FEATURE STORIES

First Drive: 2016 Mini Cooper S Cabriolet

First Drive: 2016 Mini Cooper S Cabriolet image

Text: Inigo S. Roces / Photos: Inigo S. Roces, Mini | posted October 06, 2016 19:15

More reason to stay open

Mini Cabrio. Bali. Mic drop.

There could be no more perfect pair to enjoy a tropical paradise. The island of Bali, Indonesia is an enviable escape, with its unique Hindu influence, Asian hospitality and tempting blend of beaches both for surfing and swimming.

It is here that we were flown in by Mini Asia to experience their newest model yet, the Cooper S Cabriolet (F57). This all-new model rides on BMW's UKL platform that underpins the new BMW 2-Series Active Tourer. It's characterized by the English Bulldog-like under bite.

Mini Cabrio Lineup

It’s available in Cooper and Cooper S trims. The easiest way to distinguish the two is by the functional scoop on the hood and twin intake scoops on the lower bumper exclusively on the Cooper S. The Cooper S also gets the exclusive Aquatic Blue color and terra cotta leather interior.

Those that have owned convertibles before know that, while they’re appealing and attractive can be a tad impractical to own. Yet Mini addresses some of these issues with unique solutions. For one, it's made loading bulky items into the trunk easier with the Easy Load Function. The tailgate folds down while the bottom part of the roof opens up to accommodate large bags. From inside, one can simply toss bags over the seat and into the trunk.

The versatile top of the Mini Cabrio

The top is now motorized. As such, when the weather obliges, it takes just 18 seconds to bring the power retractable top down. This can be done while the vehicle is moving up to speeds of 30 km/h. Screen prompts let you know once the top is secure in either the up or down position. Naturally, there are days when the sun can be too harsh. Mini has a solution for this too with a ‘targa’ mode. A quick press of the convertible switch retracts just part of the roof, turning it into a sunroof, without bringing the entire roof down.

Those that opt for the regular Cooper will find the vehicle comes with canvas and fabric seats, allowing the owner to park the car with the top down all day, yet still slip into its seats that never heat up in the sun. Best of all, Mini also offers a mobile app that links to a weather service. Based on your location, the app will determine if rain is imminent and advise you the close the top before the weather turns for the worse. The favorite Union Jack roof is now available on the Cabriolet too. A grayscale version is pattern woven into the convertible fabric, ensuring it never fades even as the car ages.

Mini Cabrio pulls its top down

Nonetheless, the best way to enjoy it still with the top completely down. Opt for the terra cotta leather interior and the seat inserts feature a diamond stitched pattern — a feature typically found only in more expensive luxury sports cars. It’s paired with a beautiful grey wood veneer on the dash, elevating Mini styling from the formerly youthful vibe to a more mature level.

The rest of the interior features the trademark Mini quirkiness, with a column mounted speedo and tach, LED fuel gauge, circular center display and toggle start button.

Mini Cabrio engine

Propelling the Cooper S Cabrio is a 2.0-liter, 192 hp inline-four with TwinPower Turbo. This can rocket the car up to 100 km/h in just 7.1 seconds. It’s paired with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, bringing drive to the front wheels. It’s more than enough power to quickly overtake a line of trucks. Thanks to the great power to weight ratio, also retains exceptional fuel economy at an average of 11 km/L.

This is then regulated by three drive modes (Green, Mid and Sport), which can be selected by turning the bezel on the base of the gear selector. This appropriately changes the color of the center LED ring, as well as indicating the chosen mode.

On winding roads

In spite of the lack of a roof, the additional body stiffening and taut suspension make it a real treat to drive around winding roads. It may be a front-wheel drive but understeer is hardly evident until it’s pushed really hard. Rather, it handles rather sharply and neutrally most of the time. Slip into sport mode and paddle shifters help keep your hands on the wheel, while the exhaust crackles every time you let off the throttle.

When driven more leisurely, the Cabrio will still reward with a soothing tunes from the Harman Kardon sound system. It also makes a game out of saving fuel with the built-in Minimalism feature that encourages you to earn stars to feed the on-screen goldfish.

Mini Cabrio by the coast

Mini Asia granted quite a lot of seat time in the vehicle, with several 60-km legs, totalling to three days and 380-km around the island and its many attractions.

In many ways, it felt familiar, with the same kinds of driving challenges we encounter in any of the Philippines' famous beach towns. The roads are narrow and populated by a large number of motorcycles to avoid. Traffic can quickly build up in tight intersections and need some clever maneuvering to get through.

Mini Cabrio wrapup

In spite of the beautiful beaches, picturesque yet powerful waves, and hordes of tourists from nearly every nation in the world, the most memorable part of Bali were its roads, lined by arching decorative palms, intricately ornamented low walls, and undeniably laid back vibe.

There are many ways to enjoy both Bali and Mini Cabrios, yet this way — leisurely driving from beach to beach, with little to worry about save for whether to put the top up or down — is easily the best and most rejuvinating of all.