The Bottom Line
MINI brought out an all-new version of the hard-top Cooper in 2007, but the 2008 Cooper Convertible is the same basic car that was introduced in 2005. A new version of the convertible is expected any minute now, so I decided to have one last dance with the current rag-roof Cooper. The MINI Cooper Convertible is certainly as cute as a bug's ear -- but is its beauty more than skin deep? Read on.
- Simple top operation
- Great fuel economy
- Lots of turbulence and wind noise
- Lousy visibility
- Ridiculous back seat
- Last year for the current version of the MINI Cooper Convertible
- Price range: $22,600 - $41,150
- Price as tested: $28,850
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 19-23 MPG city, 39-32 MPG highway
- Observed fuel economy: 30.9 MPG
Guide Review - 2008 MINI Cooper Convertible
My wife Robin and I took the drop-top MINI on an 800-mile road trip, and we quickly discovered that the Cooper makes a lousy convertible. It's fine around town -- well, except for the fact that you can't see anything behind you (link goes to photo) -- but above 50 MPH the turbulence really beats you up, not that anyone can hear you scream over the wind noise. And the heater/air conditioner is too feeble to deliver air to both your face and feet at the same time; one half of your body has to freeze or fry.
Though the Cooper is technically a four-seater, the back seat is shaped like some sort of medieval torture device. It's actually not as uncomfortable as it looks, provided you're willing to chop off both legs and an arm before you get in. Otherwise, you'll find that the back seat works better as a trunk, which is fortunate, because the trunk works better as an envelope.
The Cooper's saving grace is that it's good fun to drive. Power is decent considering the engine's tiny (1.6 liter) size, though when I tried passing a car on a two-laner, my heart accelerated way faster than the MINI did. That said, our fuel economy was 30.1 MPG, quite good considering we drove all but the last hundred miles with the top down.
But the straw that sends the camel to the chiropractor is the price: $22,600 base, $29k as tested, and you can keep going well past $40k. There are plenty of convertibles in this price range that do the job better: The VW Eos and New Beetle, the BMW 128i, the 2-seat Mazda Miata, even a used Lexus SC430. If you absolutely must have a MINI, I'd skip the convertible idea altogether and go for the long-wheelbase Clubman.
MINI has a new version of the Cooper convertible on the way. If it offers better visibility, a better back seat, and better value, I could well become a fan. Until then, this one gets a thumbs-down from me. -- Aaron Gold