With the new MINI Cooper Countryman just appearing in showrooms, BMW's small British brand has much to celebrate. But it also has reworked the Cooper Convertible for the new model year, and the changes bring the latest droptop up to date with fresh styling, engine upgrades and new features.
The matchless MINI brims with personality and a timeless flair, and it's a delightful car to drive. While it competes in a vague way with the likes of the Ford Mustang, Mazda Miata and VW New Beetle, it's really a singular machine like the Jeep Wrangler--something for which there's no substitute.
The current picture-perfect homage to the Minis of old wears some new front-end makeup for 2011. The bumper has been reworked, to accommodate new pedestrian crash protection rules in Europe. The Convertible also adds on new LED taillamps, and offers more paint colors and wheel designs.
On the features list, the 2011 MINI Cooper Convertible has redesigned controls for the audio and climate-control systems; a choice of new navigation and audio systems and a new integration setup for iPods and other music players. There's also a new USB/Bluetooth kit for the latest hookup.
As it has since its 2002 introduction, the MINI's charming driving personality shines through the clutter. A base 118-hp four still will move the Convertible to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds, and to a top speed of 124 mph. The turbocharged Cooper S Convertible nets 172 horsepower, a 7-second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed of 138 mph. The dealer-installed John Cooper Works kit raises the turbo's output to 189 hp and torque, at times, to 200 lb-ft; 0-60 mph times fall here to 6.5 seconds. A six-speed manual is standard on the MINI Cooper, while a six-speed automatic is an option; on the Cooper S the automatic adds a sport-shift option and paddle shifters.
2011 MINI Cooper Convertible
Tossable handling remains the MINI's calling card, and ride quality in this generation has truly improved, versus the first-gen car. The Cooper's electric power steering could use a little less zip and a little more realistic feel, but it's pretty good, as far as these systems go.
The cockpit is a hospitable hangout for two adults, but the back seat in the MINI Cooper Convertible is a punishment bin, what with its narrow seating and lack of legroom. The Convertible roof folds down quickly, though not out of sight, and has a dual-piece tailgate that opens wide to reveal a scant 6 cubic feet of luggage room--23.3 cubes if you flip those back seats down.
The usual safety gear is included, and the Cooper Convertible has earned better than average safety marks. Base cars also include power windows/locks/mirrors, a CD player; and a power-operated roof--as well as an Openometer, which tracks how much top-down time your car has accumulated. And of course, MINI offers a huge list of paint, trim, and tuning options-everything from a Union Jack decal for the roof, to painted wheels, to the John Cooper Works package of turbo, suspension, handling, braking, and wheel/tire upgrades.
For a more in-depth look at this sporty ragtop, see TheCarConnection's full review of the MINI Cooper Convertible.
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