After more than two years on the American market, the Mini still hasn't worn out its welcome, and it's still a welcome sight on our SUV-clogged roads. More refreshing yet is the new Mini Cooper convertible, which we first drove last spring but which is just now reaching U.S. dealerships. It delivers all the fun-in-the-sun attributes you would expect from a cheap and cheerful droptop but loses none of the hardtop's keen driving character. Convertible prices are $4501 more than comparable hardtop models, starting at $21,500 for the Mini Cooper ragtop and $24,950 for the Mini Cooper S ragtop.
The convertible introduces new cosmetic tweaks that are shared with the hardtop, including redesigned front and rear bumpers for the base Mini Cooper; new, clear-glass-covered headlights; a new, three-slat grille; LED taillights; and a subtle LED ring around the optional xenon headlights. The cabin, which previously had the potential to come off as a tad cheap, depending on trim level and specification, is dressed up with better quality trim, optional chrome treatments, better-bolstered and -upholstered seats, additional interior lighting, improved cup holders, and better storage solutions.
The supercharged 1.6-liter engine in the Mini Cooper S has a slight increase in power, from 163 hp to 170 hp, and torque is up to 162 pound-feet from 155 pound-feet. These changes result in a claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds. The base Mini Cooper gets a brand-new five-speed manual gearbox, and the six-speed manual in the Mini Cooper S has revised ratios.
These mid-cycle freshenings for the hardtop and the introduction of the four-seat ragtop should help the Mini brand continue its momentum, thus avoiding the lack-of-new-product blues that afflicted other recent lifestyle cars like the VW New Beetle and the Chrysler PT Cruiser. What's next from Mini? We don't know, but there is much to be mined from the brand's past, like the Mini Pick-Up, the beloved Mini Moke, the Mini-Traveler, and the original Minivan!