The 2022 Mini John Cooper Works Convertible is a member of a dying breed. Drop-top cars, especially affordable ones, are disappearing quicker than they can accelerate to 60 mph. Perhaps there's a reason for that? Although the JCW Convertible starts off semi-reasonably at $38,900, our tester's $45,750 price tag could explain why someone may rather purchase a sporty sedan or crossover. 45 grand is a heap of money to spend on such a tiny car, but maybe the most powerful open-roof Mini is worth the price to someone.
Within the Mini brand, the John Cooper Works models are equivalent to an M model in the BMW range. The convertible variant gets a tuned 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine popping out 228 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. That doesn't sound like much next to convertible muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang, but it is more than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The trouble is, after driving the 2022 JCW Convertible, we aren't so sure it offers a more enjoyable experience than any of those aforementioned drop-tops. In our opinion, this car shows how far the brand has strayed from the legacy of John Cooper, the man responsible for the original Mini.
The Mini JCW Convertible receives the same updates as the rest of the Cooper range. It has an updated front end with a more prominent grille. BMW is obviously on a mission to attach an oversized grille to everything it makes. JCW variants now feature air intakes with high-gloss surrounds flanking the central intake. The rear bumper is also new and uses fewer body-colored panels, with a new diffuser that hints at the sportiness of the model. Mini also offers a few new wheel designs to enhance the side profile.
On the inside, all Minis gain a new 8.8-inch infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster, and new ambient lighting is standard, too. The steering wheel has been updated, and Mini's Driving Assistant with lane departure warning is now also part of the standard safety kit. Finally, a 12-month subscription to SiriusXM is now standard too.
See trim levels and configurations:
|John Cooper Works||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
This may be the John Cooper Works version, but let's make one thing clear, the convertible Mini is made for attention. If you simply love driving, get the hardtop. People who buy this car are the kind who want to be seen. Still, even our most ardent Mini lover can't deny the appeal of dropping that fabric top. While the Mini is larger than ever before, it still looks chunky and cool. It has the signature round headlights with LED daytime running lights and rear LEDs incorporating the British flag.
The best thing about a Mini is the customization options available. You can have it in a wild color, with or without racing stripes, and some Union Jacks. In addition to the exterior paint, you can create nice contrast by going for the optional 18-inch two-tone wheels or sticking with the standard 17-inch black alloy wheels. A wind deflector is standard on the top two sub-trims and optional on the entry-level JCW.
The Mini is one of the tiniest cars available in the USA. It measures 152.8 inches long, 75.9 inches wide (including the side mirrors), and 55.7 inches tall. All of this rides on a 98.2-inch wheelbase, which means the Mini retains that minimal-overhang look it's so famous for.
Oddly, the diminutive size does not translate to a low curb weight. The JCW Convertible weighs 3,144 pounds, which is a lot more than the similarly-sized Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Miata weighs 2,403 lbs with an automatic gearbox - a rather large difference. To be fair, the Mazda is a strict two-seater, but it's not like the rear seats in the Mini serve any meaningful purpose.
Technically, the shoutiest color of the lot is a no-cost option - however, choosing Zesty Yellow or JCW Rebel Green requires that you opt for the Signature sub-trim, which adds $1,750 to the total price. Moonwalk Grey metallic is the only real no-cost option, an incredibly dull and lifeless color. Chili Red, Midnight Black, and Pepper White retail for $500 and are available across all trim levels.
The other metallic exterior colors consist of Rooftop Grey, White Silver, and Island Blue. These colors are only available from the Signature trim. We liked the Island Blue hue on our tester, but thought it looked a bit silly paired with the red accents. Unless you really love Spiderman, we'd choose a more flattering color combination.
Mini Yours Enigmatic Black Metallic is a no-cost option on the Iconic trim, which adds $6,000 to the base price.
Opting for the Signature trim also unlocks red, white, or black mirror caps. The available bonnet stripes all cost $100. You can have the John Cooper Works stripes (black with red outlines), white, or regular black stripes. Adding Piano Black badges is also a no-cost option across the range, and $500 will get you a Mini Yours Softop in all sub-trims, except the base Classic.
