Minis are not particularly practical vehicles, and the Mini Cooper Convertible is the epitome of the "fun first" philosophy. While this may sound critical, it's actually anything but. Not everyone wants a boring commuter or a sensible minivan to cart the kids around. Regardless of age or gender, there are many in the US who drive simply for the pure joy of it, and the wind flowing through your hair only adds to the sense of freedom and exhilaration. However, fun doesn't come cheap or without sacrifice, as can be attested to by the Mini cabriolet's snug cabin, barely usable trunk, and relatively high price tag that makes a Mazda MX-5 Miata seem like a bargain. But, if you can overlook these shortcomings, you won't be disappointed with either the 134-horsepower three-cylinder or the 189-hp four-cylinder engine, both turbocharged to deliver instantaneous fun.
Since its mid-cycle refresh in 2019, the Mini Convertible hasn't seen many changes. The sub-trims have been shuffled up a bit, and there is a new special edition called the Sidewalk. The Signature sub-trim gets access to a package that adds a 6.5-inch touchscreen with built-in navigation and Apple CarPlay, as well as the digital information display that comes standard on the Iconic. The new Sidewalk edition is based on the Cooper S but adds unique exterior colors and interior styling, as well as a specific features list. What we are most looking forward to, though, is the return of the manual transmission to the 2021 Mini Convertible lineup.
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The Mini Cooper cabrio looks much the same as it always has, with the same cartoonishly stylish design we've come to love over the years, along with enormous headlights and a smiling grille. The rear-end Union Jack taillights match the available mirror caps and folding soft-top roof. The base-level Cooper rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, while the Cooper S gets slightly larger 16-inch variants. The base model comes outfitted with automatic headlights, but the upper sub-trims upgrade the LEDs with complementary fog lights. Although each model can be had with 17-inch alloy wheels, those on the new Sidewalk special edition are unique Scissor Spoke wheels. It also benefits from unique exterior color options, including Deep Laguna Blue and Mini Yours Enigmatic Black, along with an Anthracite fabric top emblazoned with Sidewalk graphics.
Minis aren't so named for nothing, and the 2-door Mini Cooper Convertible fits the bill perfectly with an overall length of just 151.9 inches, and the 98.2-inch wheelbase creates an equally tight cabin. Fold in the mirrors, and the soft-top machine measures 68 inches from side to side. On the rare occasions when you'll have the roof up, the cabriolet stands 55.7 inches tall. Naturally, the weight of such a compact vehicle matches its size. The standard Cooper trim is the lighter of the two, tipping the scales at 2,948 lbs, while the Cooper S packs on a little extra, maxing out at 3,051 lbs.
The new Mini Cooper Convertible has all the same options when it comes to powertrain. The Cooper makes do with a 1.5L turbo three-pot. However, buyers are no longer restricted to the seven-speed automatic transmission; the six-speed manual returns to the range this year as part of the standard specs. Regardless of the shifter, 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque are directed to the front wheels only. This allows the Cooper cabrio to make the 0-60 mph sprint in a modest 8.2 seconds. It is the more sedate of the two trim options, making it ideal for cruising around town or having a bit of light fun.
If you want a little more excitement, then the 2.0-liter turbo four-pot under the hood of the Cooper S will be more to your liking. Upping output to 189 hp and 207 lb-ft, this powertrain shares the same transmission options and FWD setup. However, it can make the 0-60 mph sprint in a zesty 6.7 seconds. With this much power, tight streets around town may feel a little restrictive, so letting loose on the highway is the best way to unwind.
The Sidewalk Edition uses the Cooper S as its foundation, so it gets the same powertrain and transmission options. Those wanting even more power should consider the Mini Cooper JCW Convertible, which gets a 228-hp powertrain and is reviewed separately.
Where the 2021 Mini Cooper Convertible may lose points in practicality and affordability, its drivability earns them back with interest. Very few cars can deliver as much fun as this little drop-top, and none remain within the compact convertible segment. Both powertrains are highly capable, but the punchier four-pot is definitely the more enjoyable of the two. Most performance cars rely on a rear-wheel drivetrain, but the Mini's light weight and refined handling dynamics mean that it can be just nimble and fun with a front-wheel drivetrain.
