Making a car that makes someone smile sounds quite simple, but it is the hardest thing one can do. You can make the biggest car in the world, the toughest car in the world, the fastest car in the world, the loudest car in the world, and so on – but even that does not guarantee that the car will be one that invokes smiles wherever it goes. There is no formula to it. No set code that one can follow and call it a day. I’ve been fortunate enough to have encountered some of such cars in the past few years and I can tell you the list, but I cannot put a finger on the ‘thing’ that’s standard across all of them. It changes from car to car and is often lost in this day and age of modernization and never-ending facelifts.
Mini, however, has managed to retain their identity of being some of the most fun cars that one can have even today and has been doing it since 1959. But as time went by, the car went through several updates and with the change in safety norms forcing it to get a bit bigger and look a bit different, it is still very much a Mini. That alone is a big accomplishment.
In its latest avatar, technically the F57 LCI, the Mini Cooper can be bought in several disguises. This includes a 3-door body style with diesel or petrol engine option, a 5-door body style with a diesel engine option and a convertible that comes with a petrol engine option – and that is the car that we drove.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The First Impression
As we said, the Mini is known for invoking smiles and that is exactly what the first time we saw the Mini Cooper S Convertible was like. It’s a bit like looking at a cute puppy. It doesn’t matter if the puppy is sitting or standing or sleeping, it’s just lovely to look at! And the same goes for the Mini too. It doesn’t matter if you see it being driven on the road or at standstill, the car looks exciting.
Yes, Mini enthusiasts say that the Mini isn’t exactly ‘mini’ in size but it is! Maybe not compared to the original model but it still is. The stance on it is fantastic as it sits low and seems ready to pounce. Being so small and having such large wheel arches, with wheels that fully fill them up, it ends up looking properly sporty. The unit that we drove have dual stripes on the hood and the colour combination helped push that sporty character even further.
There’s a lot going on in the front of the Mini. There’s a large hood scoop, there’s ample use of chrome around the headlamps and the grille, the headlamps themselves are really big and swept back and the lower lip is bold and aggressive. And with so much going on, cars tend to look a bit busy. But despite the compact dimensions, the Mini does not.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
From the side, you’ll only see one door and it just never gets old given how rare 3-door cars are in India. One design element that I absolutely loved is the chrome strip that runs all around the car, across the window line.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Coming to the back, it is from here that the Mini sheds all things cute and looks the business. The faux vents in the bumper and centrally-mounted dual exhausts give it a lot of character. Also, this is the only place where the continuous chrome strip breaks to make space for the neatly placed high-mount stop light. Speaking of light, the tail lights put together to form the Union Jack – a nice nod to its roots.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Once you step inside the car, you notice the immaculate attention to detail that the car has got. And also, a clear obsession of all things round. Almost every element, and I mean almost every element, inside the cabin is circular in shape – and I love that! Even the outside rearview mirrors are oval.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The first thing that caught my eye is the toggle switches surrounding the engine start/stop button, which has a circular surround light that lights up when you put your foot on the brake in order to start the car. What a lovely touch.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The toggle switches are carried over to the roof controls as well.
Then, there’s the wonderful instrument cluster that is actually mounted on the steering column, so when you fiddle around with the height adjustable steering wheel, the instrument cluster moves along with it. And, the tachometer even says ‘READY’. Could Mini have avoided writing that, sure, but am I glad they didn’t, absolutely!(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The highlight of the cabin, though, has to be the touchscreen infotainment system housing, that’s as you would guess, circular. It’s well responsive to touch, has neatly laid out graphics and is overall, a great infotainment system. What’s cool is the ARC on the circular housing that lights up in several different ways. For example, it changes colour as the per the driving mode selected, fills up as you adjust the volume level and even shows different hues of blue-to-red when you are adjusting the temperature on the climate control system.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
And in case you don’t want to reach out to the screen, all of the functions can be operated through the infotainment controls that is placed behind the gear lever. The positioning is a bit awkward as it is placed too low and you will have to take your eyes completely off of the road in order to use it (if you don’t know the button placement by heart), but it is good to have a choice in the way you interact with the car.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Last but not the least, when you start the car, the Head-up Display (HUD) pops from under the dash. The good part is that you can adjust the settings to not have it pop up at all in case it hampers your vision.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
So, the Mini definitely has a lot of quirks inside the cabin that you would notice every time you are inside the car. And all of these things combined, make the cabin a wonderful place to be in. And last but not least, the build quality and the quality of materials used is top-notch all across the interiors of the car.
So once you are done drooling over this car, you will eventually get to the driving bit and would you be glad that you did.
The convertible variant of the Mini Cooper comes only in the ‘S’ version, which means that it only gets a petrol engine option. The unit powering the Mini is a 1998cc 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 192 hp and 280 Nm of torque that comes in as low as 1250 RPM. And also, the gearbox that you get with this is a 7-speed dual-clutch unit. What this translates into is a 0-100 km/h dash time of just 7.1 seconds.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The driver seat is a snug fit making the car feel like an extension of yourself. Helping it further is the amount of communication that the driver receives from the car. The suspension, the tyres, the steering, all of it tell you exactly what the car is going through. And yes, the car is properly sporty, which is also hinted by the racing stripes on the gear lever.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
The driving ergonomics are spot on and the car just eggs you on to push it a bit harder. The dual exhausts not only look good but sound good as well as the Mini is an aural delight. You have enough pops and crackles to make you want more of it and every time you put your foot down, you can hear the turbo spool up and when you let go off, you get the wastegate noises. And that alone makes the car feel faster than what it is!
The engine is smooth and quick to build up revs, going all the way to 6000 RPM. There are three diving mods on offer – Green for better fuel economy, Sport for better performance and Mid, which finds the sweet spot between the both.
The car is planted through corners and there’s ample grip on offer. But not everything is perfect as while the stiff suspension makes the car a lot of fun at high speeds when you encounter bad roads, the car has a hard time tackling it. So much so, you will always be on the lookout for not encountering a big pothole by surprise at higher speeds.
Another advantage that the car has because of its size, is that you won’t have any problem tackling your everyday city traffic in it. The compact dimensions help it zip through traffic with ease.
And let’s not forget, it is a convertible, which means that whenever you go for that early morning drive, you do have the option to fold the roof down.(Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
So at the end of the day, there’s a lot going for the Mini Cooper S Convertible. It’s compact, easy to manage through traffic and when you get open roads, the car is an absolute hoot to drive. Yes, you would be driving over bad roads with more concern than anyone else, but at any other moment, you would be enjoying the drive more than anyone else as well.
At a starting price tag of Rs 38.3 Lakh, the Mini Cooper S Convertible is priced a bit on the premium side. If a convertible does not intrigue you, you can also check out the Mini Cooper S 3-door which offers all that the convertible does, and is a bit faster too, while saving you about Rs 4 lakh on the ex-showroom price.
But if budget isn’t a problem, then the Mini Cooper S Convertible is one of the most complete and the most fun-for-your-money cars to own.