The John Cooper Works models use the same TwinPower 2.0-liter inline turbocharged four-cylinder as the standard Cooper S. Thanks to an ECU tune and a sportier exhaust system, the JCW produces 228 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. According to Mini, it can sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds (0.4 seconds slower than the automatic hardtop). Mini claims a top speed of 149 mph, but mobbing around at high speed with the fold-down roof stacked behind the rear seats is probably not a good idea.
The JCW is front-wheel drive but comes standard with an electronically locking front differential. We would have preferred a mechanical differential, as the electronic unit still has trouble putting down the power thanks to the flimsy chassis (keep reading for more on this). Mini's FWD system makes it unique in the convertible segment now that the Fiat 500c Abarth is no longer for sale. Larger Mini JCW models get more power with AWD.
The JCW Convertible doesn't directly compete with anything, but for less money, you could get a more powerful Chevrolet Camaro Convertible V6 or a Mustang Convertible with the EcoBoost. Heck, you could even get the V8-powered models for a similar price. Oh, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata tops out well below the Mini's price, too.
Mini's 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the same engine used in various BMW products like the M235i Gran Coupe. It provides more power in the BMWs, but it is utterly devoid of character. At least in the Mini, you get a pleasing soundtrack and a quick throttle response once the car is on the go.
Here, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot produces 228 hp at 5,200 rpm, but it's the torque that really impresses. The full 235 lb-ft is available from just 1,450 rpm. You notice some turbo lag from a standing start, after which it just disappears.
The engine is mated to an eight-speed Aisin-sourced automatic transmission, not the ZF unit used in pricier BMWs. It's fairly quick and smooth, though it sometimes takes a moment to drop a few cogs when it realizes that it's time to unleash the engine's full potential.
As is the norm these days, it makes pleasing burps and farts as you shift up and down via the paddle shifters, which we wish were made using a higher quality plastic. Lift off the throttle after some heavy acceleration, and it will even fire some (fake) shots from the exhaust, much like a classic Mini with a straight pipe. It sounds ok, but a Hyundai Veloster N is much louder.
We are disappointed that the convertible is only available with the automatic gearbox, while the hatchn has the more visceral six-speed manual. If sheer driving pleasure is what you seek, the hardtop is the way to go. The JCW still feels brisk enough. It scoots away from the traffic lights and merges with highway traffic effortlessly. Overtaking is also pretty easy thanks to the low-down torque.
Mini continues to make the same mistake, dating back to the ridiculous John Cooper Works Coupe and Roadster. Mini's engineers seem to be under the impression that sporty and rock-hard are synonyms. There's just no excuse for such a spine-bashing suspension setup, which is less comfortable than some supercars we've driven over the years.
Cars like the MX-5 Miata prove that you can run a relatively soft damping setup while retaining an eagerness to provide many smiles per mile. The JCW just feels like a collection of aftermarket parts put together by a boy racer in his mom's garage.
Despite the stiff suspension, the chassis feels like it has the same structural rigidity as a bowl of Jell-O. Actually, that's not fair to the Jell-O if it's being served in a nice porcelain dish. The scuttle shake on this car is abysmal, reminiscent of a Geo Metro or Chrysler Sebring convertible. When you mash the throttle, you can literally see the back of the car dip down in the rearview mirror. Perhaps this is a feature because when you are off-throttle, the folded convertible top completely blocks the view out of the back.
We should also mention how the JCW Convertible drives with the roof down. Mini includes a half-open mode that operates like a large sunroof. It's a smart idea, but poorly executed. If you travel at any reasonable speed, the wind gust and accompanying noise becomes intolerable. Putting the roof fully down solves the wind issue, but comes with the aforementioned visibility issues.
On the plus side, there's minimal body roll, which is impressive for a convertible. It sticks to the road well despite lacking all-wheel drive. Though there's not much in the way of steering feel, the Mini immediately responds to wherever you point it. And if you push too hard, it will understeer. All of this makes the Mini confidence-inspiring, even for the novice driver. Modern Minis only have three driving modes: Mid, Green, and Sport. Mid is the default, Green makes it more efficient, while Sport does exactly what it says.
