MINI made its return to the US market for the 2001 model year with a three and five-door hatchback. A convertible version was later introduced in 2004 with a second generation following in 2008. Fast forward to 2022 and the MINI Cooper Convertible is still alive and pure enjoyment to drive. For the 2022 model year, MINI convertibles received significant updates to the exterior, interior, and infotainment while maintaining the authentic vibe of the brand.
The convertible is available in three models, base, S, and John Cooper Works that each come in three trims known as classic, signature, and iconic. Base models are equipped with a TwinPower Turbo 1.5L inline 3-cylinder that generates 134 horsepower paired to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch automatic. Step up to the S model for the 189 horsepower TwinTurbo 2.0L inline 4-cylinder that also pairs with both a manual or automatic. And top of the line John Cooper Works models use the same TwinTurbo in the S to generate 228 horsepower in an 8-speed sport automatic. Prices start at $27,900 for a classic convertible and range up to a starting price of $44,900 for a John Cooper Works Iconic model. MINI is a niche vehicle and there's limited drop tops available these days, however other convertibles to consider in similar price ranges include the BMW Z4, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Mazda MX-5 Miata. I spent a week in the MINI Cooper S Iconic and here's what stood out...
MINI has maintained its recognizable design with key features since it was introduced while also evolving to stay current. New for 2022 is a revised front fascia that removes the fog lights and improves aerodynamics. An updated grille extends to the bottom of the car with a safety bar hidden behind a body color panel. Standard round LED headlights remain, and intakes are added to the 2.0L TwinTurbo models. The iconic MINI profile remains intact, and around back new rear bumpers adds cladding to emphasize a wider stance. MINI's twin tailpipe is placed at the center of the bumper and the LED taillights feature MINI's unique Union Jack design. An exterior option is piano black exterior touches that include the door handles, front wings, fuel cap, grille blade, model badging, light rings, and more. It's clear that there have been changes over time, but MINI enthusiasts will be the ones who will recognize the small details that have changed.
Depending on the trim it comes with 16", 17", or 18" wheels in a variety of finishes. My test car had 18" Pulse Spoke two-tone silver and black wheels that had a retro futuristic look to them. They had character and style that look good when parked and featured a cool look while in motion. Base models feature a five-star 16" wheel in spectre gray or a black spoke alloy wheel. S models have seven different designs to choose from in 17" or 18" in a variety of finishes and all allow the owner to build a model to suit their tastes. John Cooper Works models have two wheels to choose from, 17" black wheels or an 18" machine-faced silver/black combo. Whatever you choose, the designs compliment the Cooper.
Roof & Mirror Caps (+)
Like everything else MINI, you can further personalize your Cooper convertible with different mirror caps in body color, black, white, silver or red. Either a plain black soft top or a soft top with the British flag on it are available. The top itself is well-made and goes up & down at the touch of a button. There are no additional latches to pull or connect and operation is quick. One neat feature of the top is that it also slides open like a sunroof if you don't want the full convertible effect. There is no hard top offered for the convertible.
A variety of powertrains allows MINI to make this convertible affordable and appeal to a wide audience. For someone wanting a base model convertible for summer driving, the 134-horsepower TwinPower Turbo 1.5L inline 3-cylinder will provide enough pep without breaking the bank. It will be sufficient for most drivers' daily commutes while still delivering some fun in this lightweight car with either a manual or automatic transmission. I spent time in the Cooper S with a manual transmission (automatic is also available) that was equipped with a TwinTurbo 2.0L inline 4-cylinder that pushed out 189 horsepower and 206 lb.ft. of torque. I was elated that a manual transmission is still available making this a car extra-fun for someone who enjoys driving. Acceleration was quick going 0-60 MPH in approximately 6.8 seconds. The John Cooper Works model is tuned to get 228 horsepower to make it slightly faster at 6.3 seconds, but it's only offered with an automatic. Either of these engines are fun to drive with smooth revving and shifting through the six, seven, or eight gears. For my money, I'd opt for the 189-hp manual S model that blends the best of both worlds with just enough power to be dangerous (in a good way).
