The “S” badge following the Mini’s name has traditionally meant the car that wears it belongs to a family of more exciting, driver-focussed versions of the iconic hatch and convertible range. Attaching it to the rag-topped Cooper Convertible hints that sun-seeking drivers can also relish in the heat of a warmed-over version of the lifestyle-focused four-seater.
- This is definitely the driver’s version of the Convertible. The entry-level version of the cloth folding roofed Cooper uses the same 100kW/220Nm turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine as the 110kg lighter three-door hardtopped version, which already feels slow. The Cooper S Cabriolet’s more meaty 141kW/280Nm does a better job of backing up the emotion of the design with performance to suit.
- It looks the same as before. Designers will often tweak the looks of a model as part of a facelift, but Mini has left this one pretty much alone, apart from some redesigned headlights and tail-lamps that feature on this car.
Read next: 2018 Mini Cooper S Cabrio review
- It gets a better fuel gauge. One of the criticisms levelled at the model that precedes this version of the Cooper was that the LED fuel gauge inside the instrument cluster was too difficult to read. It’s now been lifted out of the cluster and given its own separate space outside, where it is much more visible.
- It drives like a Mini. Despite all the extra weight from the under-body strengthening to make the car flex less, the Mini Cabriolet shucks off many of the drop-top foibles such as excessive body shake over rougher sections of road, or body twist while cornering. Yes, there are signs of both, but they’re very well controlled. It is also heaps of fun to chuck into a corner.
- The exhausts pop and crackle in Sport mode. Back off the accelerator pedal a bit to slow down and the Mini will turn up the aural theatre. Roof down, it sounds amazing.
- The Mini Cooper range now comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay support, with no more to pay. Mini’s German owner, BMW, still charges most customers to add it to their cars.
- If you like your technology, Mini is right into it. There’s smartphone connectivity available that will let you do things such as heat the interior before you leave the office or check fuel levels, as well as optional extras such as RFID tags that will alert you that you’ve left the bag it is attached to in the car.
- The roof takes 18 seconds to go up and down, which is a long time in traffic. It’s fine if you start your trip in the driveway, but if you’re going to drop or reinstate the cloth roof on the fly, plan ahead. It will work at speeds of up to 30km/h, so you can crawl along in traffic if the lights go green halfway through the process.
- The Mini’s interior isn’t quite as good as the exterior. The trim is flush with hard plastics that don’t quite give the premium feel to back up the sharp-looking outer skin.
- Ergonomics are poor in the front seats. There’s little small-item storage, the long doors make opening one in a shopping centre car park a chore, and the cup holders render what little space is available to stash gear inaccessible if both are in use.
- Space is very limited in the rear seats. This generation of Mini added more rear-seat legroom as part of its generational leap, but it’s still very tight in the back, especially for knee room.
- Fuel use has improved by 0.1L/100km, which isn’t much considering the Cooper S Convertible has gone up in price. Some of the changes we see here are in response to more strict European emissions standards that kick in later this year, so there’s a little bit of box-ticking going on.
- As well as a “Sport” mode, the Cooper S also has an “Eco” mode. All it does is dull the throttle and hold gears for longer, turning a super-fun drop-top into a drowsy drop-kick.
Hot Hatch Megatest: 2018 Mini Cooper S JCW
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Audi A3 Cabriolet and the Fiat 500C spring to mind, although one is quite expensive and the other … well, if you thought the Mini Cooper was challenged for space.