Review: MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008)

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Good looking and highly desirable. Cooper S version is fast.

Horrible chrome plastic covers on roll bars. Rock hard ride on 17-inch wheels. Glass rear windows can shatter.

MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008): At A Glance

The Convertible version of the MINI arrived in 2004, some three years after the launch of the hatchback. It was the final piece in the MINI jigsaw and one that proved to be both highly successful and profitable for its maker. Although it looks like a simple roof chop, there are many engineering changes in order to beef up the car's structure enough to maintain the original car's excellent dynamics.

Styling elements that set apart the Convertible are the retro looking external boot hinges and the chrome-look roll-over hoops. Unlike the original new-generation MINI, the Convertible was developed from start to end by BMW and the end result is a car that's roof is a superbly-engineered two-stage arrangement that gives the option to be run in full open-top mode or partially retracted.

The Convertible was powered by the Tritec 1.6-litre engine in naturally-aspirated Cooper form, or Supercharged Cooper S. As it ran alongside both the original new MINI and its replacement, the original Convertible was facelifted to coincide with the newer car's introduction, with a revised range of colours and upgraded interior and equipment levels. Strong image and residuals are a positive, but a relative lack of quality compared with the later Convertible is a downside.

MINI Cooper S Convertible R52 2005 Road Test

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What does a MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008) cost?

List Price from £20,590
Buy new from £16,746
Contract hire from £268.61 per month

MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008): What's It Like Inside?

Length 3635 mm
Width 1688 mm
Height 1415 mm
Wheelbase 2467 mm

Full specifications

Access is good, with an excellent driving position, and perfect pedal positioning. Switchgear is an acquired taste, with the toggle switches for items, such as the electric windows a nice styling touch, albeit a bit fiddly.

But they have gone and modernised the original R50's retro dash, so the speedo and rev counter are now on a binnacle half hidden by the steering wheel and the circle in the centre contains the fuel gauge, boost gauge and oil and water temperature gauges. At night, though, the instruments have nice, warm orange glow.


Child seats that fit a MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008) like to drive?

When I tested a MINI Cooper back in 2002 I reckoned it was the most fun car there was. Not the fastest by a long way. It didnt need to be. The combination of size, grip and handling simply made it hugely enjoyable to drive at any speed it was capable of, even fairly slowly.

The MINI Cooper S convertible is not the same thing at all. Its a lot faster. Its a lot stiffer. And, with the top down, its more like driving a very powerful go-kart.

Some aspects are quite nostalgic. The supercharger whines at about the same pitch as the gearbox did on an original Mini. Its very cute to look at. You sit close to the ground. And on 17 wheels it bangs and crashes almost as badly as my old Mini van with full race suspension and 10 wheels.

Of course, with 163bhp through a six-speed box it gets to 100 faster than my old Mini gasped to 50. The engine has a lovely linear power delivery. No all or nothing like some turbocharged engines. The torque is there for you from very low revs in all gears, making the car easy and pleasant to drive in all conditions, including traffic.

And you can whack it round corners at the same astonishing speeds you used to be able to do in a Mini Cooper 1293S. Except, whereas in the old S you'd be drifting slightly sideways, the new S will grip a lot longer and assuming you dont go completely bonkers theres never any fear of understeering straight on into a ditch, a tree or, worse still, an oncoming car.

It's quite hard work, though. The steering is very high geared and heavy, so you only have to twitch the small, thick-rimmed wheel to make a turn. And it takes a while to get comfortable with the relationship between the controls. Even though the short gearlever changes neatly and precisely, the car would be much better with a DSG transmission and steering wheel button shifters.

I'm not sure what mpg I got, but after a partial re-fill I reckon well over 30mpg, maybe 35mpg partly due to the reasonably long gearing of 24mph/1000rpm in sixth. Instead of just a tiny bonnet, the whole front lifts up like those fibreglass conversions you used to be able to get for original Minis. Everything underneath is easily accessible without scraping your knuckles.

The convertible top works brilliantly, in two stages, and all you have to do is press a button, twice. Up, its very solid indeed with what looks like a roll bar over your head and a solid piece behind the screen, I guess to protect against anything penetrating the canvas. Top lowered, I just caught the last of the summer sunshine. It feels and looks nicest with all the windows down, but on a return trip from the coast my hands went blue, so I dont recommend long-distance topless winter drives.

Don't be deceived by those neat looking rear passenger roll hoops. Up close, theyre cheap and nasty chromed plastic. (Why did they do that?) But you can get a couple of people in the back, which you can't with an MX5.

And that's the MINI convertible's only real rival. The Beetle convertible looks good too, but its an altogether softer, far less sporty conveyance. I guess in some peoples eyes the new Micra CC has enough cuteness to compete against MINI One and plain Cooper convertibles. The 206CC is there too, but again nothing like as sporty and just doesnt have the MINI's cuteness.

But beware rich dads buying these cars for their daughters. Though you get away with Group 6 insurance for the MINI One convertible and Group 9 for the Cooper, the more aggressive Cooper S is an expensive Group 16.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
Cooper 39 mpg 9.8 s 174 g/km
One 40 mpg 11.8 s 168 g/km

Real MPG average for a MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

27–41 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the MINI Convertible (2004 – 2008)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

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MINI Convertible - is it better to trade in or sell privately?

I'm thinking of selling or trading my 2008 MINI Convertible with 13,000 miles and a full service history. Would I get better price by trading or private sale?
Private sale and now it's summer time it is the right time to sell an attractive convertible like a MINI. You might get £6000-£6500 for it.
Answered by Honest John
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