The MINI is at home on a curvy road...precise steering will put the MINI exactly where you want it. The dynamic damper control in the S made for superb cornering without feeling like the car would get away from you. It performed well on an autocross course at Road America and remained connected to the road. The ride is composed, yet playful. The overall ride is firm, and you will feel some bumps in the road, but nothing extreme that would be considered harsh. That's part of the fun in an engaging car like this. There are three primary drive modes known as Green (fuel efficiency), Mid (standard normal driving), and Sport (engagement) to further adjust dynamics to your preference.
Fuel Economy (+/-)
All this fun comes with a slight disadvantage at the pump when compared to other subcompact cars. The S model I drove arrived with a full 11.6-gallon tank that offered around 385 miles of range. EPA estimates are 23/33/26 MPG city/highway/combined. After a week of suburban driving, I averaged 25 MPG. High octane (91 minimum) is also recommended.
Interior Technology (+/-)
Hopping inside, drivers will face a small digital cluster behind the steering wheel with crisp graphics and the ability to change views. At the center of the dash is a large circle with a standard 8.8" horizontal touch screen at the center and physical dial knob for volume. The surrounding trim lights up with ambient lighting and as the volume is adjusted. The screen itself features two color schemes known as Lounge and Sport. Also, standard is Apple CarPlay that integrates with MINI's updated interface seamlessly. However, there is no option to integrate with Android Auto. Also available is a head-up display, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, and navigation. The camera system provides a clear picture of the area surrounding the car on the touchscreen.
Interior Design (+)
Not many cars can pull off circles and toggle switches, but MINI does. Below the giant circle at the center of the dash are three more circular knobs for climate control and below that are a row for four toggle switches including the main one to start/stop the car. At the ends of the dash are circular vents that look like they come from a jet engine. It all works well together with premium materials that are also functional.
Interior Space (+/-)
To no surprise, a car called a MINI has less interior space than many others on the road. Convertibles seat four in comfortable, supportive seats. Standard is synthetic leather while genuine leather, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel are all available. Front seats offer a fair amount of legroom with the seats back (at the expense of the rear seats). There's plenty of headroom with the top down and even with it up it's not terrible. Rear seats are much tighter, even for my kids... especially if a taller person is up front and needs to push the seats back. I did find the seats to be comfortable and well bolstered to keep me in place as I sped around corners. I'm not going to knock space with a negative, because it's to be expected in a small car like this and the MINI wouldn't be as fun in medium size.
Again, not a surprise that cargo capacity is limited. The convertible has a measly 5.7 cu.ft. of trunk space and up to 7.6 cu.ft with the rear seats folded down. Perhaps MINI should consult with the team at IKEA to figure out how to get the most storage out of a small space. The trunk barely accommodated the kids backpacks on the way to school, so pack light with this one.
Also new for 2022 is an increased focus on safety with driver assist features standard on all new models that include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear park distance control, and a rear-view camera. Other available features include a rain sensor, and rear park distance control. In crash tests, the MINI Cooper scores good for most of IIHS and NHTSA safety ratings.
The MINI Cooper Convertible is a blast to take out on a perfect weather day with the top down. It's the type of car you want to hop in and drive with no destination in mind. The manual transmission shifts easily and is engaging to drive. The exterior style remains modern with appropriate updates such as the LED lighting and unique wheel designs. Its small size limits space and cargo so pick your best driving partner and enjoy a weekend cruise in this one.
First Impression Summary
Test Vehicle: 2022 MINI Cooper S Convertible
Exterior Color: Zesty Yellow
Interior Color: Lounge Black Leather
Options: Dynamic Damper Control ($500), MINI Yours Softop ($500), Iconic Trim ($7,500)
MSRP as tested: $41,750 (With Delivery/Destination)