Hot hatchbacks are the flavor of the season all over the price range. With VW having just launched the GTi, and Fiat having launched the 595, this segment is really heating up. Mini was the brand that started this segment in India with the Cooper S sometime back. While we did have a large range of Minis on sale from the One to the Cooper S and the Convertible, the Convertible never came with the spicy ‘S’ variant previously. The good news for us though is that with the facelift which was introduced earlier this year, the company has brought in the ‘S’ variant in the convertible. We spent a couple of days with it to tell you how livable with this hot hatch actually is.
Last year, Mini introduced the facelifted version of the Cooper. The new Cooper is now 98 mm longer, 44 mm wider and 7 mm taller which makes it not so Mini anymore. The headlamps and the tail lamps have also grown and now get the LED treatment. The headlamps also get LED DRLs. Even though the Cooper has gotten a facelift, it continues to be very recognizable with its distinctive styling. There is plastic cladding all over the car to give it a little rough and tough look. Our car came with the optional JCW fogs that some how made the vehicle look more sporty. The stripes that you see on the bonnet are optional and so is the paint shade that this one is finished in.
The only colours you get as standard are the white and orange shade, everything else is a Rs 60,000 option. The Mini comes with 16″ alloys as standard with an option of 17″ rims. The party piece though is the drop top roof which creates a lot of visual drama.
People in India aren’t exactly used to seeing a convertible and if you drive with the roof down, you are sure to get a lot of attention. The roof mechanism folds down in a quick 18 seconds and can be done on the move as well upto speeds of 30 kmph. It is a 2 step process, the first being an opening like a sun roof and the second step being the full opening roof. If you like attention, this car is certainly going to get you a lot of it, especially with the roof down.
The inside story
Open the large doors and you are greeted by a retro theme. First thing that you notice is that the speedo has moved from the central console back into the instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel which is a nice move. Since BMW owns Mini, you now get an iteration of their famous iDrive which is displayed on the large central screen. The periphery houses LEDs which have multiple functions. Under normal driving, it doubles up as a tachometer in orange shade. When you are changing the temperature setup on the climate control, it shows on the LED cluster as blue and red separately which looks cool. If you opt for the parking sensors, based on the proximity, the LEDs change colour. Well, these maybe small touches, but the Mini is all about making you feel special and such small touches certainly give you something to brag about. Once the sun sets, the thing that you notice is the ambient lighting which comes with multi colour options. That is the time that you also notice that the mirror doesn’t have auto dimming option and has the manual switch for dimming which is a little sad.
If there is only place where the Mini is lacking, it is in the features department. The Mini comes with not many things as standard. They do however have a lot of stuff on offer, but only as extra options which are on the expensive side. Things like parking sensors, rear camera, comfort key, heads up display and the arm rest are optional and end up taking the price on the higher side.
How practical is it?
For a 2 door 4 seater, it is pretty spacious on the inside. You could get 2 people in the back seat with a little squeeze. The only problem is that the back rest is a little upright. There are 2 cup holders in the central console and a small storage area in front of it that isn’t very deep. If you are cornering hard, things inside are going to slide out. Boot space is very minimal given that this is a convertible. One thing though, unlike other convertibles, the boot space remains constant irrespective of whether the roof is up or down. The boot space is 215 liters but loading bay is very narrow.
Visibility with the roof up is adequate at the back while driving. While parking though it does become a pain because there is only a small glass area at the back. The mirrors are large and offer really good visibility. But if you decide to look over the shoulder while parking, you will be a little disappointed as the rear side view is blocked by the lack of a glass area. With the roof down though, view from the inside rear view mirror is next to nothing since the roof sits on top of the boot instead of inside.
The drive scene
This is the thing I was looking forward to the most. Being a petrol head and this being a hot hatch, this was like a dream come true. The new Cooper S comes with a 2.0 liter turbo petrol engine that produces 192 Bhp and 280 Nm. The engine is mated to a 6 speed automatic gearbox which has the manual options as well. Now that we are done with the stats, let’s dive into the driving experience. The first thing you notice when you start her up is the exhaust note on the cold start. Step on it and every time a gear shifts, you hear a mechanically induced fart from the exhaust that is really addictive. In addition to that, keep it in manual and you can hear the crackles when you lift off at higher rpms. For a stock exhaust, this is certainly fruity sounding and it is really addictive. How fast is it? Well according to official figures, the Mini Convertible does the 0-100 dash in 7.1 seconds which is adequately quick. Even with this being the convertible version, it still manages to be on par with the GTi which is not a bad thing. The driving experience part is where the Mini outshines everything else. Why?
Well the main reason behind that is the way the Mini is setup. Its wide track and small size make it an extremely fun car to drive, especially in traffic. The steering has adequate amount of weight to it even at low speeds which may seem a little cumbersome, but the feedback got is phenomenal. This is a point and shoot car. Even with the added weight of the soft top, the vehicle feels extremely planted and agile. If a quick direction change is what you want, this is the best car for that. The whole driving experience is very very rewarding. The car has immense grip and gives a lot of confidence while pushing hard.
The best part about this car is the fact that even though the handling is spot on, the ride isn’t bone jarring hard. Yes, it is stiff and you do hear thuds if you go into deep potholes, but you need to understand that this is a hot hatch and for that, the ride quality is not all that bad. In my opinion, i’d rather have a car that handles like this one does and rides a little hard rather than having it the other way around.
Our car came with the optional JCW steering wheel costing Rs 30,000 and well, it certainly is worth it. The steering is a multi function one with paddles and a separate thumb support which really has a nice feel to it. Since the best part about the Mini is the handling setup, this steering certainly adds to the good experience.
Brakes are adequate but if you are cornering hard and you happen to slam the brakes while doing so, you do feel the rear becoming a little lose since all weight shifts towards the front and there is not much weight at the back to begin with. Being a sporty vehicle, the Cooper S also gets brake cooling guides to make sure you don’t cook the brakes while you are having fun.
The Cooper S is now offered with driving modes as standard which means you get the option of Sports, Mid and Green setup. The setup changes the throttle map, gearbox and the steering feel. In addition to this, the gearbox too has a sports mode with the manual option with paddles. Mini also offers the Cooper S with Dynamic damping which is available as a Rs 80,000 option which will change suspension setup based on the driving mode chosen.
The car has a soft top cloth roof which means that noise insulation on the inside isn’t the best. Wind noise is pretty prominent at higher speeds and in traffic, outside noise does creep in, something you will have to get used to.
Well this being a hot hatch the fuel efficiency isn’t that high if you drive hard, understandably. We did manage to get an overall figure of roughly 10 kmpl combined throughout the period we had the car as per the MFD which we felt was pretty accurate. But let’s be serious here, this car isn’t meant to give miles per gallon. On the other hand, smiles per gallon is guaranteed.
Having spent a week with the car, I totally get why this car makes complete sense for the enthusiast. It is tiny, which means that making your way through traffic is a breeze. Having said that, overall space inside the cabin is not so bad and 4 people can be seated with a little squeeze. If you are looking for a fun, weekend car that can bring a smile to your face when you drive it, look no further. Even as a daily driver, this makes a lot of sense, if you can afford the fuel for it that is. This car is certainly one that will appeal more to your heart than your brain. The only downside though is the price sadly. While the Cooper S Convertible starts at Rs 33.90 lakhs which isn’t much, but you will end up opting for a few options and if you spec it up, that price will certainly rise by a couple of lakhs. At that price, only a true enthusiast or someone who has a lot of money to spend can afford the Mini. One thing is for sure though, after buying it, it will not be a decision you will regret.
More images from our drive: