The jockeying shimmy of the back-row headrests in the rear-view mirror; the gentle, independent roll-and-sway of the A-pillars and front bulkhead; an outwardly emanating shudder of the body structure around the rear suspension turrets: these are the ways in which lesser drop-tops than the Mini Convertible betray their torsional weakness, even in 2016.
Many of the signs are harder to spot now than they were in small cabrios 25 years ago, granted, but they’re there if you care to look. And we can only assume that most of their owners simply don’t care to look.
But if Mini owners care, they’ll have a tough job detecting the signs. Despite its relatively firm suspension rates, this car doesn’t suffer from any torsional flex or scuttle shake to speak of at normal road speeds, and although tougher surfaces and faster prevailing pace can bring out a soft, recurrent fidget from the body structure, it’s barely felt and never heard.
On the 17in alloy wheels and 205-section non-runflat tyres of our test subject, the Mini’s ride was quiet, supple and well damped while remaining better isolated from bigger intrusions than you might expect – either of a Mini or any small convertible, frankly.
The car’s handling is also well judged: sufficiently agile, flat and keen to present a dynamic selling point to drivers out to enjoy every corner, but not drastically hyper-sensitive to steering inputs or so pointy as to put high-speed stability at risk.
The steering will still be overly direct for some tastes, ours among them, and its sheer pace makes the chances of feeling what the front tyres are up to through the rim vanishingly small.
It’s a particular shame here, because the Convertible’s extra weight and inevitable minor body flex under high lateral load make it a little more given to mid-corner understeer than its hatchback brethren. It’s a simple fact that if you could better detect the grip level under the front wheels, you could drive to its limit more easily.
But such criticisms feel decidedly unwarranted of a soft-top that has a greater sense of integrity to it than most of its kind and whose seven-tenths ground-covering pace makes it a great deal of fun.
It may well be that a Cooper Convertible on non-runflat 17in wheels and tyres is the ideal dynamic specification for the drop-top Mini and that bigger rims, stiffer springs and more powerful engines would only make the car less precise, less well balanced and generally harder to drive.