I recently bought a side table for my living room that looks like a giant wedge of Swiss cheese.
It offers no value whatsoever – there’s no storage or anything – except for being cute and kind of hilarious. I’ve always appreciated this type of silliness because I think it’s important to choose joy as much as possible. We don’t always have to take life (or furniture) so seriously.
The Mini brand has always captivated me because it shares that same joie de vivre that I try to make a guiding principle in my life – and my home décor decisions. Unabashedly adorable and unique, it’s astonishing that cars with such small footprints can pack such huge personalities. And the 2024 Mini Cooper S Convertible Seaside Special Edition offers even more to love.
The Mini Cooper S is already a fun, retro-inspired car, and the Seaside Special Edition (a $3,400 appearance package upgrade) amps up its personality even more. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the four-seat Mini Convertible, it adds unique trim and colour elements that bring the Mini to life and remind you of good times spent by the beach. Even the wheels’ centre caps are weighted so the logos always face up.
I also love the Union Jack pattern in the tail lights and the headrests, and the old-school toggle switches and circular shapes inside are delightful. I wish Mini put more effort into making the interior more colourful to match its cheerful outward personality.
The 2024 Mini Cooper S is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all in, the Cooper S Convertible can get to 100 km/h in a claimed 7.2 seconds. If you’re looking for maximum fun and engagement, I suggest getting the manual transmission – it’s a great option that’s fun and forgiving. Besides a few rough and ill-timed shifts during this test, the automatic transmission works as expected.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The Mini Cooper S Convertible is a delight to drive. It’s zippy and fun to dart around in, proving that a car doesn’t need to be exceptionally powerful to be fun and engaging. The heavy steering is a highlight, though it can be a bit much when trying to park. The suspension is incredibly stiff but pays off in that famous “go-kart” feeling, enabling the tiny car to tackle corners confidently. The Mini lacks a certain refinement, but it somehow adds to the convertible’s exuberant personality.
In sport mode, the Mini has even more personality with a more aggressive exhaust note, sharper steering and throttle response, and sportier transmission mapping.
No one buys a convertible for the practicality, especially in Canada, where we can’t enjoy open-air driving year-round. Still, while the hardtop Mini Cooper S doesn’t offer much practicality, the convertible version provides even less.
The trunk is tiny, and the tailgate drops down like an oven door, but with the roof mechanism needing space, it makes loading and unloading the trunk difficult – especially since the trunk opening is higher than the trunk’s floor. I struggled to stuff a small duffel bag in there, but even grocery runs required a bit more effort than necessary. Luckily, the rear seats can fold down if you need a bit more storage space.
If there’s something in the cupholders, it blocks access to specific controls, the door pockets are barely usable for storage, and there is almost no space for small item storage. All-in, the lack of practicality makes it difficult to live with this convertible every day.
This Mini is classified as a 2+2, so the rear seats are essentially useless for anything except cargo. The seats in the front are comfortable enough, but the biggest factor affecting comfort is how stiff the suspension is and how the Mini crashes violently and loudly over streetcar or railway tracks and potholes.
A big red flag for me is that there’s no Android Auto, so if you have an Android phone, you’re forced to use the built-in navigation system, which is very finicky. The Mini’s infotainment system is operated by a touchscreen or a rotary dial, but the dial scrolls through menus backwards: you spin it counterclockwise to go down and clockwise to go up, which is entirely unintuitive. The menu structure also doesn’t make finding what you’re looking for easy, so even a basic task like changing the radio station can be frustrating.
Making matters worse is that voice recognition barely works, the shape of the vents and the limited dashboard space make it almost impossible to use an aftermarket phone mount, and the cupholder isn’t even big enough to prop up a phone. The wireless phone charger inside the armrest is also too small to fit my phone, which isn’t even the biggest phone available.
While there’s no Android Auto, there is an “Openometer” that tracks how much time you drive with the top down. Priorities, y’know? The fabric top can be opened or closed at speeds of up to 30 km/h, but the toggle must be held down, which can be distracting while on the move.
The lack of blind-spot monitoring and certain advanced safety features at this price point is disappointing, but luckily, side visibility with the top down is clear and unobstructed, so shoulder checks are easy. It’s a bit tricky to see out the back with the roof down, though. The Mini Cooper S Convertible is available with lane departure warning, parking sensors, a driver assistance system, and a rollover protection system.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
After about 340 km of mixed testing, the Mini Cooper S Convertible returned a fuel economy of 8.7 L/100 km, which isn’t bad but also not great for a car this small, even though it’s a performance car. It’s officially rated at 8.8 L/100 km in the city, 6.5 on the highway, and 7.8 combined. Mini recommends using premium fuel.
The Mini Cooper S Convertible is a toy, something purchased with leisure in mind and not practicality. While I generally don’t mind paying extra for performance and personality, Mini calls the Cooper S a “premium” vehicle but doesn’t include much to help it live up to that classification or justify its price. The materials and trim, for example, don’t feel very premium, and the extensive use of hard black plastic doesn’t help the cause, either.
The Mini Cooper S Convertible is $38,290 to start. Most of the features I consider necessary, like heated seats, automatic climate control, wireless charging (that won’t even fit larger phones), and a head-up display (projected on a screen and not onto the road), are all included in a pricey $9,300 Premier+ 2.0 package. With the $3,400 Seaside Special Edition package added on and the $2,245 destination fee, the as-tested model ends up costing $53,235, which is a lot of coin for a car this small.
It would have been easier and cheaper for me to buy a regular-looking side table with more features and storage at Ikea and be done with it, but my new cheese side table makes me smile every time I see it. Like the 2024 Mini Cooper S Convertible, it’s not the most practical and it won’t be right for everyone, but its uniqueness and joyful demeanour make up for most of its faults. If you prioritize style and fun, the Mini Cooper S Convertible offers tons of it. I just wish there was a way for the Mini to not sacrifice so much in terms of practicality and user-friendliness.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||189 hp|
|Peak Torque||207 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||8.8 / 6.5 / 7.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||161 / 215 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2024 Mini Cooper S Convertible Seaside Special Edition|
|Price as Tested||$53,335|
$12,700 – Premier+ 2.0, $9,300; Seaside Special Edition, $3,400