Hands down, the MINI Cooper is one of the cutest, most adorable cars on the road. The slightly prominent headlamps and oval grille convey the look of a surprised toddler on Christmas morning. The car’s profile looks like a baby bootie, ready to be bronzed and displayed on a mantel.
The 2005 MINI Cooper S Convertible ratchets the cute factor up a few notches. After initially adoring it, you have the urge to slap some baby powder on its butt and hope it calls you daddy.
Convertibles are simultaneously the most enjoyable and most frustrating cars you can spend time with. With the top down, you have the exhilarating feel of driving in the open air with a sunny view of the world around you. With the top up, you often have a noisy cabin and lowered insulation from inclement weather. And then there’s the whole issue of getting the top down in the first place. In fact, one of the first ways to judge the success of a convertible is the ease with which the top disappears.
The MINI convertible scores high in the initial judging, with a neat-o mechanical roof that folds away into the rear boot with the press of a button. No muss, no fuss, and it takes mere moments to be cruising around town with a grin on your face. Although in my case the grin was a bit frozen, given the February temperatures. But as any convertible fan will confirm, you’ll put up with a lot of weather in order to put the top down.
When roofless, the MINI looses a bit of the baby bootie look of its hard-topped brother, making for a slightly more distinctive road presence. It’s when the top is up that you start to see some problems.
Or, to be more accurate, what you don’t see is the problem.
The glass rear window is more aptly called a porthole, and what visibility it offers out the back is partially blocked by the rear seat headrests. The soft-top itself wraps around the sides, significantly reducing visibility to the sides. Changing lanes with the top up is an unwelcome adventure.
While the MINI Convertible is perfect for jaunts about town or around the beach during the spring and summer, you won’t be packing a lot of luggage into the car for a long weekend. The back of the car is less of a trunk and more of a super-sized glovebox. Fortunately, you can fold down the rear seats to create more space. And you might as well, because the extremely limited leg room means no adult human can sit comfortably in the back seat for more than a few minutes at a time.
But this isn’t a car you buy to haul people around town. It’s a car you buy because driving it just makes you feel good. With a supercharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission, the MINI is a hoot as it scoots around, totally living up to its reputation for a go-kart-like drive. Whether darting through rush hour traffic or hauling down the highway, you’ll find plenty to enjoy behind the wheel.
Find more of Sean Bugg’s car reviews online at www.metroweekly.com.