Review: 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
It may be hard to tell, but BMW's highly acclaimed remake of the MINI Cooper is now in its second generation, and the convertible version is finally here as well. The roofless version of the nimble compact was a smash hit in its last generation, having sold 164,000 units worldwide. Now based on the slightly sleeker body and stiffer chassis of the latest MINI Cooper, the new convertible is aiming to be just as successful.
Both convertible trims offer plenty of features, with many former options now standard equipment. They are available with dozens of additional options, accessories and packages, including a navigation system and a $1,500 Sport Package consisting of a traction-control system, 17-inch wheels, hood stripes, fog lights and sport seats, but not the "Sport Suspension" option, oddly enough.
Under the Hood
Both trims are offered with either the new 6-speed paddle-shift automatic or a traditional manual transmission, also with six gears. Most would agree that a car like this is best enjoyed with a traditional clutch and shifter, though as automatics go, this one offers crisp shifts and gear ratios that make the most of the available torque.
Gas mileage of the base Cooper Convertible is an impressive 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway with the manual transmission, meaning a theoretical 475 miles out of a single tank will be a blessing to many commuters. Perhaps even more impressive is the mere two mpg penalty of jumping to the Cooper S Convertible, with 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway.
The easy-to-read tachometer is still a plus, and hints at the car's sporty personality. The large, center-mounted speedometer flies in the face of BMW's typical "eyes up" driver theme, but there's a digital readout in the tachometer. One of the most interesting features of the new car is the "Openometer," a gauge to the left of the tachometer, designed solely to log the hours spent driving with the top down. Sure, it's technically a gimmick, but it's bound to be fun for owners, and is the kind of purely playful idea that only MINI would have the guts to realize.
The four seats are comfortable and supportive, and even the base black/gray leatherette feels surprisingly nice to the touch. Carbon Black cloth is an option, and leather is available in different colors. Additional color accent and trim options are available as well. Like the exterior, there is no shortage of interior color combinations from which to choose.
On the Road
Turn-in is quick and responsive, and there's ample grip from the 195-width tires. A little more weight and feedback in the steering wheel would be welcome during hard cornering, though, and experienced drivers seeking to push the MINI to its limits may wish to keep the stability control (DSC) turned off, since its intervention can be a nuisance. The brake pedal communicates nicely, and the brakes themselves offer sufficient stopping power and feature a plethora of electronic aids including ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Cornering Brake Control.
MINI claims a zero to 60 mph time of 8.9 seconds for the manual-transmission Cooper Convertible, and 7 seconds flat for the S. In driving both the Cooper and the Cooper S, we're left wondering if the ideal engine would be somewhere between the two. The regular Cooper Convertible just isn't powerful enough to have any real fun, while the Cooper S Convertible is plenty fast, with instant turbo boost almost always on tap.
Right for You?
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.