- Easy, functional convertible top
- Go-kart handling, peppy acceleration in S and JCW models
- Highly customizable
- Lots of available add-ons
- Quirky, non-ergonomic interior elements
- Electric power steering feel isn't great
- Price quickly adds up with options
Part hatchback, part convertible, and all fun, the 2012 MINI Cooper Convertible is in a class by itself--literally.
MINI's range is growing seemingly by the minute, with the Clubman and more recently the Countryman and Coupe adding to the ranks. The Convertible, however, still has plenty of charm, and while it carries forward last year's updates for the 2012 model year, it's still looking fresh.
Sharing its cute and trim face with the hatchback, the MINI Convertible's cloth top is a bit more ungainly when up, but once dropped, the proportions flow. Even when it's not time for droptop fun, the soft convertible roof offers some unique and worthwhile design features, like a built-in sunroof. Best of all, it stands alone as a unique vehicle on the U.S. market, with basically nothing to match its hatch-meets-convertible style.
New for the 2012 model year is MINI Yours, a customization line that allows unique upholstery, interior surfaces, and exterior colors. Otherwise, the only new features are an available digital compass built into the rear-view mirror and a wider selection of upholstery combinations.
Like the rest of the MINI lineup, the Convertible is available in base, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works trims. The central difference between each is the engine: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder powers each, but the base gets a 121-horsepower version, the Cooper S adds a turbocharger for 181 horsepower, and the John Cooper Works ups the power to 208 hp. The Cooper S gets a sportier suspension, and the John Cooper Works is sportier still, with a range of unique exterior aerodynamic elements and badging, but all share the same core structure and fun-to-drive nature. A choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission is available in all but the JCW, which is manual-only.
Like other MINIs, the Convertible is spacious for front-seat passengers, uncomfortable at best for rear-seat passengers, and chock full of quirky design and sometimes-cheap-feeling interior materials. The convertible top of course does away with some of the cargo space and utility of the hatchback, though with the rear seats down, it is still one of the better compact convertibles for travel and touring.
Standard features include: ambient lighting; a meter to record how long the top has been open; 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels, depending on trim level; multi-function computer; power accessories; remote entry; and tire pressure monitoring. Optional upgrades include the aforementioned appearance mods; a Premium package with automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirror, rain sensor and automatic headlights; a pair of Sport packages with wheels, stripes, and traction control upgrades; and a Technology package with MINI Connected or MINI Connected with navigation, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and rear park sensors.
As you'd expect, the MINI Convertible packs the usual modern safety gear, including stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, and front and side airbags. A pop-up hoop system helps protect occupants in the event of a rollover. Neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has yet rated the 2012 MINI Cooper Convertible.