2021 Mini Cooper S Convertible Review: Second Encore



Like the rest the range, the ragtop Mini gets a second midlife update, keeping it up to date with current tech


SINGAPORE

As we explained earlier this year, this is the second time that the current-generation Mini lineup has been given a makeover. Technically, the Mini Cooper S Convertible driven here is still part of the third-generation Mini, launched in 2015. The range was given a facelift between 2018 and 2019, and now in 2021 they’ve all been given a second bump-up, which is unusual as far as continental car life cycles go. 

It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as the third-generation car’s BMW-sourced four-cylinder turbo engine was so far ahead of its time when it appeared that even now, it feels very contemporary.

As Mini’s naming conventions go, the Cooper S badge is used for the quickest Minis in standard production. It’s a step above the regular Cooper, and under the special edition John Cooper Works models which are the fastest and most focused of the range. As far as this being a  driving enthusiast’s car however, it’s not hard to argue that there are more practical performance cars now available for less money. Delve deeper into it though and there are some traits that make this quite a unique variant of the Mini.

It’s a four-seater with not much legroom in the back seats. It’s got a motorised folding  ragtop so boot space is limited to just 160 litres of space. In fact, as though to emphasise that this car is really only designed for two people, the foldable, manually deployed wind deflector fits right over top of the rear seats, rendering them unusable.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine has actually been slightly detuned to 178 horsepower, down from 192 horses of the previous version largely because of the tighter Euro 6d emissions standard. Incredibly though, the new car is officially 0.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h from a standing start. The updated BMW-sourced sports automatic seven-speed gearbox is likely one of the main reasons for this improvement. 

Besides minor chassis tweaks and a bodywork update that gives the car a bigger ‘face’ with a large oval border outlining the front intake grille, the interior of the 2021 Mini Convertible is where many of the most tactile updates can be found. The traditional large round dial from every Mini still resides on the centre console, but now there’s a very usable 8.8-inch touchscreen panel which has GPS navigation available as standard.

The small instrument panel behind the new steering wheel is a hybrid analog and digital design. First seen in the all-electric Mini Cooper SE, it has a 5.0-inch full colour screen in the centre with an analog tachometer on the left and lighted fuel gauge on the right. It’s all very cleverly styled to look like a completely digital setup, but only the centre screen is one. 



The car also gets a full suite of active safety features, including lane departure warning and city braking function so there’s less chance of you rolling into the car in front in city traffic. Adaptive LED headlights are also standard fit. The roof folds behind the seats in 18 seconds, and like the previous version of the car it has a sunroof mode where only the front half of the roof retracts.

The good news is that it still drives like what you would expect a Cooper S to do. The fact that it has less than 200 horsepower is a moot point once you start driving it like a sports car, because beneath that slightly cute face it really is one, with a pointy, darty feel and sure-footed handling. It’s fast enough to get the traction control cutting to knock off the wheelspin. There’s plenty of feedback from behind the wheel and even though it’s just front-wheel driven, the car flicks into corners and powers out very confidently.



A Mini has its own audience and while drivers who take themselves too seriously will opt for something like a Renault Megane RS or even a BMW M135i xDrive, the Mini does have its own charm.

It’s not the most practical, may look too cute for some, and is somewhat pricey for its size and power, but as far as character goes, the Mini, in its various forms, still has it.

Mini Cooper S Convertible

Engine1,998cc, inline 4, turbocharged 
Power178hp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque280Nm at 1350-4200rpm
Gearbox7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h6.9 seconds 
Top Speed230km/h
Fuel Efficiency6.7L/100km
VES Band B / neutral
AgentEurokars Mini Habitat 
PriceS$219,888 with COE and VES
AvailabilityNow
Verdict A pricey, sporty drive with the usual unique Mini character
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about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.