Mini Convertible (2018 - ) review
The Mini Convertible is one of the UK’s most popular soft-top cars, and as a small, sporty convertible, competes with everything from the Fiat 500C to the Mazda MX-5.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The Mini Convertible delivers everything a soft-top buyer could want from it. It’s enormously stylish and desirable, high in quality, fun and comfortable to drive and comes with perky, economical engines. Sure, it’s not the most practical car in the world, but as soon as the sun comes out, you won’t care a jot.
- Fun handling
- Perky engines
- Upmarket interior
- Expensive to buy
- Limited practicality
- Poor rear visibility
Interested in buying a MINI Convertible?
How good does it look?
Along with the rest of the range, the Mini Convertible was facelifted in 2018, bringing some novel new design touches. The most notable of these is the Union Flag motif in the rear light clusters, which accentuates the Britishness of the brand.
All the tell-tale Mini design touches are present and correct – rounded headlamps, wide oval grille, short overhangs and, in the case of the Cooper S version and upwards, a scoop in the bonnet – so the Convertible looks just as distinctive as any other Mini.
The overall look of your car will depend on which version you go for. Most versions of the entry-level Classic version get alloy wheels and foglamps as standard, while Sport models add various sporty aerodynamic bits and Exclusive versions add chrome exterior trims. And, as always with Mini, there are all sorts of other aesthetic options you can add – bonnet stripes, roof colours, etc – to really personalise the look of your car.
What's the interior like?
When it comes to small-car interiors, choice, quality and texture matter. Mini understands this and has presented a cabin that’s brimming with character. The soft-touch dashboard feels high in quality and can be specced in a variety of colours, while the colour of the interior lighting can be changed on the move to alter the cabin’s ambience. Plus, items like the chrome toggle switches and plectrum-shaped starter button cleverly combine the ornamental with the useful.
Ergonomics are good, too, with a large circular console housing the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a paired speedo and rev counter arrangement mounted above the steering wheel and the buttons for the electric windows and lights being placed in intuitive locations. There are still a few idiosyncrasies, though; the dial controller for the optional infotainment system is positioned next to the handbrake and so requires nimble fingers, while the fog light buttons are positioned out of view beneath the steering wheel.
The driving position is set nice and low to the floor, the seats are smart and (on the Cooper S at least) fairly supportive. However, the excellent view down the bonnet just highlights how poor the visibility is when reversing, with the folded roof blocking much of your view when down, and just a small rear window to peer through when it's up.
How practical is it?
Those sat in the front have plenty of head-, shoulder-, and elbow-room to stretch out in, and taller drivers will have a lot more space than they’d get in a Mazda MX-5. As you’d expect, the rear seats are less generous for space, but there’s enough to let you squeeze in a pair of adults for short periods of time, even though rear legroom is still at a premium. The boot is tiny, though, providing just 160 litres of space with the roof down, and 215 with it up. A quick survey of the rivals show that this is still a handful less than you’ll find in a Fiat 500C or a VW Beetle Cabriolet, but the Mini does have a couple of neat tricks to make life easier. A pair of handles in the boot fold out and let you pop the top section of the trunk open, which widens the opening enough to get bulky suitcases inside and improve access. Still, the load bay is an awkward shape and its uneven floor means the Mini convertible only really has room for a few shopping bags or a pair of soft holdalls.
What's it like to drive?
The Convertible unsurprisingly weighs a bit more than the hatchbacks, but even so, it still manages to offer the fun, playful handling characteristics that are synonymous with the Mini brand, albeit with an unexpected layer of maturity. The body control is tight, the steering is quick and the front tyres deliver bags of grip, giving the car a really darty, chuckable character. The body feels pretty stiff despite losing its roof (and as a result, some structural reinforcement) which also helps increase the sharpness.
Granted, you can feel a bit of shimmy through the body over really bumpy roads, but the bumps have to be really bad to unsettle the car and it’s still a sight more settled than many rival convertibles. Otherwise, the car stays reasonably comfy over most surfaces, and it’s surprisingly planted on the motorway, too. There’s also the option of an adaptive suspension that lets you soften things off further when you’re in the mood for comfort rather than fun.
How powerful is it?
So far, we've only tried the 2.0-litre petrol-powered Cooper S version of the Convertible, which delivers 192 horsepower. It gives the car acceleration that’s strong, smooth and readily available, even if the extra weight of the Convertible means that ultimately, the engine doesn’t quite deliver the same sparkle as it does in the hatchback. There’s a fraction more sparkle when you select the Sport driving mode, though, due to sharper throttle responses, and you’re also treated to a slightly meaner temperament, including a few pops and bangs from the exhaust.
Other petrol engine choices are the 1.5-litre, 102-horsepower unit found in the Mini One, a 136-horsepower version found in the Mini Cooper and the 231-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre engine in the John Cooper Works model.
Fans of automatic gearboxes can specify a seven-speed twin-clutch number, while the John Cooper Works can be had with an eight-speeder. Both could be smoother (the former is better than the latter on that score) and have a strange reluctance to change down as you pull up to a standstill, causing some shudders through the car, but otherwise, they swap around their gears quickly and effectively. Even so, unless you really can’t bear the thought of pumping a clutch pedal, we’d stick with sweet-shifting manual six-speeder; its short-throw-action and precise weighting are beautifully synchronised and wonderfully engaging.
How much will it cost me?
Mini has ditched diesel engines in the Convertible, which means the headline figures for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions look higher than you might think, but compared like-for-like with comparable versions of rivals, the Mini actually looks like one of the cleaner small convertibles. It’s pretty expensive to buy compared with rivals, though, and the prices climb pretty steeply as you make your way up the model range. However, that’s offset by super-solid resale values that protect your investment if you’re a cash buyer, or reduce monthly payments if you’re a finance customer.
How reliable is it?
Traditionally, Mini hasn’t had a great reputation for reliability, with JD Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study placing it towards the bottom of the manufacturer rankings, with a below average score. However, the brand did much better in the 2019 version of the study, climbing to eighth out of the 24 carmakers. Should anything go wrong with your hatch, Mini offers a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. We’d recommend you take Mini up on the offer of the Mini TLC servicing packages (98% of buyers are expected to), which covers the first few years of servicing for a nominal one-off fee.
How safe is it?
Six-airbags, traction and stability controls, reversing sensors and a parking camera, plus a category 1 Thatcham alarm system, are all standard fit on the Convertible, which is a pretty good starting base for keeping you as safe as possible. A set of pop-up roll-over hoops are hidden behind the roof mechanism, but will protect you and your passengers in case the car does flip over. Some choice safety options include a head-up display, so there is no need to take your eyes off the road, and active cruise control. However, some of the latest active safety systems, like automatic emergency braking, only feature on the options list and not in the standard roster, which is disappointing. The Convertible hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but it’s reasonable to assume it might achieve a score comparable to the standard three-door hatchback (despite having less structural integrity), which only achieved a rather disappointing score of four out of five stars.
How much equipment do I get?
One of the Mini’s main attractions is the amount of personalisation options available, so if you’re speccing up your car, make sure you set aside plenty of time (and cash) to decide exactly what you’d like. The Classic trim includes standard cloth-covered seats in the One and Cooper and sports seats on the Cooper S, while the Sport model gets special sports seats, cruise control and sport suspension if you want it as a no-cost option. Exclusive models get leather sports seats.
If you want a good-looking Convertible that is also cheap to run, fun to drive and nicely built, then the Mini will deliver on all those counts. It feels like a high-quality item compared with rivals like the Fiat 500C, and it’s also better to drive, with decent ride comfort and quick, perky engines.