Given the performance, you don't pay much of a penalty when it comes to consumption. The JCW convertible comes with EPA-estimated figures of 24/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined. We only averaged 26 mpg during a week of driving.
The Cooper S with the detuned engine and auto 'box comes with EPA-estimated figures of 27/36/30 mpg. We'd happily pay the penalty for the additional performance on the JCW.
The tank size is just 11.6 gallons, but thanks to the impressive consumption figures, you're looking at a range of about 325 miles from a single tank.
All Minis carry a price premium over rivals, and the interior goes a long way toward justifying the cost. High-end Minis like this use the same quality materials as lower-end BMWs, right down to the iDrive-like dial housed between the seats. Upholstery is cloth in the Classic sub-trim, with leatherette, Cross Punch leather, and Chesterfield leather available as you move up through the sub-trims.
You can feel the quality when holding the steering wheel. The stitching is beautiful, and the John Cooper Works logo on the bottom of the wheel is a nice touch. We dig the large 8.8-inch touchscreen, surrounded by the now-famous circular design motif. It lights up along with the rev counter, which may sound a bit gimmicky, but is just one of the many fun design elements that make Mini interiors unique. We also love the toggle switches below the climate control interface. Mini could have used regular buttons like everyone else, but the toggles are so much more satisfying.
The JCW Convertible seats four passengers, though anyone getting into the back won't want to stay there long. With 30.9 inches of rear legroom and 39 inches of headroom, the back seat is more spacious than a Camaro or Mustang Convertible, but that's not saying much. We feel it best to fold down the Mini's back seats to create a useful storage area. As for the front seats, they are a highlight of the JCW model. The bolstering is fantastic, keeping you in place during spirited driving. We do wish Mini offered electric power seats, as sliding the chairs manually feels undignified for $45,000.
If you want something practical, best walk away now. The Mini's interior storage is way more impressive than its trunk, and it only has two cupholders in the front. Rear passengers get a solitary cupholder, so if you have small kids, it's going to be a constant battle back there.
The trunk is more of a small cat-flap that drops down like a pickup truck tailgate. If you have back problems, you're going to hate this car. Size-wise, you're looking at 5.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which increases by another 1.9 cubes if you fold the rear seats flat. That's two overnight bags at the most and maybe a week's worth of groceries for a single person.
The most likely scenario is using the rear seat as a trunk. At least you have easy access, but nothing is keeping your stuff from rolling around. Mini includes an odd cargo system that lets you lift up the roof to create a wider loading space, but it's a hassle to use in a crowded parking lot.
The standard features list is quite disappointing given the relatively high asking price. Mini's base sub-trim is known as the Classic. It comes as standard with LED headlights and cornering lights, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, rear park distance control, manual climate control, a digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, cruise control, and radio controls on the steering wheel.
Moving up to the Signature sub-trim adds standard heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a useful storage package, and a sport suspension with dynamic damper control.
The top-tier Iconic adds a heated steering wheel, a heads-up display, and wireless charging.
The JCW Convertible comes standard with an 8.8-inch iDrive-style touchscreen display with a rotating controller, but you'd be more amazed at what does not come standard for the $38,900 starting price. Adding Apple CarPlay and navigation will set you back an additional $1,000 on the Classic and Signature sub-trims. Built-in navigation, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, and the 12-speaker Harman/Kardon Premium audio system all come standard when you select the $6,000 Iconic trim. We could live without some of these features, but how in the world is CarPlay not standard equipment in 2022? Seriously, the Toyota Corolla comes with CarPlay on the base model. It's omissions like this that make the Mini one of the worst value offerings on the market. A six-speaker sound system is standard on lower trims, and both SiriusXM and HD Radio are included too. Naturally, you can also connect to the system via Bluetooth.
The new Mini JCW Convertible hasn't been recalled once in the last couple of years, and the 2022 model year remains recall-free at the time of writing. While the Mini Convertible doesn't have a J.D. Power rating, the hardtop does. The 2022 model scored 83 out of a possible 100 points for quality and reliability, and earned the number one spot in J.D. Power's 'Best Compact Sporty Car' list.
