Originally developed as a feasibility study by MINI bosses, the MINI Cooper SE Convertible is no longer a one-off prototype. Which, on the face of it, is great news. However, there are a two significant catches. Firstly, just 999 cars will be built as part of a 'celebration' of the model (only 150 will come to the UK). Secondly, it has a £52,000 price tag, which is considerably higher than was anticipated and a full £17,000 more than the highest-spec MINI Electric hatchback.
But what will you get for your money? Although we haven't driven the final production model yet, we drove a prototype last year.
One of the first things that strikes you when you drive the MINI Convertible is the noise. Or rather the lack of it. With the sporty MINI derivatives, the engine sound is part of the sensual experience. In the Convertible, you get used to a new soundtrack. When driving in the city you get much more from the hustle and bustle on the boulevards, hear the laughter of the guests in the street cafés and the rattling of the dishes. You feel right in the middle of it all. And out in the countryside you suddenly feel at one with nature, hearing the sound of the wind in the leaves just as clearly as the chirping of the birds in the trees. Even a freshly mown meadow or a damp morning in the forest suddenly smells much more intense. It's like cycling through the countryside, only that it is much faster in the MINI and not so exhausting.
It might be fast compared to cycling, but this MINI isn’t a supercar. It feels perky enough and has the expected ‘go-kart’ handling, but the performance is merely impressive rather than shocking. The modest battery capacity and range mean you don’t feel too inclined to race around, either. Like the familiar hatchback MINI Electric, this convertible has a comparatively tiny 33.5kWh pack and an official range of around 140 miles.
However, the convertible does surprise with a degree of maturity that one would hardly have expected from a hand-built one off. Nothing wobbles and creaks even on the roughest roads and if anything it seems stiffer than the petrol model.
So what’s the point of this car? The current MINI Electric is now less than a year from the end of production. An all-new version arrives next year, built from the ground up with electrification in mind (unlike the current car). The special edition will effectively introduce the idea of a soft-top electric car and help give the brand a presence in a new area of the market. Let's hope that the all-new 2024 version will be a little more affordable than this.