THE John Cooper Works MINI is always thoroughly enjoyable to drive.
For those who want performance that is in keeping with the impish disposition of the MINI will naturally gravitate towards these JCW variants.
Add to this, the 3-door Cooper S Convertible brings a bright disposition to the brand with its soft top eager to showily drop and display some sass.
The 3-door hard and soft top variants are compact and zippy, and despite having two-litre engines, they deliver different experiences.
The hard top flings itself from 0-100kmh in 6.1 seconds, mated to an 8-speed STEPTRONIC sport transmissions, while the soft top follows that at 6.9 seconds, with a 7-speed variant. That spurt from standstill is quite enjoyable, even if it’s dissimilar; the JCW having a bit more gusto as opposed to the smoother delivery of the convertible.
Digital connectivity stretches from remote activation of features via a MINI app to Apple CarPlay, with Bluetooth allowing your familiar apps to be played. The interior, given its relatively small size is kept busy with a variety of shapes and colours aimed at keeping the young and young-at-heart engaged. And the sound systems of both models are more than adequate.
Priced closely, just shy of *$230K, these top-tier MINIs are eager to max out on the fun.
Thanks to new, stronger materials, the convertibles manufactured today offer less of a jittery ride. Top up or down, that firmness of structural integrity is evident from the lack of invasive noises of the body coping with movement. Instead, you get a good dose of the environment pouring into the cabin when the top is down, but an otherwise composed drive.
The top comes down in two steps, but pops back up in one go.
It’s initially disconcerting to look at the folded down top obscuring half your view of the rear. But you soon adjust to looking over the top.
With the top up, you enjoy protection from the elements courtesy of the Union Jack motif that fills the black material. You can opt for a plain black top (the Union Jack costs *$3.2K more, but is standard on the Cooper and Cooper S variants here).
The quilted orangey leather seats in the lemony yellow test drive car are comfortable, even if you have to manually get into the ideal driving position.
But no matter how comfortable they may appear, it’s going to be tight at the back. The rear seats seem more for show than use, especially if you have to clamber in from the front.
But the compactness of the car allows for a steady drive, at speed and around tight bends. The go-kart feel that MINI has always boasted is evident here, in a more refined, but nonetheless gripping display of unflappable spirit.
MINI CONVERTIBLE COOPER S RATING
The little terrier that is the JCW 3-door MINI has a lot of bite and growl despite its diminutive form.
From the darkened logo on the bonnet and the aggressive grilles to the racy badging on the side, the red brake callipers and the stylised spoilers, this gussied up MINI still has unisex appeal.
Its duo-tone colours — green and red in the test car — make it less threatening than it is.
Flick the red starter switch that throbs in anticipation and the engine roars to life in a note that means business.
As you manually adjust the alcantara seats into position, the busy MINI interior offers a dashboard of colours and lights that you’ll pay little heed to once you’re up and running. The head up display has the vital information for when you hit the road, with paddle shifters to get you into the gear you desire.
The urgency of the ride is controlled by the heavily weighted steering, which reminds you that there’s a little rocket ready to launch, given half a chance. Especially so in sport mode, when the growl is a bit more evident and the performance lively.
Both cars have small boots and not much by way of usable space in the cabin, but if you’re out to have some fun, don’t sweat the small stuff.