Stepping inside any Mini product is going to throw you for a minute if you haven’t been in one before. It’s a combination of the odd proportions, weird sightlines and exceedingly quirky design for just about everything inside the cabin. This strangeness, of course, applies to the 2022 Mini Cooper Convertible, which is the subject of this review.
Arguably, the Convertible is even weirder than the regular Hardtop, both of which were updated for 2022. It features a tailgate as a rear loading mechanism and a soft top that folds like an accordion on top of said tailgate, remaining out in the open and visible no matter its position — there’s simply no room for Mini to stow it out of sight in a trunk cubby hole. That gives the Mini Convertible an odd look with the top down, and due to the top having to rest on top of the tailgate, it also blocks the driver’s view rearward. You can still see super-tall trucks in the rearview mirror, but putting the top down makes you largely reliant on the side mirrors to see what’s coming up behind you. To mitigate that, there’s a middle ground of top deployment that simply rolls the top part of the way back, effectively creating a roof-width sunroof.
Those are all rather odd quirks, but our favorite convertible Mini quirk of old is nowhere to be found in the latest car: the Openometer. This little feature was a gauge that simply kept track of how long you spent driving around with the top down. It’s hard to think of a feature that is any more “Mini” than that one, which makes us all the more sad that the gauge no longer exists to shame those who don’t drop the power-folding roof.
Looking past the weirdness, there’s a regular car interior here that straddles the line between a premium and non-premium car. The $40,350 price of our Mini Cooper S tester signals that this is positioned as a small and sporty premium car, and there are some genuinely luxurious touches. The Chesterfield Brown leather seats with white piping and pretty quilting sure do scream luxury, while all of the weighty switches and nicely-damped buttons signal the same.
The above said, the standard Mini interior is all leatherette, full of cheap-looking shiny plastic trim and is really slacking when it comes to many features we’d expect would come standard. For example, a base Mini Cooper S Convertible at $28,750 doesn’t have heated seats, proximity entry, auto climate control or an auto-dimming mirror.
Mini’s pair of screens — borrowing BMW technology — are also a little less impressive than you might think. The infotainment system itself is running old iDrive tech, and while it’s updated for 2022, it’s still a bit scattered and difficult to operate versus the latest BMW iDrive software. Hooking it up to Apple CarPlay is the most complicated process we’ve experienced in any new car today. You can at least choose to control it via touch or the iDrive-like knob found behind the shifter. Usability aside, the appearance and framing is all consistent with what we’d expect from the Mini brand (read: quirky). The giant circular ambient lighting around the whole screen is always glowing, changes with your drive modes and can even be programmed to coincide with your rpms.
Unfortunately, the oddly-shaped digital instrument cluster isn’t up to industry standards. It’s low-res, lacking in brightness and clarity, and it struggles in direct sunlight. If the top can come off, the necessary modifications should be made to make glare-prone screens legible no matter what. Your saving grace is the little optional head-up display that pops out of the dash, as this puts your speed and vitals in an easy-to-read space, even if the sun washes out the digital cluster.
Mini updated its steering wheel for 2022, and while we like the shape and feel of the Nappa leather-covered wheel, it’s also not perfect. The new glossy black buttons on the wheel themselves are placed such that they can be accidentally triggered while turning. It’s great to have easy-to-reach buttons, but the ergonomics here are slightly problematic with a 9 and 3 hand position.
The ups and downs of this interior’s functionality continue when you start to look at storage solutions and utility. While a wireless phone charger is available inside the center armrest, it’s only big enough for small-to-medium-sized phones. Your tester’s OnePlus 8 Pro would not fit in the space provided. The rear seats are for naught, unless you scoot the front seats way far forward. And once you put passengers in the back, forget about installing the very useful wind deflector, as it goes right where those passengers sit. That’s at least normal for four-place convertibles.
Mini’s trunk solution is novel at first glance, because it’s an actual tailgate, like a pickup. Said tailgate has a weight restriction of just 176 pounds, though, so watch what or who you put on it. With the rear seats up, your storage area is severely limited. It’s difficult to slide items in and out due to the long tailgate and deep floor of the trunk relative to the tailgate’s height. You can flip two “Easy Load” toggles to slightly lift the rear part of the roof up to allow a wider opening, but it’s still an annoying struggle to get items in and out.
Put those rear seats down, and your total cargo capacity skyrockets. The rear is now a tall, vast expanse of potential luggage space. Pop the top down, and loading and unloading becomes super-easy to do. Putting your items here makes life far easier than dealing with the trunk, but beware items sliding from the seat area back into the trunk itself under acceleration. We’d be lying if we said the temptation to hear the burbly Cooper S exhaust didn’t cause exactly that to happen to us a couple times.
Childish fun is what the Mini Cooper Convertible and its interior is all about, though. It’s far from the most useful cabin. Refinement and quietness are two things you’ll never get, but that hardly matters. You buy a Mini because you like fun-to-drive, weird cars, not because it’s the most logical or value-oriented choice.