2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible review: Top down time

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible

There’s one thing we’ve always liked about the Mini Convertible—well, there are actually a lot of things—but one is that along with all the usual factors tracked by the Mini Convertible’s trip computer is the number of hours with the top down. It’s there as a constant nag for you to do what you bought a convertible for: Put the top down.

Other than weather, there’s little reason not to, and even weather can be kept at bay, at least if it’s not precipitating. Fortunately we were fortunate enough rack up the hours with unseasonably warm and sunny weather, enough so for short sleeves and sunscreen most of the time. Evenings were cool, and with the top down, windows up and windblocker in place—and of course, the heater set to toast—we were able to put more time on the trip computer’s top-down timer.

And we loved it.

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible interior

With diamond-stitching and white piping, 2016 Mini Cooper Convertible seats in Malt Brown look like expensive baseball gloves.

The Mini Convertible is officially a four-seater, and it truly is.  Our test 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible in Melting Silver had “Chesterfield Leather” in Malt Brown stitched in a diamond-stitch pattern with white piping. With four seats, it like a baseball infield’s worth of gloves nestled together, pitcher not include. Part of the “S” trim level, sport seats are standard and snug for handling. Even the rear seats are well-bolstered.

There’s no rear seat leg room, however, at least not without the front seats being pushed forward, and far enough forward that the front seat occupants are uncomfortable or worse. So consider the Mini Cooper Convertible not a four seater but a two seater with room for the occasional kid or two.

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible backseat

The 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible had a back seat, but not necessarily leg room to go with it.

The two-seat presumption is further advanced by the windblocker that every Mini Convertible owner (those who ordered the Premium Package, anyway) will use and use a lot. Covering the rear seat at window sill level, it’s easy to install. Simply unfold it and click it into place, then flip up the screen.

It’s easier to just leave in place, however. The top can raise and lower with the windblocker installed, and with the screen lowered rear vision isn’t impaired. With the top up, however, rear three-quarter vision, as with many convertibles, is blocked by the convertible top.

The Mini Convertible’s top is unique, however, in that it can open halfway, much like a sunroof, folding open at any speed. Folded all the way down it forms a sort of shelf with the outside front of the top covering the convertible stack. There’s no trim around the edges, however, so the overall effect is an unfinished look. File under #firstworldproblem.

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible engine

The 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible’s two-liter turbo engine gets the droptop to 60 mph in just under seven seconds.

The Mini Convertible is still a Mini, of course, which means a degree of premeditated funkiness, from the pie plate in the center of the dash that no longer houses the speedometer, as with the early Minis. The speedo was relocated to the pod atop the steering column with the tachometer hung like an afterthought on the side. Not cool, Mini.

The pie plate, instead being the giant speedometer, houses the BMW infotainment center, a rectangle in the circle. The more we use it, the better we get at it, but a radio shouldn’t have such a steep learning curve. The navigation system is no piece of pie either. But you knew that.

Like the Mini Clubman we recently tested, the Mini Convertible has a light ring around the center, er, pie, and it changes color depending. The default color is blue, but when changing drive mode to Eco, the ring turns green for a moment, and likewise Sport, except the color goes to red. Make audio system changes and the color changes. With the navigation system, the area illuminated shrinks as the next turn approaches. Cool Mini.

2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible with top up

With the top up, the 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible has massive blind spots in the rear quarters.

Speaking of modes, the Eco modes does what most eco modes do, softens gas pedal response, which can be annoying, especially if you’re the kind of person who buys a Mini Cooper S to begin with. Sport, on the other hand, makes the gas pedal more responsive.

Our tester had the “Dynamic Damper Control” that’s part of the Sport Package. As the name suggests, it stiffens up the shocks when Sport is selected, for more control when cornering the Mini Cooper S. True confession: We put the drive mode in Sport whenever we started the car, and only changed it to the default setting when driving on rough roads. But otherwise, Sport. It seemed the only right thing to do.

One more thing. The Sport mode makes the exhaust pop and crackle when downshifting, though the transmission automatically matches revs on downshifts. So much for heel-and-toeing, another talent bound for the scrapheap of driving skills.