I’m not going to hark back to the age old mini, it mobilised a nation, and stood head and shoulders above its much larger rivals at many a rally. I’m not going to tell you how the closest thing they compare to are go-karts in an old underground parking lot, or tell you it’s exactly like you saw in the movie, The Italian Job.
Unfortunately, you’re more likely to receive a blow-job from an unsuspecting passer by in Sea-point in the Mini Cooper Cabrio, than represent anything as cool as any Italian job movie scene. (Especially not with Charlize Theron breathing heavily next to you) See, unfortunately, the Mini Cooper range is a largely emancipating range of vehicles for any man.
It’s a knife’s edge.
The car is a handling dream. Endless grip (go-cart like) and the engine screams louder than a bat outta hell. They really are the most entertaining little cars to drive. Incredibly engaging, fun … and will have a smile on your face no matter what Malema headline you pass.
The other side of that knife, however, is a little flamboyant, and feathery. See, unfortunately, you either go the full tilt, and purchase the Mini JCW (John Cooper Works) or you just don’t go Mini at all. Especially not a cabriolet. It’s the fastest way to the front seat of a Cher concert this side of the YMCA.
Speaking of things that shimmy and shake, there is the Mini’s interior. Unfortunately, and this is a general convertible problem, the structure loses its rigidity due to the fact that they’ve lobbed off the big steel part that is the roof and the C pillar. This causes one hell of a lot a body flex, and thus rattle and shake in the interior. I really noticed this over Johannesburg’s poorly tarred roads. What of course, doesn’t help, is the amazing compliment of rims on offer from Mini. The one I drove had a stellar pair of 17″ rims with some low profile rubber. Looks good, feels…well…like you’re shaking everything in the car to find an ounce of gold somewhere. Seriously, not comfortable.
This comfort however, is the sacrifice you make for superb handling. It must be one of the few cars I’ve driven that you can easily get the ESP to come on from 1st to 2nd, and then even on into 3rd. Flying down one very badly blacktopped road in the suburbia of Morningside, I found the Mini struggling to keep contact with the road, skipping over into the next lane as I made my way over into oncoming traffic. There is really so much power driven to the front wheels that you have to pay more attention than you ever did at Varsity lectures, because that steering wheel demands 1-on-1 focus from you at all times. But damn that makes it fun!
Overall, it’s an amazing car, incredibly entertaining and fun to drive, albeit a little uncomfortable…most of the time. The looks are a debatable topic, with the recent refresh, and many customization options available, you really can make it your own to stand out of the crowd. I have, and will never be a huge fan of convertibles because of the serious drawback to handling. It’s no different in this Mini, however I think for the sheer enjoyment of an open top drive, and if I lived in Cape Town, and had a small deli in Franschoek, and enjoyed wearing long scarves that draped in the wind behind me as I cruised along, then yes, I would buy one. However I do neither of those things….so I’d have to opt for the John Cooper Works…with the roof on thanks.