Two open-topped MINI models are offered, and they're more different than you might think.
BMW’s success with the MINI brand has been remarkable, the firm’s diversification of the line-up including the drop-top Convertible, which followed the introduction of the second-generation MINI hatchback in 2009, with the even more extreme open-top Roadster joining the range in 2012. The Convertible has a fabric roof covering four seats, while the Roadster turns the MINI into a racier two-seater with a flatter rear deck and short hood where the rear seats should be. The Roadster’s got the bigger boot as a result, though neither open-topped MINI is likely to be bought with any thoughts of practicality. Plenty of fun, though.
The two differing goals for the Convertible and Roadster models are apparent in their choice of engines. The Convertible is offered with almost the entire engine and transmission range available on its hatchback relation, meaning plenty of choice. The Roadster, with its narrower appeal and greater focus, comes only with the more powerful engines, befitting of its more sporting character.
Both come with compromises, but then buyers of open-topped cars are used to that. The Convertible loses a lot of the space and access to the boot of its hatchback relation - itself not exactly what you’d call generously proportioned for luggage - but the Roadster, by virtue of losing its rear seats, actually offers the (slightly) more useful boot. Then there’s the styling, the MINI Convertible looks much like its hatchback relation with the roof up, the Roadster clearly a different-looking proposition roof up or down.
As with all MINIs they’re almost infinitely personalised, with an options list and pack choices that’s anything but mini in its offerings. Even the entry-level One models feature essentials, while the Cooper and Cooper S have more sporting equipment, as do the John Cooper Works models. If it’s badged D then it’s a diesel, offered in One D and Cooper D forms. All are fun, even the entry-level One petrol and diesels, while the Roadster adds some sharpness to the drive to match its more rakish, sporting looks. Manual transmissions are standard and an automatic offered as an option - depending on engine specification.
Engine choice covers everything from a 1.6-litre, which comes in naturally aspirated form with 98- or 122hp, or in S form with a turbocharger for 184hp or Cooper S Works with 211hp. The diesel options are either a 1.6-or 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 90hp in standard One D guise, 112hp in Cooper D form or 143hp in Cooper SD form. The Convertible is offered with all those engines, while the Roaster is only offered with the S, SD and S Works offerings.
The Cooper is enough for most people, but the Cooper S really adds some pace to get the wind in your hair at quicker speeds. It’s not much less economical, either, and shop around and you should be able to get one for reasonable money, too. Given the choice of the Convertible or the Roadster we’d opt for the Convertible, as it comes with fewer compromises, even if it’s not quite as special as a result.
MINI Cooper S Convertible
Engine: 1,598cc four-cylinder turbo petrol
Maximum speed: 227km/h
0-100km/h: 7.5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/100km
- Lots of equipment
- Fun to drive
- Excellent build quality, smart interior
- It’s not spacious
- Ride a bit bouncy on more sporting models
- Fiddly console buttons
The MINI’s fun as a hatchback, so opening it up to the sun only makes it more entertaining. That’s assuming you’re prepared to put up with the compromises that it brings - chiefly denying the MINI of even more practicality. MINI buyers don’t seem to care though, and you’ll enjoy every minute of owning and driving it.