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2009 MINI Cooper S Convertible Review

MPG-o-Matic MINI Cooper S Convertible Review Summary: Like its solid roofed siblings, the MINI Cooper S Convertible drives like nothing else on the road today. With slot-car handling, a willing turbo-charged power plant, one-of-a-kind styling, and excellent fuel economy, the S Convertible delivers a marvelous open air driving experience.




The MINI Cooper S Convertible is the middle brother of three ragtop MINI models, staking out the ground between the base Cooper and high-performance John Cooper Works. The ragtop MINI Cooper S is equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine which produces 172 horsepower (HP) and 177 foot pounds of torque. Our test unit was equipped with a six-speed Getrag manual transmission. A six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) is available for those so inclined.

The EPA’s fuel economy estimates for the manual-equipped 2009 MINI Cooper S Convertible are 26 city / 34 highway miles per gallon (MPG).

We put more than seven hundred and fifty miles on the odometer of our Interstate Yellow review unit, dusting the official mileage estimates with an average of 38.5 MPG on the Interstate highway and 31 MPG combined.

Test period temperatures were in the sixties through seventies. We found that the MINI Cooper S delivered notably better mileage on the highway when driving with cruise control off when using a light-footed technique. Interestingly, we encountered no mileage penalty when riding with the convertible top down at 68 MPH. (While this may have been a fluke, it oddly scored half a mile or so higher with the top down.)

  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up, roof up : 37.3 MPG
  • Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up, roof up: 40.4 MPG
  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, roof down: 37.9 MPG

The MINI S convertible’s turbocharged engine requires premium fuel, due to its 10.5:1 compression ratio, but the premium price penalty doesn’t cause the pain at the pump that it might in a less fuel-efficient car. A 13.2 gallon tank ensures plenty of miles between fill-ups.

Displacement snobs, take note. While 1.6-liters might sound tiny, there’s plenty of grunt to move the little beast.

Although some may feel the shifter’s throw a tad long, the six-speed Getrag manual transmission takes both sport-minded and fuel-efficient driving in stride.

These road-hugging critters are a hoot to run through the twisty bits, and the drop top might be the most fun of all. Just don’t expect a cushy ride. The wheels are pushed out to the corners, but the MINI’s wheelbase is short and the suspension, shall we say, is taught, and your rear end is riding just inches from the ground.

4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) are standard, with vented discs up front and solid discs in the rear. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Hill Assist is standard. A Limited Slip Differential, and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) + Electronic Differential Lock Control (ELDC) are optional.

The MINI’s digital real time and average fuel economy displays provide crucial feedback for fuel efficiency. As always, we recommend driving with the instant fuel economy display active to encourage light-footed driving (that is, when you’re not stomping on the throttle for the pure joy of it).

The standard on-board computer also provides average speed, outside temperature, and distance to empty data. An optional voice-operated navigation system provides real-time traffic information, with hands-free access to controls.

The power convertible top is simple to operate. A sunroof mode lets you enjoy an open air driving experience without putting the top down.

While the convertible top features a heated glass rear windscreen, rearward visibility is limited, whether the top is up or down. A rear view mirror mounted rear camera display would be a most welcome option.

The MINI Convertible features a unique, yet nearly pointless Openometer, a large gauge located to the left of the tachometer that merely tallies the time you’ve spent with the roof down.

The optional 10-speaker audio system cranks out the tunes over the din of open air motoring. An auxiliary input jack and USB port are included in the Convenience option package, along with Bluetooth and automatic rain-sensing wipers (among other features). Multifunction leather or wood steering wheels are optional.

Heated front seats are included in the Cold Weather option package, along with heated powerfold mirrors and heated windshield washer jets.

12-volt outlets can be found at the base of the dash, inside the center console, and inside the rear cargo area.

There are six cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk with the back seats up. Folding the back seats down yields a generous 23.3 cubic feet.

With an upright seat back and nearly non-existent legroom, the rear seats can be difficult to endure for all but the tiniest folks. Tough luck for everyone but the wee ones.

All-in-all, we absolutely loved the MINI Cooper S Convertible. Not only are MINI droptops insanely fun to drive, they’re also some of the most fuel-efficient convertibles sold in America today.

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2 comments ↓

#1 John on 06.26.09 at 11:54 pm

Actually, the smart fortwo is the highest mpg convertible sold in America. Great write up!

#2 mpg-o-editor on 06.27.09 at 7:58 am

Woo yeah, the Smart. Many thanks for the catch and kind words, John! I tweaked the last sentence in the article to reflect the omission.

Haven’t driven the Smart yet …

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