2017 Mini Convertible

2017 MINI Convertible John Cooper Works Review

author
by Edmunds
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

There are many reasons why you might consider buying a 2017 Mini Convertible. Besides the obvious top-down experience, you'll be getting a car that's easy to park no matter where you go. It's also fun to drive without having to burn through large quantities of gasoline and boasts an upscale cabin for a premium-car vibe. And compared to many luxury-branded convertibles, you might also consider the Mini to be pretty affordable.

The key for us, though, is the customization factor. The Convertible's affordable base price is just a jumping-off point for a seemingly endless options list, which really allows you to make the Convertible your own. If you want snazzy 18-inch wheels to replace the standard 15-inch rims, you can have that. If you want full leather upholstery, side mirrors painted like the British flag or adaptive suspension dampers to tailor your driving style, you can have all that, too. Just be prepared to pay a little bit extra. Or maybe a big bit extra, depending on how far you go.

No other small convertible can match the Mini in the field of customization, but you'll want to take a look at a couple others. If you're OK with just two seats, the Mazda MX-5 Miata and its Fiat 124 Spider cousin are great choices. They aren't as powerful as the Mini, but their rear-wheel-drive layout and light weight imbue them with a sportier handling feel. On the other end of the spectrum is the Volkswagen Beetle convertible. It also makes a styling statement, and its ride is far more relaxed and comfortable, but you can't customize it nearly as much as the Mini. Among this group, the Mini Convertible's charm and likability clearly stand out. It is really that good.

Standard safety features on the 2017 Mini Convertible include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional.

Although the government has not yet rated a Mini Convertible, the two-door Hardtop received four out of five possible stars for overall protection in government crash tests. It received four stars for total front crash protection and four stars for overall side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Hardtop its top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset crash tests, as well as a "Good" score in the side-impact, roof-strength and head restraints/seats (whiplash protection) tests.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Cooper S Convertible with Pirelli P Zero summer tires came to a stop in an astounding 101 feet. This is a better result than several Mini Hardtops we've tested with different summer tires, which have come to a halt from 60 mph between 113 and 116 feet. These stopping distances are good for the class but a little underwhelming given the summer-rated tires. Although we haven't tested a Convertible with all-season tires, we expect it to come to a stop about 15 feet longer than the Hardtops.



What's new for 2017

The Mini Convertible is unchanged for 2017.




Trim levels & features

The 2017 Mini Convertible is available in three trims: Cooper, Cooper S and the high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW).

All Cooper models come standard with a power-operated fabric convertible roof (with sunroof-like function), 15-inch alloy wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, remote locking/unlocking, keyless ignition, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, adjustable driving modes, dynamic ambient lighting, automatic climate control, a cooled glovebox, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats, a center armrest, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and 50/50-split folding rear seatbacks. Technology highlights include Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone app integration, a 6.5-inch display screen and a six-speaker sound system with HD radio, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack.

The Cooper S adds a more powerful engine, a hood scoop, dual center-mounted exhaust tips, 16-inch wheels with run-flat tires (regular tires are optional), LED foglights and sport front seats.

Additional equipment for the John Cooper Works variant includes 17-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlights, an even more powerful engine, an aerodynamic body kit, a rear spoiler, a sport steering wheel and special seats with cloth upholstery. The standard suspension is available as a no-cost option for the JCW.

Although there are many standalone options, most are bundled into packages. The Premium package consists of keyless entry, a dual-pane sunroof, heated front seats, satellite radio, auto-dimming mirrors and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. The Sport package includes adjustable suspension dampers, 16-inch wheels (17-inch wheels on the Cooper S), sport seats, adjustable driving modes and LED headlights. The Technology package bundles a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a navigation system and an 8.8-inch display screen. The Fully Loaded package combines all three packages, and a separate Cold Weather package adds auto-dimming mirrors, power-folding exterior mirrors and heated front seats.

Other available features include a head-up display, an automated parking system, and cloth or leather upholstery. Even more personalization is available through a large selection of custom details such as hood stripes, mirror cap choices and special interior trim pieces.

