- Styling, inside and out
- Nimble handling
- Nifty convertible top
- High hipness factor
- Gets expensive fast
- Harsh ride in S version
The 2008 MINI Cooper Convertible brings top-down fun to the already entertaining MINI hatchback.
The 2008 MINI Cooper Convertible does the unimaginable: It takes the effortless fun of the MINI Cooper hatchback and one-ups it with a roof that lowers or opens like a sunroof. The basic MINI silhouette is left mostly undisturbed--a good thing--but the convertible roof does slope a little at the rear, adding to the retro style. Inside, the classic new MINI dash with its large central speedometer and column-mounted tachometer are as funky as ever.
(Note: The 2008 MINI Cooper hatchback is an entirely new vehicle and is covered separately, while the Convertible continues on the older chassis.)
The base engine in the 2008 MINI Cooper Convertible continues to be a surprisingly frisky 115-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It's mated to a choice of a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission, the latter of which sucks all the zest out of the Cooper. There's also a supercharged MINI Cooper S Convertible, which puts out 168 hp. MINI claims a 0-60-mph run of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph for this version. A six-speed manual is the only gearbox available for the S, which also produces more aural horsepower than the base engine. The Getrag six-speed clicks off the changes with a short shifter throw and great tactile feel, and the exhaust barks. Fuel economy is 19/29 mpg for the Cooper S Convertible. The MINI's ride can be harsh, particularly with the large wheels on the S Convertible, but steering is wonderfully direct, and the brakes are strong.
No manual top is available on the 2008 MINI Cooper Convertible. It's all electro-hydraulically operated and fully automatic, requiring just one finger to press a button on the windshield header. It takes just over 15 seconds to go from closed to open. The top, thanks to a hard-shell front section, can be opened halfway, like a giant sunroof. It also has a glass rear window and can be lowered with a touch on the key fob.
The Convertible's interior space is almost as plentiful as the 2008 MINI Cooper, which means the backseat is more than snug with the front seats positioned where the driver and front passenger would likely have them. Headroom is, of course, no problem. The convertible loses none of the functionality of the sedan and even adds some since the trunk has a small tailgate. A navigation system, a Harman Kardon premium stereo, and run-flat tires are optional.
Anti-lock brakes and side airbags are standard, while stability control is available.