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2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible Review

2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Photo: Philippe Champoux
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Miranda Lightstone
Smile-inducing, always
Happy is part of the package
Each time I bring a car home, I try to imagine myself living with said vehicle. I use it for everyday tasks: take my son to day care, pick up groceries, go out with friends, and drive to work. I load it up with the usual; water bottle, baby wipes, notepad and pen (because I’m a writer), and really “live” with it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t.

Sometimes, it’s pure perfection.

Such was the case with the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible. Baby seat securely fastened in the back, roof down, and sun shining I was ready to motor. Not once did the smile leave my face the entire week I was behind the wheel.

What is a MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Besides a grin-producer, the MINI JCW is a pocket-rocket built for speedy, go-kart road experiences. Based on the Cooper platform, the John Cooper Works is a tricked out MINI that boosts horsepower by 27 ponies over the Cooper S, decks out the body in skirts and JCW decals.

Who is John Cooper? Only the Founding Father of racing Minis. Their success continued over decades, and in 2000, Michael Cooper (son of John Cooper) founded the performance division of MINI, John Cooper Works, to boost power in the new generation MINIs.

While MINI has tried their hand at decking out other MINI models in John Cooper Works regalia, there really is no comparison for the hatch (as Matt recently experienced with the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works).

2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible Price and Specs
MINI managed to squeeze as much power and handling prowess out of this little hatch as possible, with a jacked up 1.6L turbocharged engine that pumps out 208 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque (with overboost the number rises to 207 lb-ft). With a top speed of 236 km/hr and a 0-100 km/hr time of 6.9 seconds: this little number is ready to go…

Although an automatic is available, I implore you to go with the 6-speed manual transmission.

All that pleasure can be had starting at $42,900. There’s a bit of a premium for less car as the non-convertible MINI John Cooper Works starts at $36,900. My as-tested MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Convertible (with an $1,850 Wired Package for navi and voice recognition, etc.) plus a few cosmetic extras came in at just under $50k.

A lot for not-a-lot-of car? Some would say so. I don’t.

Driving the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
Uplifting. Rejuvenating. Serendipitous. Fortuitous. Fun. I could fill this section with adjective upon adjective to describe what it’s like to drive the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible, but I think you get the idea.

Truthfully, this little car doesn’t have a crazy amount of power. 208 horses is rather “small” in terms of horsepower numbers these days, but it’s how that power is harnessed and sent to the front wheels then handled by the four corners that make it so phenomenal to drive.

I feel at one with the MINI, like we were meant to be together forever and always. Feels a bit like home.

Steering is precise and spot on, the car is going where I want it to almost before I turn the wheel. Throttle response is also quite sensitive. Very little input is needed to make the MINI John Cooper Works rocket forward, and gear selection is smooth, rev-matching a joy, burbles and growls from the centre-mounted dual exhaust intoxicating, and cornering a dream.

My only complaint? The shifter is quite large and distance between gears is rather long. I’d shorten that up if I owned one.

The missing roof does nothing to take away from the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible’s rigidity and cornering abilities.

Inside and Out of the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
While the external differences on the JCW aren’t immediately recognizable, it is eye-catching nonetheless. A more aggressive front fascia with black headlights and 17” black alloy wheels added a certain “mean” spirit to my tester.

Inside, standard MINI looks are found: round gauges, centre-mounted speedo. I also appreciated the Championship Read Leather Lounge ($1,900), though I’m not sure I’d dish out the extra dollars for them.

My son’s Britax baby seat was a bit of a tight squeeze, but it did fit with the roof up or down. While the trunk is quite small, I was able to squeeze a small umbrella stroller in there along with a few grocery bags.

Comparing the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
MINI has competition within its own walls in the BMW 1 Series convertible, and with another German brand in the VW Eos (though that comparison is a bit of a stretch). The most logical comparison is the Fiat 500 Abarth cabrio, which is also a quirky, different, fun-to-drive drop-top.

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    2013 MINI Cooper
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    2013 MINI Cooper
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    2013 MINI John Cooper Works
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    Miranda Lightstone
    Miranda Lightstone
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