Stepping into a Mini product will waste a minute if you haven’t been in it before. It’s a combination of the odd proportions, weird sightlines and extraordinarily quirky design for just about everything in the cabin. This strangeness, of course, applies to the 2022 Mini Cooper Convertible, which is the subject of this review.
Undoubtedly, the Convertible is even weirder than the regular Hardtop, both of which have been updated for 2022. It has a tailgate as a rear loading mechanism and a soft top that folds like an accordion on the tailgate and remains in the open air and visible regardless of its position – there is just no room for Mini to stow it out of sight in a trunk hole. That gives the Mini Convertible a peculiar appearance with the roof down, and because the roof has to rest on the tailgate, it also blocks the driver’s rear view. You can still see super-sized trucks in the rear-view mirror, but when you lower the roof, you’re largely dependent on the side mirrors to see what’s coming behind you. To reduce that, there is a middle ground of top implementation that simply rolls the top part of the road backwards, essentially creating a roof-wide sunroof.
Those are all rather odd quirks, but our favorite convertible Mini grille of yesteryear is nowhere to be found in the latest car: the Openometer. This little feature was a gauge that simply kept track of how long you drove around with the roof down. It’s hard to think of a feature more “Mini” than that one, which makes us all the more sad that the meter no longer exists to shame those who don’t drop the electric folding roof.
If you look past the madness, here’s a normal car interior stretching across the line between a premium and non-premium car. The $40,350 price point of our Mini Cooper S tester indicates that it is positioned as a small and sporty premium car, and there are some really luxurious touches. The Chesterfield Brown leather seats with white piping and beautiful stitching certainly scream luxury, while all the heavy switches and nicely muted buttons indicate the same.
The aforementioned, the standard Mini interior is all leatherette, replete with cheap-looking glossy plastic trim and is really slack when it comes to a lot of features we’d expect to be standard. For example, a base Mini Cooper S Convertible for $28,750 doesn’t have heated seats, proximity access, automatic climate control, or an auto-dimming mirror.
Mini’s pair of screens – which borrow BMW tech – are also a little less impressive than you might think. The infotainment system itself runs on old iDrive technology and although it’s been updated for 2022, it’s still a bit scattered and difficult to operate compared to the latest BMW iDrive software. Connecting to Apple CarPlay is the most complicated process we’ve experienced in a new car today. In any case, you can choose to operate it via touch or the iDrive-esque button behind the shifter. Usability aside, the looks and bezels are all in line with what we’d expect from the Mini brand (read: quirky). The giant circular mood lighting around the entire screen always glows, changes with your riding modes and can even be programmed to coincide with your rpm.
Unfortunately, the oddly shaped digital instrument panel doesn’t meet industry standards. It has low resolution, lacks brightness and clarity, and it struggles in direct sunlight. If the top can be removed, the necessary adjustments must be made to make glare-sensitive screens readable anyway. Your saving grace is the small optional head-up display that pops out of the dash, as this puts your speed and vital signs in an easy-to-read space, even as the sun washes away the digital cluster.
Mini has updated its handlebars for 2022, and while we like the shape and feel of the Nappa leather-wrapped wheel, it’s not perfect either. The new gloss black buttons on the steering wheel itself are positioned so that they can be accidentally activated while turning. It’s great to have easy-to-reach buttons, but the ergonomics here are somewhat problematic with a 9 and 3 hand position.
The ups and downs of this interior’s functionality continue as you start looking at storage solutions and usability. While a wireless phone charger is available in the center armrest, it is only big enough for small to medium sized phones. Your tester’s OnePlus 8 Pro wouldn’t fit in the space provided. The rear seats are for nothing unless you slide the front seats far forward. And once you’ve got passengers in the back, forget about installing the very handy wind deflector, because it goes exactly where those passengers sit. That is at least normal for four-seat convertibles.
The trunk solution from Mini is new at first glance, because it is a real tailgate, like a pickup. That tailgate has a weight restriction of just 176 pounds, though, so be careful what or who you put on it. With the rear seats up, your storage space is severely limited. It is difficult to slide items in and out due to the long tailgate and deep floor of the trunk relative to the height of the tailgate. You can flip two “Easy Load” switches to slightly raise the rear portion of the roof to allow for a wider opening, but it’s still a tedious struggle to get items in and out.
Set those back seats down and your total payload will skyrocket. The rear is now a long, huge expanse of potential luggage space. Fold down the top and loading and unloading becomes super easy to do. Putting your belongings here makes life much easier than dealing with the trunk, but beware that items slide back into the trunk itself as you accelerate from the seating area. We’d be lying if we said that the temptation to hear the roaring Cooper S exhaust hasn’t caused that to happen to us a few times.
However, childish fun is what the Mini Cooper Convertible and the interior is all about. It is far from the most useful cabin. Refinement and tranquility are two things you will never get, but it hardly matters. You buy a Mini because you like driving fun, weird cars, not because it’s the most logical or value-oriented choice.