Mini's new car warranty covers four years/50,000 miles with rust perforation covered for 12 years and unlimited miles. Complimentary scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles is also included.
The Mini Convertible has never been to the NHTSA for a thorough review, though the IIHS did a partial examination. It gave the headlights an Acceptable rating and the standard front crash prevention system an Advanced score.
Considering it has access to BMW's parts bin, you'd think a funky brand like Mini would be at the forefront of advanced driver assistance features. Unfortunately, there's nothing to boast about here. New for this year is lane keep assist, which joins the pre- and post-collision safety system. Unfortunately, important safety features like blind-spot monitoring are not available on any trim level. This is a huge omission for a car with horrible visibility. Likewise, the Mini isn't available with a surround-view camera, so you're likely to curb one of those oddly convex 18-inch wheels.
What you do get in the way of driver assists is limited to park distance control in the rear, dynamic cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Upgrading to the Iconic trim adds a head-up display which is optionally available to Signature models as part of a $1,800 package. Other than that, it's pretty much the basics; six airbags, traction and stability control, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, and cornering lights.
It's rare when we actively advise someone not to buy a particular car, but the 2022 Mini John Cooper Works Convertible is an example. We can't see any particular reason to purchase it over a more powerful Camaro or Mustang or the more enjoyable Miata. If you can live without the convertible top, we think the JCW Hardtop is a much better value, but even that is outclassed by rivals like the Hyundai Veloster N or Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The JCW Convertible's nearly $39,000 starting price wouldn't seem as outrageous if it included more standard features, but it requires more than $6,000 worth of options to simply match what competitors offer for less. Alec Issigonis, the original Mini designer, is turning in his grave. The Mini was designed as the ultimate people's car. Charging people $6,000 extra for a vehicle with a $40,000 sticker to access navigation, wireless charging, and Apple CarPlay goes against everything the original stood for, and for $45k there are countless better convertible and hot hatchbacks we'd rather have.
The MSRP of the base Classic model is $38,900, excluding the destination charge of $850. Signature sub-trims add $1,750 to the price, while the top-spec Iconic adds $6,000 to the base MSRP of the Classic, at $44,900.
We can't stress this enough - we would not buy the John Cooper Works Convertible. If you need a drop-top Mini in your life, just go for the three-cylinder base model (starting at $27,900) or if you want something spicier, the Cooper S Convertible (starting at $31,900). Or, if you need a JCW-badged Mini, just get the hardtop (starting at $32,900) and pocket $6,500.
If you are hell-bent on a JCW Convertible, however, you're damned if you don't opt for the expensive Iconic sub-trim. Don't even waste your time considering the base models.
To be blunt, the JCW version of the convertible makes little sense. The standard Cooper S convertible is less than half a second slower to 60 mph, and it rides much better - and it costs $7,000 less than the JCW version in base spec.
Even the standard car is surprisingly stiff, but you can mitigate this by sticking with the standard 16-inch wheel with a much higher profile tire. You can make it even more comfortable by adding the $500 dynamic damper control. Best of all, you can have the Cooper S with a manual, which is better than the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which adds another $1,750 to the price of the Classic. The Cooper S is less hardcore and all the better for it. It's still fun to drive, but you won't have to go for a kidney replacement every five years. Best of all, the standard Cooper S convertible is at its best in Classic trim. It's just you, a Nappa leather steering wheel, and three pedals. What more could you possibly want from an open-top experience?
Let's be honest. This battle is entirely one-sided. It's essentially a legend of drop-top motoring going up against a Mini with the roof removed. The Miata is down on power, has two seats, and comes with a less desirable badge. And that's about all you can say in favor of the Mini.
The Miata weighs much less and gets to 60 mph faster. But it just doesn't matter because the Mazda provides the essence of automotive fun, from the way it feels to drive to how it nestles you inside the cockpit. It's a brilliant piece of engineering. Best of all, the Mazda is a lot cheaper, even in the top Grand Touring trim. And unlike Mini, Mazda gives you absolutely everything as standard, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Choosing between the JCW Convertible and the Miata is one of the easiest decisions we've ever had to make. For us, it's Miata all the way.
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