Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 8, 2021
There is something ridiculously charming about coasting around local roads in a topless, bright yellow MINI convertible, revving up to the limiter while pops and bangs continuously emit from the dual exhaust pipes. Its small footprint means it’s easy to drive, effortless to navigate through tight city streets, and also rather fuel efficient. Its eager turbo-four engine means it's quite peppy when you floor the throttle, potent when you need to get up to speed, and hilariously fun when the road turns sinuous. But the MINI convertible has always been an objectively compromised vehicle, and it’s no different with the 2022 model.
While it’s never short on providing driving thrills, its performance is lacking on a few fronts. The first comes down to rigidity, a problem that seems to plague all of the droptop MINIs. Because it lacks the bracing, the roof structure, and overall stance of the Coupe, the MINI Convertible rattles and jitters whenever it crashes or dives into road imperfections. That affects both ride comfort, as well as the steering, as you’re constantly correcting it whenever potholes emerge and the dampers bottom out. You will feel it at both low and high speeds, and having the roof up or down doesn’t seem to make a difference either.
The added weight of the convertible model, due to the complex roof mechanicals and extra bracing, are a further detriment to performance, hindering the boosted up 2.0-litre engine that produces a healthy 228 hp through a 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Acceleration isn’t mind-bendingly quick for such a small vehicle, as it hits 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds, but it doesn’t feel slow. The ride can feel punishing at times but supple enough to be utilized as a daily driver without back complaints. The exhaust isn’t as lively and bombastic as previous models, and we think MINI has scaled back the acoustic theatrics due to carried over particulate filters and its paraphernalia. I’m sure MINI’s aftermarket exhausts will remedy that issue, though.
Take the JCW badge less seriously, and you will find much more to enjoy with this 2022 MINI Convertible. That includes the refreshed exterior styling, with standard LED headlights and taillights in a Union Jack design, giving it a distinctive light signature in the dark. Vertical air intakes replace the fog lights up front, with slightly revised front and rear bumpers, along with new wheel designs, paint colours, and endless accessories and bonnet stripes available in the configurator that uplifts the MINI’s cheeky styling to your own personal taste.
The interior also receives a welcome revision with a new steering wheel that is wrapped in the same tastefully thick leather as the one in the 4 Series. The leather is not as grainy, and the wheel is not as chunky, or as concave-shaped as the MINI’s outgoing wheel, and feels expensive under grip. The shape is cleaner than before with new buttons that control the infotainment, though the plastic paddle shifters remain the same - while they look great, they unfortunately feel lower class. And for the first time ever, the MINI Cooper is now available with a heated steering wheel, handy for those frigid winter mornings. All that it’s missing now is BMW’s integrated neck warmer on the seat.
The 8.8-inch infotainment unit is also carried down from BMW, and is standard fare across the MINI lineup. It utilizes both touchscreen input and rotary dial input, but the system is mapped a little differently to give it some youthful charm and some distinguishable flair. The circumference of the center unit continues to light up depending on input - turning up the temperature makes it glow red, while turning it down turns it blue. The plastic buttons that lie underneath the screen however feel incredibly low-rent, giving off that squeaky feedback when pushed. The outgoing layout with the dedicated grooved buttons felt better and was much easier to use. On a side note, Apple CarPlay is available but it still does not support Android Auto.
There are few two-door drop tops that provide as much charm, personalization, and performance as the 2022 MINI JCW Convertible, but it’s not without its inherent drawbacks. Overall rigidity is lacking and performance takes a dip, but if you take the JCW badge and its claims with a grain of salt, and dive into the experience focused on the driving thrills and not its marketed objectives, then you will find a boulevard cruiser perfect for chasing sunsets instead of lap times. That, and grabbing attention too. Why else would you spec one in Zesty Yellow?
Model: 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Paint Type: Zesty Yellow
Base Price: $43,640
Price as Tested: $56,530
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 228 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.9