
At the New York Auto Show in March 2016, MINI unveiled a high-performance John Cooper Works edition of the Convertible. Named for the gentleman most responsible for introducing the original model to motorsports, back in the 1960s, John Cooper Works variants had been available during the first generation of the modern-day MINI. The engine in the 2017 John Cooper Works Convertible delivers 20 more horsepower than its predecessor.
Choosing Your MINI Convertible
MINI Convertible engines are determined by the trim level. All three versions can have either a standard six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching function, or an optional six-speed automatic. Three MINI Driving mode settings can be selected: Green, Mid, or Sport.
Each Convertible has a power fabric top that can be partially retracted, providing an effect similar to a conventional sunroof. The roof can be opened or closed in 18 seconds, at speeds up to 18 mph.
Back-seat legroom grew by 1.6 inches during the redesign. Inside, the speedometer moved from the traditional center position to behind the steering wheel. MINI Connected infotainment includes a 6.5-inch display screen.
Trunk space is tiny: a mere 6 cubic feet, which means some imaginative packing is required. Storage space grows to 23 cubic feet when the back seat is folded.
Convertibles have integrated rollover protection. When a potential rollover is sensed, two high-strength aluminum bars deploy within 0.15 second.
An extensive list of available options includes a rearview camera, active cruise control, head-up display, parking assist, and collision/pedestrian warning. Sport, Technology, and Premium packages are available.
Even with its less-potent 1.6-liter engine, the previous base Cooper model was quite perky, at least with manual shift. With stronger, turbocharged engines in each 2017 model, the performance difference, compared to automatic, should be minimal. Like all MINIs, Convertibles present plenty of opportunities for customization. Despite costing $6,000 more than the Cooper S, the John Cooper Works edition continues to be a tempting choice for MINI enthusiasts.