I’ve always had a soft spot for properly equipped MINI Coopers, much like the ones on the modern-day “Italian Job” movie. Part of me wanted to be like Mark Wahlberg and drive like a complete idiot around town in a tricked out MINI Cooper S with some performance mods and nice wheels. In an attempt to “trick out” a MINI from the factory, the John Cooper Works British marque is proudly worn on a select number of MINI Cooper vehicles in modern-day form, like the new 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible that I had a chance to check out this week for review.
The new 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible looks to be a modern interpretation of a MINI with a bit of performance flare and a multi-purpose drop-top. The new MINI John Cooper Works gets its performance flare from the latest of the brand’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 228 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Being derived from the BMW powertrain parts bin, the MINI John Cooper Works engine is a lively thing that has a center-exit exhaust that sounds the business. However, there’s a bit more extra weight that’s felt in the convertible platform and some unwanted characteristics about the way it drives, such as some body jiggle and cowl-shake when going over road imperfections.
MINI vehicles traditionally handle well and often encourage an urge to drive crazy like the Charlie Croker character does in the Italian Job movie. While that street-hooning looks like a blast, my 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible test vehicle doesn’t feel inspired enough for all that gold-heist fun. Instead, it feels somewhat lackluster and hindered by its rough and loosely grounded ride quality even though it has adaptive dampers as part of an optional Iconic trim package. That’s not to say the MINI is slow, it’s just not as refined as I hoped or near as enjoyable as previous iterations of MINI Coopers I’ve driven and reviewed in the past.
The MINI John Cooper Works Convertible scoots along well with 0 to 60 mph taking place in 6.3 seconds, but that’s about where the fun for me starts and ends. Sure, the MINI is lively in a straight line and even inspires a bit of twisty fun on back roads. However, there’s a bit of unwanted body roll for such a small and otherwise nimble vehicle. I fault part of that disappointment to the convertible’s extra curb weight over its hardtop sibling, which is about 200 more pounds and about 250 pounds over the manual transmission MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop. 200 pounds may not seem like a lot, but when the curb weight is relatively low, every bit of extra weight matters and it seems exacerbated in such a small vehicle. The 18-inch wheels, which look a little silly due to their protruding center hubs, are wrapped by very low-profile tires that unfortunately amplify the harsh ride quality that’s often upsetting for the MINI. The good part about the drive of the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible is that it is consistent with its fuel consumption and has the BMW-inspired drivetrain that’s often predictable for its power that feels a bit more than tie 228 horsepower on paper. EPA fuel estimates are 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined.
The unique looks of the MINI Cooper are unmistakable. Here, the MINI John Cooper Works adds a bit stand out styling from the resulpted front grille to the British flag LED tailights. In my opinion the looks to a wrong turn but are undeniably MINI.
When most think of a MINI Cooper they think there’s some compromise in space. Sure, such is true when it comes to the two cramped back seats but up front there’s a surprising amount of room, more than enough for someone that’s 6-feet tall. This is where I’ve always enjoyed the spirit of the MINI Cooper, its unique styling and shocking interior proportions make it a fun car that doesn’t compromise much on comfort, other than the harsh ride quality found in my test vehicle. There’s plenty of BMW tech to go around, including the latest bits of the iDrive infotainment system with a wide touchscreen within the traditional circle center stack of the dashboard with fancy customizable LED lights in the surrounding translucent ring. While mostly everything about the unit is shrunken to smaller proportions, even physical iDrive controller and buttons, there’s still a welcomed ease of usability and integration of wireless Apple CarPlay. The smallish gauge cluster is a combination of a center digital LCD information screen, a fixed RPM gauge on the left, and an LED-lit fuel gauge with lit-block indicators on the right housed in a heavily anti-reflective mate-finished encasing. There’s also a self-contained color heads-up display that may get a little lost with the lines of the dashboard.
The small sporty heated front seats are supportive and have just enough adjustments and a thigh extender to be okay for a couple of hours. While the seating position is a bit different from “normal” sized vehicles, the MINI layout is fun and engaging but limited on visibility with the top up. Speaking of the top, the soft folding top has a trick of acting as an open-air sunroof or a full convertible with the top fully power-folded down.
Where things start to get a bit convoluted is the pricing, where the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible with a $6,000 Iconic trim package comes to the as-tested price of $45,750 including a $850 destination charge. Even though the Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop Coupe starts at $32,900, opting for the convertible takes things a bit too far in my opinion for such a small vehicle. Maybe some won’t mind such a price considering its packed full of many desirable features, special mechanics, and a few distinct amenities – I just can’t justify it.