Driving Fun is a Four-Letter Word: MINI

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Automotive efficiency might have been the inspiration when the original MINI was designed in the 1950s, but today the pint-sized British import inspires spirited motoring and flat-out driving fun!

A week under the ever-changing Cape Cod skies in the roof-down (refreshed for) 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible (JCW) meant exhilarating adventure, even if the trip was a short journey to the store for a half-gallon of milk.

All it took was 18 seconds for the MINI Yours soft top with the woven in British Union Jack (new for 2022 along with redesigned front end including grille, air intakes and headlights) to retract, thus turning the scintillating coupe into an open-air roadster, allowing the briny ocean scent and seagull calls to clearly hit my senses.

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Driving a top-down convertible always makes me feel closer to my surroundings, whether it’s the now so-close traffic on the crowded roads or the enveloping pines lining the coastal hills near Wellfleet, Mass. The open cockpit at once produces a feeling of the sky’s-the-limit expanse, yet simultaneously creating an intimacy with the surrounding environment.

It is all about the dynamics

Within the tight engine compartment sits a ready-to-rev 2-liter TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder direct-injection engine with double VANOS, all of which produces an energetic 228 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque. This free-revving motor can rocket the 3,143-pound MINI JCW from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds (according to the folks at MINI).

An eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission completes the major powertrain components providing quick, sure shifting suitable for such a responsive car.

No matter whether open or closed, the JCW-specific chassis technology, which, like the engine, was developed and tuned with the many years of racing expertise of John Cooper Works, ensures maximum driving fun, especially when cornering at speed.

Careful suspension tuning produces a comfortable ride in daily driving despite the go-kart like handling characteristics of the JCW convertible. It is this capability which sets the MINI JCW Convertible apart from other cars.

A sporty suspension set-up (MacPherson type struts up front; multi-link in the rear) is part of the standard equipment as are the sports brake system developed in cooperation with Brembo. The four-piston fixed caliper brakes with internally ventilated discs on the front wheels and red brake calipers bearing the JCW logo enable powerful performance braking.

Electronic aids for the suspension include dynamic stability control (DSC) and antilock braking system (ABS).

P205/45R17 Pirelli P-Zero performance tires encapsulate the 17-inch JCW aluminum wheels at the four corners – and in a MINI the tires and wheels are truly at the corners (a design characteristic from the original version to ensure maximum usage of space within the car’s dimensions).

All these pieces add up to a dynamic personality which just draws you in, encourages you to drop the top, drive and have fun!

Snug, but roomy cabin for driver and mate

The MINI JCW Convertible is a small car – 152.8-inches long, 55.7-inches high and 68-inches wide – which means sacrifices had to be made somewhere. In this case it is the rear seat (very tight for anything but small children or larger bodies for a short ride, though I managed to squeeze in a car seat so I could take my grandson along) and trunk (5.2 cubic feet, less than a third of the hardtop’s thanks to the folding roof of the Convertible).

Up front the room for driver and passenger is terrific – no compromises on head, leg, shoulder or knee room at all! They sit in snug supportive sport seats, which like the Nappa leather-wrapped steering wheel, are heated..

Unlike MINIs of the past, this generation has two major information centers in the dash. The driver’s digital screen, which moves with the height/reach-adjustable steering wheel to ensure clear viewing regardless of setting, provides the usual information like speed, fuel level, odometer and tachometer.

In the center of the dash sits a legacy MINI design cue — a large circle housing the 8.8-inch multi-function touch screen in what was once the position for earlier MINI’s speedometers. The Iconic Trim option package on the MINI JCW Convertible I drove meant the screen’s features included navigation along with Apple CarPlay and SiriusXM satellite radio,

Other creature comforts included: dual-zone automatic climate control system; power folding mirrors and sound through the Harman/Kardon premium audio system.

Living with the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible

All the above exemplifies how the MINI can be an everyday driver while providing boundless enjoyment. Further adding to the daily usefulness are the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS which help make it an even safer, more reassuring ride.

The ADAS list on the 2022 MINI JCW Convertible contains the Active Driving Assistant with Forward Collision, Pedestrian and Lane Departure Warning; rearview camera and automatic high beams.

Fuel economy in my spirited week hovered around 29 miles per gallon, a bit more than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 28 mpg overall rating (33 highway, 24 city).

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If the MINI can fit into your lifestyle (the lack of back-seat room and limited cargo capacity) and you want the most fun you can have driving within the speed limits, the 2022 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible is the ticket.

The price of admission begins at $38,900 and optioned as the one I drove was – the comprehensive Iconic Trim with Touchscreen Navigation, brings the price to $46,250 including $850 destination charge). I cannot put this price in perspective to any competitors because I have yet to find something which competes with the MINI in terms of exhilarating fun behind the wheel.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.