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Quick Bite: MINI Cooper S Convertible

BY Azfar Hashim

Without a solid metal roof, can the Convertible provide equal driving fun?

Photos by Azfar Hashim

The current generation MINIs have all gone a step up in terms of quality, both build and drive. Now what about the new canvas-roofed version of the MINI Cooper S? Has all the quality issue been resolved, and most importantly, does it deliver similar driving fun as the hot-hatch variant?

What is this?

Meet the new convertible Cooper S. It’s the fourth variant - in the current F56-generation MINI line up - to be introduced here, after the Cooper S, Cooper S 5-door and Cooper S Clubman.

How does it fare in terms of practicality?

Compared to the previous R56 generation, the car has grown in every sense of the word. This new car is 121 mm longer, 43 mm wider and 8 mm taller now, which does translate to a more useful cabin. Even the wheelbase has been lengthened; previously 2,467 mm, this F56 has 2,495 mm. For the driver, you may not give much focus with regards to the rear, but there is a marked difference for passenger’s legroom and indirectly, boot space; the latter had increased by 25 percent.

How is it inside?

Besides being bigger than before, there’s also marked difference in overall build quality. The plastics used are better – have you seen the hard ones used previously? Then, every fixture is properly screwed together and panel gaps kept to a minimal. Better still even while driving, you do not hear any rattles or metal squeaks from the roof mechanism; its predecessor had this unsorted issue which got more obvious as you drive over uneven roads.

The seats were obviously given extra attention by MINI – in this lovely shade of Terracotta brown, you can see all the stitches and lining along the chair’s edges in all its glory, with cross-stitches somewhat giving it a little touch of Rolls-Royce. The front two provided adequate support - even during enthusiastic drives. The rear’s backrest however comes across as a tad upright, you almost seat with your back straight at a 90-degree angle.

What powers it?

A 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, turbocharged lump paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission means the Cooper S Convertible has 189 bhp and 280 Nm worth of maximum torque available. Standstill to 100 km/h is dispatched in 7.1 seconds, with top speed rated at 230 km/h.

How does it drive?

Quite frankly, it is properly hot-hatch fast despite weighing about 120 kg heavier than the three-door brethren. Better still, you do not have to floor the accelerator just to extract power; most times, pressing the rightmost pedal halfway is adequate at outrunning those pesky turbodiesel’d cabs. Give it the pedal-to-the-metal treatment when the light turns green and be prepared to hear the front two tyres screeching and the torque-steer gremlin make an appearance; still, not as bad as before.

Handling wise, it’s surprisingly very capable, even if you were to drive like a maniac. Steering response is spot on and precise, darting into corners without a single ounce of nervousness. In fact, even at its limit you can feel the chassis still asking for more. Of course, all these shenanigans are best done in Sport Mode. So if you always have this disposition that soft-tops ‘cannot handle for nuts’, this Cooper S will prove otherwise.

In case you want to take a chill pill and cruise around with the roof down, you could still do so – just keep in mind it’s at the stiffer side of things. Especially next to the MX-5.

Price with COE: SGD$178,300

Sunroof mode allows you to open the canvas roof halfway, instead of going full-on topless

Sunroof mode allows you to open the canvas roof halfway, instead of going full-on topless