The original Mini was never offered as a convertible, believe it or not, at least not from the factory. It wasn't until three years after Mini's post-revival period did the company officially welcome a droptop to the range, and it quickly became a staple.
Now 17 years later, Mini is so entrenched in the convertible game that, as the automaker kicks off its transition to battery power, the company is exploring an EV droptop as customer demand blossoms.
The bad news is that the Mini EV Convertible prototype pictured here won't make it to production – sorry to disappoint. But Mini's product planners tell me there's a very likely chance we'll see an EV convertible with the next generation. So while it isn't a one-to-one example of what the future holds, this prototype does offer an early, exciting preview of things to expect.
Gallery: Mini Cooper SE Convertible Prototype First Drive Review
Sun's Out, Electrons Out
At the risk of stating the obvious, not much differentiates the droptop Mini EV prototype from the hatchback visually, other than the lack of a roof. Mini designers carried over the awesome T-shaped rims, electric yellow accents, and closed-off grille – because EV. Even the interior is identical with a digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, and coordinating accent colors scattered throughout.
The same parallels carry over to the drive experience. Even with the roof down (managed in just 18 seconds), this droptop hardly forfeits any of the dynamic qualities that make a Mini so darn fun in the first place. The steering is quick, the suspension is responsive, and the agility with which this droptop moves maintains Mini's signature “go-kart-like” qualities. That's no easy task for a car with batteries, a retractable roof, and a slightly heftier curb weight than the hardtop version (which itself weighs 3,100 pounds).
The same 135.0-kilowatt electric motor and signature T-shaped 32.6-kilowatt-hour battery pack from the Cooper SE hardtop remain, with the convertible still delivering a healthy 181 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. And just like its sibling, this Mini has lots of pep in its step.
While driving around the busy and narrow streets of South Beach, this Mini convertible had no problem shooting gaps and accelerating quickly from stop lights. Thanks to the immediate giddyup from its electric motor, the Mini EV concept can race to 62 miles per hour in 7.7 seconds.
Ticking the drive mode toggle upward to Sport uncorks the full breadth of its battery power, improving the accelerator response and making the Mini EV feel a bit quicker off the line. Moving the toggle in the opposite direction gives you access to Green and Green Plus drive modes, which dull the go-pedal and pull back on some of the settings that might otherwise deplete power.
There were also two regen modes in this Mini: High and Low. The most aggressive regen setting offers true one-pedal braking, helping bring the car down to a complete stop. It’s perfect for pedaling around the stop-and-go traffic of Miami Beach.
My quick one-hour jaunt wasn't nearly enough to test things like battery range or charging capacity, but considering this concept won't be available at your local dealership anytime soon, it's a moot point. Given the convertible shares all the same mechanicals as the hardtop, it should have the same 50-kilowatt DC fast-charging capabilities with the ability to recoup 80 percent in 36 minutes, in theory.
A Quirky Convertible
So to recap, it’s a Cooper SE with less roof. And that might sound like damning with faint praise, but as with the hardtop, it’s impossible not to love this thing. The quirky qualities of the SE remain intact – even though the roof doesn’t – which means anyone with a penchant for open-top driving can have their battery-powered cake and eat it too.
Alas, that’d only be the case if Mini would build the thing, but Mini wants to work out some of the kinks of its first-generation EV (range, charging, etc.). The expectation is that the second-generation EV will be even better, more efficient, and more suited for a convertible variant. Exciting things to come, for sure.
Mini Cooper SE Convertible Prototype