2010 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Base price: $35,350
As tested: $38,450
MPG: 26 city/34 highway
- Incredibly fun to drive
- Great looking inside and out
- Exceptional resale value
- Harsh, stiff ride gets old quickly
- “They call that a backseat?”
- Lots of cowl shake
By Jim Prueter
The Mini Cooper convertible is just so darn cute it puts you on a guilt trip for exposing even the most glaring aberration. I mean is there really anything to fault about the “too cute for its own good” fun little British car?
The iconic Mini lineup includes the base coupe, stretched Clubman and the convertible. The coupe was redesigned in 2007, the Clubman appeared for 2008 and the convertible remained unchanged through 2008. The second-generation convertible debuted for 2009 and shares the same updated chassis and drivetrain used in the redesigned hardtop. There’s also a higher-performance version John Cooper Works edition available on each of the three trim levels.
For 2010 we tested the high performance John Cooper Works (JCW) convertible with a sticker price that topped $38,000, a lot of money in anyone’s book to pay for “cute.” Still, the Cooper is an absolute blast to drive, especially with the top down.
The new drop top is longer than the first generation convertible but uses the same wheelbase, width and height. Mini added a bit more head and leg room both front and rear, but the back of the front seat still rests against the front of the rear seat, rendering the back seat little more than a place for packages or small amounts of luggage.
The top can be one-button powered down while driving at speeds of up to 20 mph. That’s because Mini’s top is designed to retract without raising upright and creating a sail-like formation and damaging it with buffeting winds as you travel along.
We also like that the top can be partially retracted, sunroof style, while the outer rails remain positioned to the windshield header. Mini has also included an “openometer” gauge in the dash that records the amount of hours and minutes spent with the top down in a stopwatch manner. Mini is known to promote fun with its models and this is its newest example. On the previous-generation convertible, the switch to lower and raise the top included a label with the question, “Is it really necessary to close the top?”
Also new, the roll bars that previously stuck up behind the backseat head restraints are now active and only slightly visible. In the event of a rollover, the new roll bars pop up to provide protection to occupants.
With a dizzying array of options, wheels, paint schemes and other personalizations, Mini says no two are alike, with 10 million possible combinations. Our tester, Pepper White with carbon black checkered cloth interior, was powered by a 1.6-liter, high performance, turbocharged 208-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual Getreg transmission. The turbocharger is new for JCW Minis whereas previous models were powered by a supercharger.
Mini says the JCW can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Other unique features of the John Cooper Works include unique 17-inch alloy wheels, high-performance brakes and a unique exhaust system. A sport suspension with red springs, red Brembo drilled brake calipers, rear spoiler, suspension brace and carbon colored trim pieces are also available at additional costs.
On the road, our JCW Mini returned a harsh, stiff ride thanks to both the firm suspension, and 205/45R-17 run-flat tires. Run-flat tires allow the driver to continue on for an additional 80 miles up to 50 mph after a puncture, generally eliminating the need for a spare tire (which, by the way, is not included with the Mini). It isn’t included because there simply isn’t room in the diminutive Mini to accommodate one.
The convertible also weighs more than the hardtop models because of extra steel required for the convertible top mechanism and the rollover bar equipment. This isn’t unique to Mini as all convertible models weigh more than their hardtop counterparts.
There is also ample cowl shake, but it didn’t interfere with the go-kart like handling Mini is known for. For those who love the Mini — and almost everyone who drives one does — these imperfections are easily overlooked.
The JCW feels quicker than it is, probably because of its size. Still, we thought it quick and liked being tossed around on curves and cornering. The special exhaust system returns a pleasing burble, especially during downshifts.
Visibility with the convertible Mini is problematic because of the wide canvas at the rear corners with the top up. Standard safety gear includes front and side thorax airbags, anti-lock braking system, corner brake control, electronic brakeforce distribution, stability and traction control, and active rollover protection bar. Unfortunately the soft top doesn’t leave room for side-curtain airbags.
The Mini convertible has not been crash tested but did earn the highest possible 5 star rollover rating.
Even with its faults, the Mini remains a fun car to drive. We love the quirky interior that’s unlike any other vehicle on the market, with a speedometer the size of a serving plattersmack in the middle of the dash, toggle switches rather than knobs and buttons, comfortable front seats with an incredible amount of legroom, and surprising niceties like tilt and telescoping steering wheel, steering column mounted tachometer and a steering wheel that feels just right.
With 10 million possible combinations of options, colors, stripe, performance items, wheels, trim and so on, the choices can be confusing. Still at more than $38,000 we would skip the John Cooper Works and opt for the Mini Cooper S convertible. Horsepower drops (from 208 to 172), but so does the base price (by over $7000); the difference in performance is negligible.