First Drive: MINI John Cooper Works Convertible


The MINI Convertible was first released back in 2004, and has become a popular alternative to the standard hatch. Here, we test the hottest of the lot – the John Cooper Works Convertible. We tested the hard top JCW a little while back, but has taking the car's roof off spoiled the package? AOL Cars heads to Florence to find out.

What is it?

The MINI John Cooper Works Convertible is the company's most powerful convertible in the range, bringing with it a much higher output figure as well as uprated suspension components. It's still a four seater, and has a boot large enough for a shopping trip, but as with all convertibles it's about the experience. The previous-generation convertible was fun, while also managing to be appealing to serious drivers. The JCW hopes to build on that idea.

What's under the bonnet?

The John Cooper Works Convertible uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that features in the standard Cooper S. However, it's been breathed upon and as such produces 228bhp, whereas the S produces a still respectable 189bhp. That means the JCW Convertible can reach 62mph in 6.6 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 150mph. It's worth noting that the sprint to 60mph takes three tenths of a second longer than the hatch, but with the roof off it's a deficit that few people will notice. Economy-wise, MINI claim that the JCW Convertible will return a combined consumption figure of 43.5mpg and emit 152g/KM CO2.

What's the spec like?

At £26,630, the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible is noticeably more expensive than rivals, but then it pulls of the trick of feeling special. It's a commodity that MINI has traded on since it was first released, and it's good to see that the feeling of occasion is still inherent in its cars. The large central display still dominates the interior, and everything feels exceptionally well screwed together. One complaint is the arm rest – you'll easily bash your arm into it when changing gear. This makes no difference if it's raised or lowered.

The JCW part of the car brings with it sports seat, and chequered flag trim throughout. It separates it from the rest of the range, and does well to make the car feel a little different to the standard MINI Convertible. Those rear seats haven't changed however; you'll still only fit smaller children in the back, with adults able to sit there for the shortest of trips.

Any rivals?

Definitely. You'll see newcomers DS bringing the DS3 Performance Cabrio, as well as the all-conquering Mazda MX-5. Both certainly undercut the JCW on price, but lack the fit-and-finish that comes with the MINI.

What's it like to drive?

With a rather large amount of power on tap, things were bound to get serious for the MINI Convertible. With the roof down, the JCW is thoroughly entertaining with all manner of pops and bangs coming from the sports exhaust. Thoroughly addictive, you'll find yourself flattening the throttle and lifting off just to get the best crackle. It does this time after time, and very rarely gets wearing.

What does get wearing is the ride, which is exceptionally firm around town. However, when up and running it makes sense, with the MINI keen to turn into corners. The added weight that comes with the Convertible does make itself known though, and there's a small amount of lean that comes with each bend.

The gearshift is also less precise than we've seen on previous MINI cars, and can make it sometimes difficult to select the right cog. It's also perilously easy to mistake reverse for first gear, with its place just left of the starting gear a little too close for our liking.

First Drive: MINI John Cooper Works Convertible

First Drive: MINI John Cooper Works Convertible

With the roof down however, many of these foibles fade away. It's a very fun car to drive, and the average customer will undoubtedly be impressed by just how quick it is in a straight line. Though not as sharp as the hatch, it does well to keep some of that MINI cornering spirit intact, despite the added weight.

AOL Cars Verdict

The MINI is certainly more expensive than rivals, but then it feels a lot more grown-up than those cars it goes up against. There's no doubt that the driving experience it delivers is exciting, and with the roof down the entire drive is elevated. Some touches are below par, such as the ride and the gearshift, but for the most part the JCW is just a solidly good convertible. Would you be disappointed if you bought one? Absolutely not.

The Knowledge

Model: MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Price: £26,630
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 228bhp
Max Speed: 150mph
0-60mph: 6.6seconds
MPG (combined): 43.5mpg
Emissions: 152g/km