Here’s a simple question. Are you the sort of person that likes physical switches and buttons, rather than touch-based controls? If you are, you’ll absolutely love the Mini Cooper S Convertible, as indeed you will the entire range of Mini Cooper cars, because all of them have beautifully machined switches in their cabins that operate various functions. This may sound like an odd thing to point out, but given the rate at which car cabins are becoming almost entirely touchscreen-based, the Minis are refreshingly old school and tactile – I certainly love this aspect of them.
I also love many other aspects of this car, beginning with the way it looks. It is true that a Mini is no longer that ‘mini’ and has grown bigger with successive generations, but its designers have still managed to make it look almost impossibly cute and cheerful – indeed, when you look at those headlights, you half expect them to blink at you in cartoonish fashion.
This shade of yellow it comes in (called Zesty Yellow) makes it even brighter in nature, and you’ll feel like putting your sunglasses on whenever you take it out for a spin.
The refreshed model doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel in terms of design – there are instead tweaks to the details. The new grille has divided opinion, but I rather like it, and the other details – the round headlamps, the Union Jack-tail lights, the round ORVMs, the Union Jack roof – are delightful.
The cabin remains a bright and airy place (even with the roof down), and even though the rear seats aren’t the most spacious in the business, two adults will likely enjoy a ride there with the top down. The front seats are compact and comfortable enough, and offer plenty of support in all the right places.
The console is sensational to look at – lots of large, round dials, the aforementioned steel switches and toggles, a touchscreen (yes, even the Mini can’t escape it) and a chunky steering wheel that literally winks at you and asks you to step on the gas. You also get LED mood lighting and various other mod cons that are standard in cars these days – automatic climate control, reversing camera, parking sensors and so forth.
The Mini is as close to a go-kart as you can get, and that cracking 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol with 192 bhp and 280 Nm has a lot to do with this. The car feels much faster than it is, which is not to say that it’s slow – it’ll easily do 200 kmph, but it feels even faster than that, especially with the top down and the wind whooshing around. It’s a feisty, smooth and linear engine, and although I would have much preferred a manual gearbox, the 7-speed automatic is reasonably quick, and the paddle shifters are fun to use.
Three driving modes are on offer – Green, Balance and Sport – and Sport is the one to be in, naturally. As soon as you select it, the dials turn red and there’s an extra edge to the exhaust note, which reverberates in thrilling fashion. The Mini holds on to gears for much longer in this mode, and wide grins are guaranteed.
Remember what I said about go-kart? Throw the Mini Convertible around just one corner and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. It has 17-inch alloy wheels shod with very grippy low-profile tyres, and when you take into consideration its sharp steering wheel and short wheelbase, it’s no wonder it goes around bends as if it’s glued to the road.
You’ll feel every bump on said road because its suspension is sporty and therefore very firm, but this is a small price to pay for the hours of fun you can have in this car. It excels in every handling department, whether it’s straight line stability, sharp bends or long, sweeping corners, and the way it powers out of these corners is addictive – you’ll want to keep doing this all day.The Mini Convertible costs Rs 44 lakh, ex-showroom, so it’s not for those with an anaemic bank account. It costs as much as some luxury executive sedans, but that’s not the point, because you’ll never have this much fun in one of those executive sedans. It’s absolutely unique in the way that it combines cheery looks, an effervescent character, a bomb of an engine and hilarious cornering abilities. It has soul, which is so important in a car and yet so hard to find in so many cars these days. If I had the money, I would march straight into a Mini showroom and get myself one.