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Let your hair down

28 May 2021

Remember those scorching days of summer? Kate Preece keeps the memories alive in a super-hot Mini Cooper S Convertible. Photos Charlie Rose Creative

I’ll never forget the time I picked a hitchhiker up in Glendhu Bay in my Mazda MX-5. It was the summer holidays and my friend and I had taken the wee car on a camping trip around the South Island. While this in itself might seem a small feat, imagine fitting a third passenger into the two-seater. With the soft top down, our hitchhiker sat on chrome bars behind the seat and all I could see in my rear-view mirror was his shirtless self.

Fast-forward a decade or two and the passengers who joined me in the Mini Cooper S convertible were my two children. They fit easily – and legally – in the four-seater, and appreciated the canvas top as much as I did.

The roof opens and closes with an 18-second hold of a switch. Remembering the times I had to get out of the old MX-5 and manually heave up the roof when our darling Christchurch climes changed, this was priceless. The test model even featured a Union Jack pattern interwoven into the canvas, complementing the rear LED lights that also feature this symbolic nod to the marque’s heritage.

The Mini’s dinner-plate-sized central dial made me smile. It wasn’t the speedometer I had encountered in pre-2014 models, now hosting a touchscreen where the usual suspects hang out. For me, the rotary dial by the handbrake was more straightforward to operate – mostly as it’s the same as that found in BMWs, the aspect that displays the familial connection most blatantly.

There are just some things that you can’t beat in a small vehicle. Every corner was a dream as I made my way around Lyttelton Harbour. I would never get sick of the accompanying growl that ensued when the engine opened up, kicking in when you pushed through out the other side.

The nine-year-old was more occupied by the stereo, which also received a double thumbs-up. The 12-speaker Harman Kardon HiFi system meant she was busy scrolling past any radio host voices to seek another turn-it-up tune. The option of switching to Spotify is there, of course, as is having six CDs on heavy rotation.

Much like the Mazda, this car is not made for carting your life’s possessions around with you. The Mini’s boot capacity is 215 litres (160 litres when the roof is open), though you can pop the back seats down flat and rest up to 80kg on the open tailgate. There’s certainly no room for a spare, but running on 17" runflat tyres, you’ll make it safely to a dealer should a puncture pierce your travel bubble.

There are ISO points to support child seats, and a booster seat fitted well in the back seat. However, if you want to have the wind deflector (stored in the boot) in place for top-down calm, you’ll have to leave passengers three and four at home – the foldable accessory fits into place behind the front seats.

The zippy Mini Cooper S won me over because it epitomises everything that is fun about driving. It’s a little bit quirky, a whole lot cool and even has room for a hitchhiker or two.

2020 Mini Cooper S Convertible


That the convertible top has a ‘sunroof’ mode, opening a 40cm gap. There’s a button that puts all windows up or down at once. The wireless charge station is tucked away within the armrest, so your phone is out of sight.


The boot’s ‘Easy Load’ system that lifts the soft top (making the opening taller), is a manual two-hand job that’s fiddly for what it achieves.

Length 3850mm; width 1727mm; height 1415mm
ANCAP 3 stars
44 litres
5 out of 6 stars; 6.5l/100km
4-cylinder, 1998cc, petrol
7-speed automatic (standard 6-speed manual)
141kW, 280Nm; 0–100km/h 7.2sec
From $55,770+ORC

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