A little ray of light: Driving the Mini Cooper S Convertible LCI

Through plenty of personal observation, I have formed a hypothesis. One which postulates that a significant percentage of Mini owners sit within a unique demographic of drivers. The ones when faced with a sea of mundane automobiles have chosen to walk by a different set of rules. The ones who value aesthetics over practicalities, joy over sensibilities, heart over matter and self-expression over pragmatism. And if my hypothesis is on point, then I guess it’s safe to reckon that whoever sits behind the wheel of this Zesty Yellow Cooper S Convertible must be quite an enigmatic character, because this little open-top Mini is beaming with personality.

While we’ve previously seen and talked about the exterior enhancements made across the Mini range on our drives with the Mini Electric and Mini One, there are some additional aesthetic touches on this Cooper S Convertible that are well worth mentioning.

First and foremost, of course, has to be its very fresh and very Zesty Yellow colour. To say it is striking is quite an understatement because there is no escaping this colour’s zesty assault on your visual senses. Few cars outside of the hyper/exotic car sphere can pull off such a bold hue but Mini have managed to do it and in the process, have injected another dose of much-needed fun into a world of boring monotonous shades.

This injection of fun also extends to the design of these very graphical “Pulse” wheels. One part eschewing a radiating sunbeam motif and another looking very much like a modern interpretation of the groovy Cosmic Mk2 wheels from the 1960s. Google it.

Our Zesty yellow number also showcases Mini’s Piano black exterior package with plenty of shiny high contrast black trim pieces replacing what used to be chrome. Whilst the Piano black trim does give off a more sporty tonality to the Mini, I would have preferred if they had kept the Mini logo and model designation badge standard because having these two key identifying elements fully encased in black does, unfortunately, make it look a tad too aftermarket and slightly less premium.

Premium though is the right word to use once inside as the funky exterior colours make way for a classier looking cabin whilst still displaying a hint of playfulness. From the newly designed steering wheel wrapped in smooth Nappa leather to the diamond-stitched Malt Brown Chester leather seats, the Cooper S Convertible’s interior is as always, a lovely place to enjoy the road from. Like the previous Mini’s we’ve recently driven, the Cooper S Convertible’s infotainment system has also been upgraded with an 8.8-inch display running their latest and sleekest Mini Connected UI, controllable via the iDrive toggle along the centre console or directly through the relatively responsive touch-screen. There is quite a lot more information on display with this new unit so there is a slight learning curve.

What doesn’t require much learning tho is the 5-inch digital readout sitting behind the steering wheel as it displays all relevant and important information in a very neat and clear manner with little unnecessary visual flourishes getting in the way.

While overall space and enjoyment for those up front are well and truly catered for, the same unfortunately cannot be said for anyone relegated to the back seats because even though this is officially a 4-seat drop-top, legroom for those in the rear isn’t very accommodating and is best suited for younglings.

Keep your speed below 30km/h and that feeling of cosiness can be immediately dispatched in 18 quick seconds as the roof is lowered and the skies beckon, enveloping the interior full of natural light and air. Adding an extra sensory dimension to an already stimulating drive.

With its slightly heavy but positively direct steering feel, this Mini lives for the bends as it playfully lunges, darts and makes directional changes ever so readily. While the initially steering feel might come across as slightly artificial, it communicates enough through uneven roads to give you an idea of what’s happening up front and into the corners, loads up well enough to provide a good sense of its competent front end grip. This Cooper S Convertible also feels surprisingly more spritely than what its official power figures of 176bhp, 280Nm of torque and 6.9-second century sprint suggest.

This entertaining handling does take a toll on the comfort levels though because the ride can get rather harsh and might even border towards jarring. Seemingly even more so than its closed roof siblings, perhaps due to the extra bracing required to increase the chassis rigidity. In that aspect though, it has done its job well as this Zesty Mini still feels rock-solid with barely a hint of flex. Shame it had to be at the expense of ride comfort. Great news for the driver, slightly less so for everyone else.

Another area where a compromise had to be made in the name of driving enjoyment is of course the boot because while there is a relatively fair amount of boot space (relatively speaking), getting bulky cargo in and out of the 160L boot can be a bit of a chore due to the minute rear hatch opening. You can extend this opening by pulling on a pair of rear latches and lifting the tail end of the roof but it’s not a very elegant solution on a car in this price range.

And so, the Mini Cooper S Convertible, a characterful car with enough compromises to turn away the most pragmatic amongst us. But then again, If my initial hypothesis still holds any merit, Mini’s were never quite meant for the sensible ones.

So if you’re the sort of enigmatic person for whom the journey matters as much, over even more, as the destination and whose choice of vehicle isn’t just a mode of transport but a vivid reflection of your personality. Perhaps, this Mini Cooper S Convertible might just have what it takes to join you when you’re looking at the brighter, lighter side of motoring life.

For those of you who are a little less outspoken but still possess a streak of rebelliousness, there’s always the MIni One 3-door which even though loses out on the open-top driving experience (and 75 horses), manages to deliver up both a good amount of the occasional motoring joy and with slightly over $90,000 saved, a healthy amount of financial joy as well.

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