Test Drive Review: Mini Cooper S Convertible, the drop-top retro supermini
A blast from the past
Just a month before I was tasked with the objective of driving the refreshed third gen Mini Cooper S, I had the pleasant opportunity of once again re-acquainting myself with a 1960s’ example of the Alec Issigonis original. I liked the thought and execution of that tiny tot which went on to revolutionise small cars via its impeccable packaging template. As much a style icon as well as a marvel of manners (hairily civilised if I could term it that way), so many however relegated cramped driving positions and low floors and such in a daily driver to the back of their minds and the Mini became, and still remains, an icon of a cult that refuses to fade away.
Seeing the Mini under BMW evolve, so far away from the Issigonis genius yet so well within his original ambit in a larger proportion, I had mixed feelings about it for a long time. Also the advent into other body style extensions – Countryman, Clubman,Coupe, 5-door, etc, I was concerned that BMW’s product planners were taking a lot of liberties with the basic Issigonis blueprint until I drove the Coupe JCW in the UK about three years ago and then had a Cooper D for a few months to experience in India. It changed my mind to a great extent even though I could only envisage it as a boutique offering in a market place like India given its heft (or lack of it) and price-positioning against other German offerings including from parent BMW!
So with there being the prospect of a no-holds barred media drive in Mallorca I knew that this was something to really look forward to and get reacquainted with the brand. When I mention ‘no holds barred’ it was for the first time that Mini or its parent BMW had devised a drive where we were just handed the car and told to drive over a choice of routes and come back at our leisure by a certain time late in the evening. No fuss, no deadlines, no limits on distance, etc, etc. And to top it all, the venue seemed to be ordained to the car and vice versa! Mallorca is a sun-kissed island with narrow twisty roads over mountains that play host to some of the top bicycle racing events in Europe and many a time in actuality I thought the roads were made for two or a max of three cyclists to run alongside each other all the while rubbing elbows as they did so! Meaning in effect just the habitat for a perky mile muncher with fun spelt out in its performance repertoire to feel at home!
“This is a car that one should buy for driving with one’s beloved and savouring the long way back home”
189bhp, 300Nm and 0-100kmph in 7.1 seconds
So lets begin with what drives the refreshed newest Mini and the trusty 1998cc turbo-four is just the right ticket for this car. With 189bhp on call there is ample power but what is even more impressive is the sweet rush of 300Nm of torque that makes the drive so alluring. I had the chance to drive both a cabrio as well as its all metal hatchback variant and I found the car to be fun, whether it was equipped with Mini’s new 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission or the even more fun-inducing 6-speed manual that comes as the standard offering. The fuelling is crisp, the response intuitively sharp or progressive given your state of being and the Mini Cooper S responds in kind. The engine complements the eager playful chassis and this combination makes the Mini Cooper S just the ideal tackle to take on twisty mountain roads, with or without irritatingly quick or lumbering cyclists!
Ride and handling of the Mini Cooper S Convertible
Steering the Mini is a breeze not because of the fact that pitch it into a corner at slightly above sensible speeds and yet the car comes out of the bend in the intended safe trajectory and sticking to terra firma (Mallorcan tarmac was grippy to say the least), but the fact that you seem always in control. This is despite the fact that given its wheels positioned extremely on the edge of all four corners, a ride that is firm yet not bouncy, an almost flat cornering (read that as negligible body roll) and you know that you are experiencing the go-kart sensation albeit in a plush, safe and even more powerful environment! Heck this is even better than what I expected! And on the brakes the car is composed without the hassle of thinking the rear would overtake the front! In all the strong handling characteristics and good mannerisms displayed at speed, the ride is of an unusually high order though I must say that this car is only for a young couple with no kids!
The biggest changes to the exterior mostly involve a choice of new alloy wheels (three different designs to chose from in Europe), a new palette of body colours and the adoption of LED lights front and rear. As I mentioned at the beginning of the feature, it is a Germanic rendition of a British original so BMW has had to reinforce its British traits and it has ironically decided to do so – in the era of Brexit that too!, with the LEDs on the tail light in the form of the Union Jack! Distinctive even if debate inducing, I liked them on both counts! The front headlights now feature DRLs around the entire circumference and a part of this convert into turn signal indicators.
Being Mini and a style icon as well, there’s heaps of personalisation on the anvil within the interior which now comes with a new infotainment system that incorporates Apple’s CarPlay. The funky instrumentation and switchgear of the original BMW-designed Mini remains intact and just as intoxicatingly brilliant to the touch and the eyes and among the really nice touches was the way the puddle lamps plus the sill decoration emit the same Union Jack theme!
This is a car that one should buy for driving with one’s beloved and savouring the long way back home. For any other applications there is always the Series 1 or 2 or 3! Think then that BMW has covered all bases and is laughing all the way to the bank; at least in Europe while here it holds itself as the best boutique offering from any mainstream OEM. And that is saying quite a lot.
Engine: 1998cc, 4-cylinder, turbo-petrol
Power: 189bhp @ 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1250-4600rpm
Top speed: 228kmph
Transmission: 7-speed DCT
Price: Rs 37.10 lakh (ex-showroom)