Considering how short the distance from the steering wheel to the front axle is, it's hardly a surprise that steering responses are practically immediate. They're a little sharp, though, so you'd best be on your game with hooning around town. On the highway, the steering gains a little weight, but it's still a bit on the light side and doesn't communicate as deftly as models from the marque once did. Where most convertibles are cruisers, this Cooper is a lot more playful and engaging.
However, all this fun crammed into such a small frame means that some things had to be left out. The most noticeable of these is comfort. Even smaller bumps are too easily felt within the cabin, so rather stay away from poorly maintained roads. This can be further improvement but opting for the adaptive suspension, but the improvements are very minor for the sizable hike in price.
While not the most fuel-efficient car, the Mini Convertible actually returns pretty decent gas mileage figures. Since the manual gearbox has returned, there is more variance in miles per gallon estimates, though. The base Mini cabrio gets an EPA-estimated 26/37/30 mpg city/highway/combined when equipped with the aforementioned manual. Swapping out for the auto transmission sees some improvement at 28/37/31 mpg. Though slightly thristier, the Cooper S is still relatively thrifty with the seven-speed automatic gearbox at 26/34/29 mpg. The worst figures are found when the larger engine is mated to the manual transmission - 23/32/26 mpg. Since its fuel tank is proportionately small, at just 11.6 gallons, the Cooper Convertible has a maximum range just shy of 360 miles.
The inside of the drop-top Mini is as plush as you'd expect from a luxury brand, but it definitely isn't spacious. By nature, these little cars are quite boxy, so there's more than enough headroom to go around, but that point becomes moot during open-top driving. Legroom is a little more of an issue, although those up front can't really complain. The rear seats, however, are genuinely cramped. Getting in and out of the 2-door convertible can be a little tricky if you want to fill every seat, but it really functions better if you consider it a 2-seater. If the base leatherette dressing the bolstered bucket seats doesn't impress you, then you can upgrade to genuine leather. Interior color choices include Black or Black/Light Grey for the leatherette, and Black, Malt Brown, or Satellite Grey for leather. The Sidewalk Edition gets a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sidewalk Anthracite leather lounge upholstery, and unique floor mats.
The Mini Cooper cabriolet is definitely not the most practical of vehicles. The already compact 5.7 cubic feet of cargo space is further infringed upon when the roof is drawn down. But since most of your time will be spent having open-top fun with your Mini Cooper, the back seat can double up as extra storage space, since it certainly isn't ideal for people.
cargo space, maybe enough for some light errand running around town like a few grocery bags from the corner store. Of course, if you're enjoying some open-top fun with your Mini Cooper, chances are, you'll likely be throwing some bags on the back seat, too. Especially considering how difficult it can be to access the trunk via the finicky porthole.
There also isn't much room around the cabin, but you could use the rear seats for some extra storage space since they aren't all that well suited to passengers. Other small-item storage solutions include a pair of cupholders in the front, supplemented by some oddly placed storage bins. The glove compartment isn't overly large, either.
Despite its premium pricing, the Mini Cooper soft-top is sparsely outfitted in its base Classic sub-trim. Standard features include cruise control, push-button start, a rearview camera with rear sonar, and forward collision avoidance technology. From here, you can choose to option on some of the available packages or upgrade to the Signature or Iconic sub-trims and add packages to those, too. By doing so, you can gain access to dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors with an automated parking system, and even a high-tech head-up display. There is also a new digital instrument cluster available to the Signature and standard on the Iconic. As a semi-standalone model, the Sidewalk Edition comes with everything you'd find on the Cooper S Signature, as well as keyless entry, heated front seats, and the aforementioned head-up display.
The infotainment setup follows the same pattern as the convenience and comfort features, with more advanced tech becoming available as you move through the sub-trims. The basic features found on the Classic include a 6.5-inch touchscreen programmed with AM/FM Radio and Bluetooth functionality. USB ports and an audio jack allow for manual interfacing of technology, while a six-speaker sound system channels the audio. The infotainment interface can be upgraded with navigation, SiriusXM, and Apple Carplay, or replaced with a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen that has them as standard. The sound system can also be replaced with a 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium setup. The Sidewalk Edition gets the larger touchscreen and upgraded sound system as standard.
