Never a dull moment: Driving the F57 Mini Cooper S Cabriolet

I always look forward to driving a Mini. Be it the base model One to the top-tier John Cooper Works, these funky vehicles have never failed to delight through their design or their dynamics. This, of course, translated to an enjoyable weekend spent with the 2019 Cooper S Cabriolet.

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Mildly revitalised and tweaked for 2018/2019, these mild changes include a new set of brand logos, new daytime running lights and the iconic Brexit tail lights. Inside, this iconic symbol of everything British continues with an illuminated Union Jack on the passenger-side dashboard for cars equipped with their new Interior Style Piano Black trim, and also a Union Jack badge on the steering wheel. Of course, we mustn’t forget, the Union Jack flag that’s been weaved into our cabriolet’s roof in a lighter shade of canvas.

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I’m pretty sure that for some, these symbols of Britannia might come across as a tad too kitsch, but I rather quite enjoy these little fun design elements. For those who prefer their Minis to be a little less Austin Powers, Mini’s multitude of customisation options will be readily available to cater for those who prefer a more understated approach.

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An understated Mini Cooper S Cabriolet does sound slightly like an oxymoronic term though, which is why I would have preferred a different shade of exterior paint on our press car. Although our car’s Pepper White does look rather handsome, our previous Cooper Cabriolet test car’s Starlight Blue is definitely the more striking colour and the shade I would go for.

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Our Cooper S Cabriolet also comes with a set of 17″ gloss black Cooper Crown wheels which, unfortunately, fade into visual obscurity against the Cabriolet’s black accents. Personally, I’m not a big fan of fully black wheels so again, I would recommend selecting another set of alloys if such an option was presented.

Small visual nitpicks aside, there is no mistaking this car for anything else other than a Mini and these little revisions do help freshen up the car’s overall aesthetic. It does make one wonder how difficult it must be for the designers at Mini to always have to constantly reinvent such an iconic shape every few years.

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Inside, our test car came with a beautiful chestnut brown cross-stitched interior with the aforementioned piano black trim and it was a very nice place to be in. The materials used all feel very good to the touch and are held in place with typical German precision. All the buttons and toggle switches have a hint of resistance to them and again, give off a very quality feel when used.

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Cargo space is… Wait, you’re not going to buy a Mini Cabriolet for the boot space, are you?

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If you are, boot space is, it’s there. And should it not be sufficient, there’s always the back seats.

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Give the big red starter switch a purposeful push and the Cooper S Cabriolet’s heart will burble into life. Bringing on board Mini Connected, Mini’s equivalent of BMW’s Connected mobile app that has been on our local market for a while now.

Free for the first three years of ownership, Mini Connected brings a whole slew of functions that can be controlled by owners’ mobile phones. Allowing owners the ability to check on the status of their vehicles, from remaining fuel levels to the maintenance status of their cars. Should you require, the connected apps won’t just help you find a petrol station on your route, but will also let you compare fuel prices to help you save money. You’ll also get up-to-date weather forecasts as you approach your destination, they’ll show you where parking is available and direct you via the navigation system to your preferred car park. If your car is parked in an area with mobile reception, the app can also track your Mini’s last parked location.

Equipped with a Mobile Assistant, the Mini Connected app is able to sync up your calendars and appointments and any reminders in future will benefit from RTTI (Real-Time Traffic Information) when planning your journeys. Google maps have also been integrated to allow for a seamless transfer of a destination address to your MINI with the send-to-car facility. With the Connected App constantly evolving, improving and building upon itself, the future of Mini Connected can only get bigger and more engaging.

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Diving back into the analogue world of the driver’s seat and away from the digital world of the Mini Connected, everything once again falls into place really easily, getting a good driving positing is a quick and painless affair with manual adjustments all around. An additional lumbar support adjustment would have been a nice to have that’s sadly missing from our car.

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Unlike most cars out on the market today, Mini has kept with traditional dials, buttons and toggle switches for their cars, something which I highly commend. I woe for the day when everything becomes a soul-less touch-screen. There really is more character to purposeful analogue manual switches and toggles, even if they are connected to wires and computers on the inside. Personally, I think Porsche has got the right mix of digital and analogue elements in their cars and hopefully Mini will tread a similar design path. With every new car on the market now coming with giant touch screens, I’m guessing that in time to come, analogue instrumentation and dials will be the preserve of high-end luxury cars.

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With the car’s turbocharged 2-litre powerplant nicely warmed up, it’s time to hit the road once again and that memories of that immediate sense of drivability come flooding back. The weight of the very direct feeling steering wheel, the solidity of the chassis, and the underlying stiffness of the suspension setup. It’s all very familiar, very… Mini.

With the gear lever bumped into quicker shifting “S” mode and the driving characteristic toggle thumbed into sport, it doesn’t take long before you’d start taking liberties with the Cooper S. Throwing it into corners quicker and leaning on the 192 horses earlier with each bend. With an easily deployable 280Nm of torque just above idle, pulling out of long sweeping bends can feel very satisfying and driven properly, this stylish cabriolet can be more than capable of surprising most other cars on the road.

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Having the Cooper S Cabriolet in Sport mode doesn’t just sharpen the throttle response, it also gives the car a larger set of vocals that combine richer bass tones with plenty of off-throttle crackles. It’s not as playful as the John Cooper Works but not that far off and inducing those pops and bangs on the overrun never gets old. But no, they don’t really shoot flames. I just like to imagine they did whenever I start hearing pop-corn noises.

There is still some slight rattles over harsh roads and we detected a soft squeak coming from where the roof meets the front windscreen arch. A quick lowering and raising of the roof managed to rectify this noise but it might be a good area to take note of when going for a test drive. Overall, the Cooper S Cabriolet still feels very solid for a drop-top.

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With a distinctive appearance, a great drive, premium materials and solid build quality. The Mini Cooper S Cabriolet does have plenty going for it, but there, of course, has to be a price. And that price is 183 big ones. At S$183,888, it’s not exactly a budget buy. That is a S$30,000 premium over it’s non-S sibling and it really is up to potential buyers whether the extra oomph is worth the additional money. Personally, I think it is but for my money, I’d save myself a small S$3,000 and go for the cracking 3-door John Cooper Works which still remains my pick of the Mini litter.

 

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