Regardless of the engine or number of doors, the 2017 Mini Convertible comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission (with hill start assist and automatic rev-matching for smooth and simple downshifts). A six-speed automatic (also with rev-matching) is optional. For extra fuel savings, an automatic stop-start feature shuts off the engine while the car is stopped.

The base engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that develops 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is impressive, especially considering the available performance -- the EPA estimates 32 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway) with the manual, while the automatic earns 30 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway).

The Cooper S is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are available for automatic-equipped models. Fuel economy for the Cooper S is estimated at 26 mpg combined (23 city/32 highway) with the manual and 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway) with the automatic.

The John Cooper Works variant ups the output of the turbocharged 2.0-liter to 228 hp and 236 lb-ft. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 25 mpg combined (22 city/31 highway) with the manual and 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway) with the automatic.

In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped Cooper S Convertible made the sprint from zero to 60 mph in a scant 6.8 seconds. Though we haven't yet tested the Convertible in regular Cooper or JCW trims, we have tested several variations of its fixed-roof brother, the Mini Hardtop. We found the two-door Hardtop Cooper trots from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while it takes the JCW only 6.2 seconds to hit 60.  



Driving

The 2017 Mini Convertible's small size and light weight contribute to excellent handling characteristics. This car is fun to drive no matter which engine powers it. Even just zipping around town, it feels playful and engaging, and parking in tight spots is a cinch. Along curvy roads, the Convertible feels taut and tenacious, clawing for grip with rare enthusiasm. It's not as communicative or balanced as the rear-drive Mazda MX-5, but it's still one of the more entertaining cars for the money.

The trade-off for its exhilarating driving dynamics is a firm ride that borders on harsh when ordered with larger wheels. This is particularly true for the JCW and its standard sport-tuned suspension. Ordering the adaptive suspension dampers for the JCW is highly recommended, as we've found them to noticeably smooth out the ride. The Convertible is surprisingly quiet at highway speeds, although we've heard many interior panels squeak and creak over hard bumps.

The base three-cylinder engine provides impressive power considering its diminutive size. It loses some steam at higher rpm, but for most drivers it's a very solid pick. Both turbocharged four-cylinder engines have the Mini punching above its class, allowing it to keep up with larger cars such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The automatic transmission is smooth and shifts quickly, while the manual can be a bit difficult to drive because of its vague clutch action, long throws and imprecise gates. The automatic engine stop-start function can be distractingly rough as it brings the engine back to life after a stop. Fortunately, it's easy to disable via a toggle switch, and the car remembers your preference between drives.

Interior

Step into the 2017 Mini Convertible and you'll find a cabin with materials of a higher quality than those in other subcompact cars. Soft-touch plastics coat the doors and dashboard, which can be customized with several different trim coverings. Ambient lighting on the doors changes color depending on which driving mode is selected.

The Mini's controls are easy to reach, and the toggle switches on the lower part of the center stack are a cool touch. We like the Convertible's easy-to-read gauges, and the available 8.8-inch central display screen is notable for its sophisticated feature set and exceptionally crisp graphics. Similar to BMW's iDrive, the display is operated by a controller knob on the center console. It takes some time to learn how to use, but overall it's a comprehensive and very useful system. One downside is that when you lower the center armrest, it's nearly impossible to reach the low-mounted infotainment controller.

As for the Convertible's top, press and hold the unlock button on your key fob or use the toggle switch inside the car to operate the soft top. Hold once to open the area above the front seat occupants' heads for a sunroof effect, and release and hold again for the full open-air experience. The top folds down on top of the trunk rather than into it, so there's a little bit of a hump that impedes your view when looking straight back. Top-up visibility for the driver is also subpar due to the top's design and its small rear window.

The Convertible's front seats offer firm support and an ideal driving position, but rear passenger space is pretty tight. Little kids should have enough room for their legs, but that's about it. Trunk space is extremely limited as well, at just 7.6 cubic feet of storage. The cargo opening is small, although interior release handles allow the bottom of the soft top to be folded up, increasing the opening for larger items.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.