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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
Firmer than necessary suspension settings
Entire MINI range is reasonably quick
Manual gearbox remains a pleasure to use
Car and Driver
The entire MINI lineup is famed for its incredible handling and nimble, fun-to-drive character, and justifiably so. When it comes to grin-inducing performance, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible will be right at home with the rest of the pack in the MINI stable.
The trio of models that comprises the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible lineup includes the base model, the MINI Cooper S Convertible, and a new-for-2009 John Cooper Works (JCW) Convertible. All three feature different engines, with Car and Driver reporting that the base Convertible features a "118-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder spinning the front wheels." The MINI Cooper S Convertible, meanwhile, gets a "blown, direct-injected, 172-hp version of the same engine," according to Car and Driver, while Automobile Magazine states that the top-end JCW model uses the same 1.6-liter engine but "tuned to produce 211 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque." Acceleration numbers are acceptable; Autoblog finds the "entire MINI range is reasonably quick, with the normally aspirated Cooper...hitting 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, and the turbo'd S dropping that to seven seconds." For the JCW version of the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible, Automobile Magazine observes that "the added power lowers the 0-62 mph time (by 0.1 seconds) to approximately 6.9 seconds."
Perhaps the only criticism relating to the potent engines comes from Car and Driver, where reviewers feel the "torque steer from a stop or when powering out of a low-speed corner is bonkers." The reason that torque steer is such a problem on the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible has to do with the transmission and drivetrain setup—torque steer only affects front-wheel-drive vehicles, and Car and Driver aptly points out that the engines are always "spinning the front wheels," an occurrence that is especially likely on the MINI Cooper S Convertible and JCW model.
Aside from the standard front-wheel drive, Road and Track notes that drivers can choose to stick with the standard "6-speed manual transmissions" on the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible lineup or opt for the available "6-speed automatics; S models equipped with the automatic get paddle shifters on the steering wheel." Unlike the first-gen model, this automatic features a true gear system, whereas the older version boasts a performance-killing CVT. Car and Driver reviewers claim "the manual gearbox remains a pleasure to use" on the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible lineup, and while the automatic is more entertaining than before, it will still cost you overall performance.
MINI was one of the few brands to increase overall sales last year, and a key reason is the stellar fuel economy enjoyed by the entire lineup. The base MINI Cooper Convertible offers 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with the automatic transmission, and delivers an astounding 28 mpg city and 36 mpg highway with the manual. For the MINI Cooper S Convertible, the numbers are 26/34 mpg with the manual and 23/32 mpg with the automatic. The John Cooper Works edition, with its significantly more powerful engine, is available exclusively with a manual transmission and returns 26 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway.
Unlike most cars, which boast about easy-to-market figures like acceleration times, the MINI 2009 lineup emphasizes handling over acceleration, and for good reason. Autoblog reviewers report that "the MINI's strong suit is its handling," and for MINI's 2009 models, "the clichéd 'go-kart' characteristics are present and accounted for." Car and Driver is very impressed with the MINI Cooper Convertible's handling, and they admit that they are "awfully close to saying that the base Cooper convertible is just as entertaining as the turbocharged Cooper S convertible," thanks to the base model's "deft suspension and the always-there brakes." Edmunds adds that the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible is "not exactly a Lotus Elise, but as four-seat convertibles go, it responds quickly to its driver" with an "electrically assisted power steering [that] is weighted as naturally as any of BMW's hydraulic setups." The only downside to all that handling prowess is a stiff ride, and Autoblog points out that "rough pavement finds its way into the passenger compartment with minimal damping." Automobile Magazine agrees, claiming that the MINI Cooper S Convertible has "firmer than necessary suspension settings," a trait shared by the JCW Convertible.
Eager engines and zippy handling combine with excellent fuel economy to create one of the thriftiest and most entertaining performance cars of the year in the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible.