DRIVEN: Mini Cooper S JCW Convertible

The current Mini range has had a mild refresh to keep it up to date. We recently spent some time in the Convertible Mini JCW to try out some of the updates and see if the Mini is still the best small premium car on sale.

I like small cars. I especially like small fast cars. It seems these days that most new cars on the road are getting uncomfortably big. Fine on a motorway but not so nice on the back roads of Norfolk where I live. Sadly most small cars seem to lack any form personality and that’s a byproduct of their target market. Many buyers often spent more time choosing a new washing machine or TV than they do on their car purchase. But I can hear you screaming, “I’m not one of those people!” and good because this review isn’t for those people.

Mini might have rivals but to me, they sit in their own niche. Somehow both a car of the people and a premium option. Their sort-of-retro styling is something only they and Fiat seem to have nailed (although the current Mini just isn’t as good looking as the original new Mini which is 20 years old now!).

We recently visited the Oxford factory to drive the latest refresh for the current Mini. A slight tech and styling update that will keep it going until the next Mini is launched. Being the tart that I am, I immediately gravitated to the yellow JCW Convertible. I figured the sky might have been grey but my mood didn’t need to be. I managed around half a mile before the roof came down. Even a few spots of rain weren’t going to put me off!

The changes I found are minor. The LCD instruments from the Mini E and GP3 are now standard across the range. They’re simple and very easy to read so definitely a plus. The infotainment and sat-nav has seen decent update too with bigger screens and more up-to-date software. It seemed to work as well as any current system from BMW (which means it’s one of the best). The last change I found is to the styling. Now the latest Mini isn’t their prettiest offering to date but I expect legislation and EU rules have made styling much harder of late. Still Mini have tried to give this refresh some smoother lines. I’m not sure it works all that well on the lower models but it doesn’t look bad at all on the JCW I was driving. But styling is subjective and I’m regularly told I like weird things so probably best you make up your own mind there.

What hasn’t changed is the utter joy you get from ragging the nuts of a JCW. They are just fun. They might not win all the group tests but there is something about the JCW that makes you smile. I think it’s a bit of a hooligan and surprisingly it still works in convertible form. None of the wobble and shake you’d expect from a rag-top and the inevitable extra weight that has been added to increase stiffness is barely noticeable. You’d have to drive a hatch and the convertible back to back to even notice.

Overall the new Mini is a mild update but not one to be ignored. The updates are small but mostly help to cement the Mini as the continuing king/queen of the retro hatchback market.