Cruising in a MINI Cooper is a truly unique experience. It looks like an econo-box but drives like a sports car. And an open-air MINI only makes that drive more fun! Indeed, mixing history, style, and pure enthusiasm, the all-new MINI convertible looks like a car built for pure satisfaction. So, let’s see if it can work its drop-top magic on us.

As expected, the BMW-designed, 2009 MINI Cooper and Cooper S Convertibles closely follow their hardtop siblings, except, of course, for the three-fold fabric top with its glass back light and integrated defroster.With it, the open-air is just one button away. The electrohydraulic top can be opened or closed at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. And, a just-for-fun Openometer records the time spent enjoying your MINI with the top down.

For days that are not quite warm and bright, keep the top up, and slide back the front sunroof section for breath of fresh air.The Cooper Convertible replaces the former car’s fixed roll bars with pop-up units that automatically deploy in a rollover. Other than that, the convertible shares the same sporty, slightly updated, but still vintage look that’s made the “new age” Cooper a runaway hit.

The Cooper S Convertible dons a few extra performance cues like a black mesh treatment up front and dual center-mounted exhaust pipes out back. There’s also the limited John Cooper Works model, which shows off its own uber-sport add-ons. Power, like the hardtops, comes from a pair of 1.6-liter inline-4s. The Cooper Convertible’s Dual-Overhead-Camer produces 118-horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque.  The Cooper S Convertible is now turbocharged rather than supercharged for 172 horses and 177 pound-feet of torque.  An “overboost” function will take torque up to 192. The John Cooper Works model has a modified turbo-4 rated at 208 horses and a 192 pound-feet of torque, 208 in overboost.  A front drive six-speed manual is standard, with an optional geared, six-speed automatic, with manual shift paddles on the S.  The Convertibles, like their hardtop brethren, are very efficient.  Government Fuel Economy ratings for our Cooper automatic are 25 city/34 highway on Premium gas.  We achieved 30.7 miles per gallon in real-world driving.

The Energy Impact Score for this vehicle is 11.8 barrels of oil consumed per year, and its Carbon Footprint measures a tidy 6.3 tons of annual CO2 emitted.  But, we expected our Cooper automatic to be the slowest of its lot and we were right. 0 to 60 took 10.1 seconds with a quarter mile of 17.6 seconds at 80 miles per hour. Power robbing drop-offs between shifts, and 200 pounds of convertible reinforcement, took its toll. If you desire speed over attention, try the manual or a turbo S.

Like the hardtop, handling is where the MINI Convertible really shines. Even our standard car with its compliant suspension and 16-inch tires was impressive. It scoots in and out of the cones with extreme ease.  All come equipped with Dynamic Stability Control, Cornering Brake Control, and electric power steering. You can stiffen things up with a Sport Package, and the John Cooper Works is track ready. But, the downside of that is a far stiffer highway ride.  And, down that highway you’ll find wind buffeting to be moderate with the top down. There is no cow shake.  And the only real issue is huge blind spots with the top up.  Four wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist stopped our Cooper in a good average of 120 feet.  All was straight and stable.

The convertible’s interior also reflects the hardtop’s redesign. But, it’s still a quirky blend of old-world aesthetics and new-age technology. The eye is no doubt initially drawn to the Cooper’s huge central speedo, which is now even larger then before. And MINI’s trademark toggle switches add to this interior’s tactile but cool character. Seats are more supportive, and ours had optional heat. The steering wheel now tilts and telescopes. But we didn’t fancy the stereo’s volume control being oddly marooned in the middle of the center stack.

There are four airbags - two in the dash, and two larger front side airbags that extend to head height. The back seat may be slightly larger than before, but is still very tight with virtually no legroom.  However, these seats offer a 50/50 split folding feature to extend the otherwise tiny 6-cubic foot trunk. Pricing for the MINI Cooper Convertible may cause some to balk.  The standard model starts at $24,550, while the ‘S’ begins at $27,450.  The over-the-top John Cooper Works model has a base of $34,950.  Still, it’s hard not to be charmed by the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible. It’s a fun yet extremely competent way to pass the summer miles away. So, if you’re intrigued, prepare for more than just a unique experience. Prepare to be spellbound.


  • Engine: 1.6-Liter Inline-4
  • Horsepower: 118
  • Torque: 114 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 10.1 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.6 Seconds @ 80 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet
  • EPA: 25 MPG City/ 34 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 30.7 MPG
  • Energy Impact: 11.8 Barrels Oil/Yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 6.3 Tons/Yr