There are cars like the Ford Mustang V-6 convertible, whose success is a matter of style over substance, and then there's the Mini Cooper, which shows that style can be a substance. As such, the first thing that hits you when you approach the convertible is the sheer amount of thought and effort that went into making this a unique automobile. Little details, such as the center-mounted speedometer and fuel gauge, inject a bit of pizzazz into everyday driving. I even got a kick out of rolling the windows up and down with the toggle-like switches found under the rear-view mirror.
It's also a blast to drive. There's some torque steer during full acceleration, but aside from that, the Cooper S is perfectly balanced. Its turbo four is powerful enough to have fun, but it never gets away from you, so you can pretty much chuck the ragtop into a corner and let its chassis sort out everything. The ride is tolerable, though the car bottoms out quite jarringly over some of Michigan's scarier potholes.
And there are definitely quirks. As Joe mentioned, there's almost no rearward visibility with the top down. I also had issues seeing out the thick-pillared windshield; at times I was trying to look over it rather than through it.
My main issue though, is the price. Call it the prude American in me, but I just can't fathom spending $32,700 for a small car with less than 200 horsepower, a cloth interior, and useless back seats. For about the same money, you could get a Mustang GT convertible in all its V-8, rear-wheel-drive glory. Just a thought.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor