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MINI Cooper 1.5 Sport Convertible review

MINI Cooper 1.5 Sport Convertible review
02 April 2019

“The MINI Convertible Sport is a genuinely interesting little car. It’s fun to drive, well equipped and immeasurably fashionable.”

Tell you what’s funny, walking into a MINI dealership and watching customers squint and shake their heads while reading marketing material. It’s like watching someone read the menu board at a chippy without their glasses. Such is the effort it takes to extract information from it. It’s not the customer’s fault of course. The writing should be bigger in the chippy, and the message should be clearer at MINI.

Fact is, choosing a MINI just isn’t easy. There’s an incredible five-step process to it, and this is after BMW simplified the process for 2019 and beyond. Yikes.

The first step is choosing your model (Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman), the second step is choosing your engine (One, Cooper, Cooper S), the third step is choosing your trim (Classic, Sport, Exclusive), the fourth step is choosing your pack (Comfort, Comfort Plus) and the fifth step is personalisation.

You can spend hours on the MINI configurator adding extras here and there and chopping and changing your choices. It’s good fun, but the sweet spot in the range is the MINI Cooper Sport manual, and in convertible guise it ticks plenty of boxes.

The MINI Convertible isn’t a sports car but is instead a ‘lifestyle’ car for those who want freer motoring than the 3-door hatch offers.

The electric powered soft-top folds down in 18 seconds at up to 20mph and back up again in the same time. It’s a little noisy but works faultlessly. It’s also well insulated so when you don’t have it down, refinement is as good as you get with the hatch, if not a tiny bit louder on the motorway. There’s space for five passengers inside, although this car is best run as a two-seater so you can throw your shopping on the back seats.

The Cooper engine is a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It develops 136bhp and 162 lb-ft of torque and gets the Convertible from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. It pushes you back into your seat from a fast standing start and loves to keep up with traffic. Whip it into second gear at 20mph, plant your foot, and there’s a slight delay before a surge of torque boosts you down the road with urgency. You can happily keep up with 2.0 diesels up to 50mph, and really that’s all you need in a car like this.

‘Real-world’ flexibility is what we’d say the MINI Cooper Convertible has. The 6-speed manual is also our pick from the transmissions. You can have your Convertible with a BMW-sourced automatic, but the 6-speed manual is just fine. It’s geared for urban driving with 4th at 30mph being the norm. The 6th cog settles the engine down on the motorway and staying in that gear will see you return 42.8 to 45.6mpg combined.

Hit some twisty roads and the MINI Cooper Convertible is smooth. Sport models have a lowered sport suspension (optional at no extra cost) and figure-hugging sports seats. These make a big difference in the feel of the car.

You have a choice of Classic, Sport and Exclusive trim levels. Classic models are the best value and Exclusive models are the most luxurious. We recommend going straight down the middle for the Sport because it looks great and has all the kit you want.

Sport models come with the John Cooper Works aerodynamic kit, upgraded John Cooper Works alloy wheels, John Cooper Works sport seats, John Cooper Works sport leather steering wheel, Anthracite headlining and a lowered sports suspension which is optional at no extra cost if you want it. In other words, Sport models look and feel like a Mini Cooper S without the price tag. Think warm hatch.

Fancy something more sombre? The Classic strips down the styling to its most basic but includes the same equipment as the Sport.

Living with the MINI Cooper 1.5 Sport Convertible manual is a pleasure. Unlike the hatchback, all Convertible models come with rear parking sensors as standard. The Comfort Pack includes seat heating for the driver and front passenger, automatic air conditioning, passenger seat height adjustment and a front centre armrest. The Comfort Plus Pack is a big step up with a rear-view camera, power-folding door mirrors, front parking sensors and Park Assist which steers you into parallel spaces.

Our verdict

The MINI Convertible Sport is a genuinely interesting little car. It’s fun to drive, well equipped and immeasurably fashionable. Choose the Cooper engine with a manual gearbox and it’s a perfect daily driver.