Regular readers know that I can get just a tiny bit enthusiastic when I fall in love with a car, so it goes without saying that you can expect a gushing review any time I get behind the wheel of a MINI. We’ve had the JCW equipped Cooper S on the track and we’ve blasted through winter in a likewise equipped Clubman. Over Easter weekend, as the Ontario winter finally broke, we got to spend some time with the 2009 MINI Cooper S convertible. What could be more fun?
All the good stuff (and very few nitpicks) might as well carry over from those two reviews I’ve linked to up above. This is a MINI, which means that it goes like stink, sounds great and handles like its on rails. As Spring had just about sprung, our main focus was going to be on keeping the roof open. Fortunately, the good folks at MINI have included a completely useless gauge called the Always Open Timer or as I called it, the Fun Meter. When we picked up our topless MINI there was about 15 minutes registering. We expected to increase that total exponentially.
Opening a convertible top has long been a source of worry for potential soft top buyers, but the MINI designers have made things simple and quick. Flip a toggle switch on the overhead console and the roof opens fully in about 15 seconds. A cool feature allows the front portion to open about a foot to allow some sunroof style motoring. Perhaps best of all, the roof can be operated while the car is in motion up to about 20 kmh. While one should obviously be focusing on driving, you can open the roof at a light without worry of being caught part way through by a green light.
Whenever any car has the roof chopped for open air motoring, there is potential for chassis flex which can lead to squeaks & rattles. Fortunately, MINI has done their homework and done a great job stiffening the little box. The cabin feels as tight as the hard top cars and very little body flex is evident during normal driving. With the top up, there is a nice snug feeling with less outside noise than one might expect. We didn’t spend too much time with the roof up though, closing it only for a couple of rainy drives.
Even though the Easter Bunny brought some sunshine, it was still far from warm during our week. Daily temperatures ranged from 39 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit which isn’t exactly warm. With the top down, windows up, heater cranked and the bun warmers on high, the cabin was toasty warm even at highway speeds. For the driver and front seat passenger. Apparently not so for those in the back. Early morning on Good Friday saw 3 kids joining me for a drive up to Mosport for a day of karting. The two of us up front were getting tired of hearing the back seat whiners complaining of being cold. Ok, so it was only 39 degrees and they had refused to wear long pants! Whose fault is that?
Speaking of the back seat, it might be considered an upholstered shelf rather than a pair of seats. I’m only 5’10” and my seat placement left little room for the legs of an 8 year old. The right side isn’t so bad, as the front seat passenger can pull forward and we successfully put the teenager in the right rear seat without any complaints. The reality here is that the MINI Convertible is about fun and frivolity, not about practicality. I figure many buyers don’t have kids and those who do are craving some time away from the beasties.
As with every MINI we’ve driven, the day our convertible tester left our driveway was a sad one. One can’t help but feel happy behind the wheel of a MINI and even more so in the convertible. After a long winter, a week of bopping around town with the top down, doing the MINI wave to other MINI drivers was great for the soul. So how did we manage on the Fun Meter? After just one week of normal driving, we managed to rack up over 6 hours despite the cold Ontario air!