The Cooper cabriolet has not received a dependability rating from J.D. Power for a few years now; the 2019 variant received a commendable 80 out of 100, and the updates since then haven't affected the model mechanically. The Cooper Hardtop has seen a few recalls over the years, but the convertible's record remains unsullied. The warranty for the cabrio comprises a limited plan for 50,000 miles/48 months and a 36,000-mile/36-month free maintenance plan.
Luxury vehicles seldom undergo extensive safety testing, and neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has reviewed the Mini Cooper Convertible extensively. However, the 2020 Convertible received ratings of Advanced from the IIHS for overall front crash prevention. Standard safety features include stability and traction control, ABS, a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors, along with a set of six airbags: front, front, side, and front knee. At BMW's behest, an Active Driving Assistant is installed on all base models, comprising modern forward collision-avoidance tech.
Although the new Mini Cooper Convertible has not changed much since 2020, and that's not a bad thing. It impressed us then, and it continues to. Thanks to the six-speed manual gearbox, it's even more hands-on than it was before, and that's saying something. Everything about the car is aimed at delivering a good time, although this comes at the cost of reduced practicality, like comfort or passenger/cargo space.
Still, it's not a car designed for the masses. If you're shopping for something the whole family can enjoy, this isn't the buy for you. There is almost no space in the back seat, and ride comfort leaves much to be desired if you aren't actually behind the wheel. However, if you already have a sensible sedan or crossover for more mundane daily tasks and want a little spice in your life, then this little pepper shaker is exactly what you're looking for.
At the end of the day, you'll be hard-pressed to find a car this fun at this price point in the USA except perhaps the Mazda Miata, especially if you stick to one of the basic sub-trims. But, for buyers who may want at least a semblance of practicality with their fun, the price of the Cooper Convertible might be hard to swallow.
The price of a Mini Cooper Convertible can be a little tricky to work out. When building your model, you are presented with three distinct trims: the Cooper, Cooper S, and JCW (handled in a separate review). The Cooper starts at a seemingly reasonable $27,400, while the Cooper S adds $4,000 over this. However, the sub-trims are where things get a little tricky. The Signature sub-trim adds $2,500 to the Cooper and $3,000 to the Cooper S, while the Iconic adds a further $3,500 and $4,000, respectively. The Sidewalk special edition slots in somewhere between the two upper sub-trims of the Cooper S at $38,400. These prices don't factor in any optional packages, nor tax, registration, licensing, and destination fees.
There are technically only two Mini Cooper Convertible models to choose from, not counting the performance-focused John Cooper Works. However, there is a lot of customization beyond just choosing the base form. For the most fun, you will definitely want to start with the Cooper S, as it gets a much punchier four-cylinder engine. If your budget isn't as limitless as most people shopping in this segment, you'll want to stick to the Classic sub-trim and pass over the available packages to control the final pricing. But, if you have some cash to burn, the Iconic or new Sidewalk Edition will certainly improve the fun factor.
As has remained the case over previous years, the Hardtop and Convertible Mini Coopers are basically identical vehicles, just with slightly different applications. Naturally, the Hardtop lives up to its name by having a standard, hard roof. This does have some practical implications, though, as it means there is a little more trunk space to work with. But, while 8.7 cubic feet may sound like a lot more than 5.7 cubic feet, it's still not a lot. Of course, opting for the four-door version ups the total capacity to a far more usable 13.1 cubic feet. This makes it slightly more accessible, although the rear seats are still just as cramped, with the 4-door variant adding an appreciable two inches to legroom. With the same available engine lineup and sub-trim customization options, the real question is, do you want to drive with the wind in your hair or not?
Everything about the Mazda MX-5 Miata is just a little bigger than the Mini Cooper. Not just physical dimensions, this includes the Miata's 181-hp four-cylinder engine, which channels power to the rear wheels. Like the Mini Cooper Roadster of years past, the Mazda doesn't even try to be practical for passengers, discarding the rear seats completely. And while you may think this should mean more trunk space, you'd be quite wrong. The Miata offers a measly 4.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity. But, as the Cooper Convertible makes these sacrifices in the name of fun, the MX-5 makes even bigger sacrifices for a bigger pay-off. It handles beautifully and feels incredible to drive. It also gets better safety features as standard at a lower cost than the Mini Cooper Convertible. The interior isn't quite as premium, but it's still plenty comfortable, and the lower fuel bills at the end of the month don't hurt either.
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