2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible Autocross Review: Cheery Shifts
2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible autocross course review highlights:
- While the manual transmission is temporarily shelved, the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible does come with more standard tech and some new styling, though it’s not exactly cheap
- Driving a manual 2022 Cooper S Convertible around Road America’s autocross course revealed that it’s not that fast, but it is approachable and reasonably fun
- Although the John Cooper Works models aren’t that much more expensive, the drop-top version is arguably overkill outside of a track compared to the Cooper S
To some, the 2022 Mini Cooper S is just a peppy hatchback that you can get as a convertible, too. However, it’s also the heir to a race-winning rally car and, in the right hands, a nippy little sports car. But how does it behave in some inexperienced hands? Specifically, in my hands on an autocross course? As it turns out, while a manual 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible isn’t the hottest drop-top hatch, it can still put a smile on your face.
The 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible still has cheeky British style, but stick shifts are in short supply
|2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible
|2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
|0-60 mph time
$41,750 (as tested)
First, there’s some bad news. Due to (sigh) supply chain issues, Mini has discontinued its manual transmissions temporarily. But as the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible I drove had a stick, some dealerships might have a manual or two lurking around. So, if you want to row your own gears, be prepared to search, or wait.
The good news, though, is that otherwise, the 2022 Cooper S Convertible has more standard features. Firstly, in addition to a new grille design, it has a new rear diffuser. Also, LED headlights are standard, as are the digital gauge cluster, lane-departure warning, and the 8.8” circular touchscreen with its color-changing LED ring. If you want navigation or Apple CarPlay, though, those cost extra. However, while the Union Jack roof is also an optional extra, the Union Jack LED taillights are standard.
Mechanically, though, the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible is unchanged from 2021. And unlike years past, the current-gen Cooper S doesn’t inherently receive sportier suspension than the non-S model. However, summer performance tires are a no-cost option, which my test car had. It also had the $500 adaptive shocks, which are tied to the driving mode, as is the steering and throttle response. Going into Sport Mode activates automatic rev-matching, too.
It’s not a knife-edged go-kart, but this manual warm hatch is friendly for autocross beginners
The typical Mini Cooper cliché is to say it handles like a go-kart, which can be misconstrued. If you take it, as I initially did, that the Mini is a sharp, nimble track weapon, unless you’re driving a Joh Cooper Works model, you might be disappointed. But really, what it means is the Mini is easy to control and toss about. And the latter is what made the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible a pleasant introduction for this autocross newbie.
On one hand, the steering isn’t terribly communicative. Furthermore, the manual’s gates could be better defined; I occasionally had trouble finding the next gear. And considering $40,000 almost gets you into a Golf R, this isn’t exactly the hottest hatch for the money. Though, it is the only convertible hot, er, warm hatch.
However, the steering is delightfully quick and accurate, especially in Sport Mode. Also, the Mini’s shifter is easy to row while the forgiving clutch has an easy-to-find bite point. In addition, the brakes are strong, and the engine pulls hard at any rpm. Plus, there’s little to no body roll, even in the Convertible. The chassis setup makes rotating and course-correcting under braking or throttle a snap, too. And when you chuck this FWD car into a corner hard enough to make it slide (!), you feel utterly unafraid and in control.
Going purely by lap times, the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible was my slowest car of the day. But I was still smiling and giggling by the end. In my book, that’s a win.
Serious racers will want the JCW, but the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible is still a smile-inducing city car with a stick
Now, if you’re a dedicated autocross racer, you’ll likely gravitate towards the JCW Minis. With more power, sportier suspension, bigger brakes, and limited-slip differentials, those are some seriously sporty small cars. Also, with the optional adaptive shocks, there’s no real ride penalty, Car and Driver notes. And don’t forget, you can get the Mini Convertible in JCW trim.
However, the serious track-goer will probably go for the Hardtop for its lower price and better rigidity. At which point, the Cooper S becomes a cheaper alternative that has the same amount of style and almost as much speed. And many people buy Minis as much for their looks as their performance anyway. Furthermore, even before the supply chain issues started, the JCW models were automatic-only.
So, no, the 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible isn’t the fastest or sharpest autocross tool, nor is it a rally car. But don’t dismiss the power of a cheerful little hatch with three pedals and plenty of Union Jacks.
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