Mini Sidewalk a hoot to drive, but laughable asking price 

Convertible not suited to Irish weather
Mini Sidewalk a hoot to drive, but laughable asking price 

Mini Sidewalk Convertible

Mini Convertible Sidewalk

Rating

★★★☆☆

Price

€27,935 - €47,840 as tested

Engine

Brilliant petrol engine

The Spec

Don't tick option boxes

Verdict

Only for the flash – or investor

Mini has a great tradition of making derivative models which have become very much loved by those who own any of them — and valuable with it.

Nowadays, however, while the brand still makes reasonable numbers of specials — the John Cooper Works variants are particularly sought after and fetch really good money second-hand — it would appear that limited edition specials are becoming something which are getting special focus from the manufacturer.

One such is the Mini Convertible ‘Sidewalk’ which we tried recently and only 150 of which are being made for the Irish and UK markets. This beast is really like something which was customised — but by the manufacturer rather than some backstreet ‘garagiste’ or, more simply, by a shed-warrior enthusiast.

Customisation, by definition, means that it is going to cost more than the mainstream version, but in this case Mini really has outdone itself — and perhaps your wallet too — by adding nearly twenty-grand to the price of this convertible.

Sure, the extras really do make this a very fancy-dan Mini convertible, what with a new bespoke colour choices (the tester had a Deep Laguna Blue overcoat), twin two-tone racing stripes, color-coded wing mirror caps, a folding fabric roof with a new arrow motif (which is also seen in the side indicator housings), aluminum treadplates, grey leather upholstery with braided yellow piping, 17” lightweight alloys with a unique paint job and the ‘Chill’ equipment package which includes unique interior and exterior lighting systems.

Oh, and the roof is an electric operation which can be opened or shut in just 18 seconds and also while you’re on the move — within moderation of course.

Whether any of that is enough for you to whip out the chequebook, I’m not sure, but I can certainly tell you that such extravagance would find little support in this quarter. 

I mean, the basic Mini Convertible costs €27,935, which seems within spitting distance of being decent value. The ’Sidewalk’ will set you back €47,840, which does not.

Now, while the essence of this Mini is that it is a really decent driving prospect, despite being a convertible and therefore shorn of much of its otherwise inherent torsional rigidity. 

Whatever reinforcing Mini has installed in this thing, they have succeeded in removing much of the chassis flex characteristic of this breed and thus the car is actually very much the same ‘karty’ driving proposition its be-roofed sibling is.

The driving experience is top drawer and in no way added to by all the cosmetic finery that it has been equipped with. No, much of that greatness — and that is not too extravagant a word for it — is down to the two-litre engine that’s on-board here.

Even those for whom the 1275 version back in the day was the distillation of everything good about quick Minis — or at least the ones the Brits used to build — this thing is a revelation. A turbocharged petrol unit, outputting some 192 bhp and capable of propelling it to a 230 kph velocity and a 7.2 second 0-100 kph time.

While the latter figure might seem a fraction tardy to some, it might also illustrate that there has been a lot of metal added to this car to make it as stable as it is, aside from the added weight of all the decorative fripperies.

That said, however, and as a card-carrying non-fan of the convertible genre as a whole, this thing is a hoot to drive. Some might cavil that it has a seven-speed auto ‘box instead of some caveman-inspired manual, therefore diluting the experience, but have no truck with any such nonsense as the ‘Sidewalk’ is a cracker.

I know certain roads which will find out the validity of manufacturer claims about handling and ride performance in very short order and this Mini was given a thorough performance exploration over several of them and was not found wanting.

Although the time of the year did not really allow for much roof-down motoring for fear of adding double pneumonia to any ongoing Covid-related worries, this rag top was a lot more sorted than many contemporaries and while not quite as pin-sharp as the be-roofed Cooper S, it is not going to understeer you into a ditch anytime soon and certainly not as quickly as many other near 200bhp front wheel drivers.

Steering is responsive and bolsters the excellent seat-of-the-pants feel this car delivers; grip levels are excellent and the whole point-and-squirt raison d’etre of the modern Mini (and, indeed, the old one too) is soundly underpinned by rock-solid foundations which will allow you explore the performance parameters without fear of instantaneous fatality.

It might be slightly fatuous to declare that a car this size costing nearly 50k is quite economic, but even for a two-litre turbo petrol machine the consumption rate is decent enough and we recorded a figure of 5.8 l/100 km (48.2) mpg during our time with this Mini (during much of which the rod was rarely spared) and this compared pretty favourably with the company’s claimed figure of 5.2 l/100 km.

Whatever about the relative excellence of the performance and the on-road characteristics, you could quibble with some of the interior styling, which looks like it was something of an uncharacteristic afterthought for the company, not to mention the overall practicality of the thing, but the excellent front bucket seats and the overwhelming sense that this is a drivers’ car, swing things back towards the positive.

Sure, you get your Harmon Kardon sound system and all the connectivity and infotainment you could possibly desire (especially in a package this small), as well as a wind-deflector (to keep the hairdo intact) and a head-up display, but when it comes down to it, the appeal to any serious motorist here is the manner this thing behaves itself. And it does so with distinction.

Certainly — if that’s your thing — the Mini Sidewalk will allow you to cut a dash whether you’re in Borrisoleigh or Biarritz —  if it is a dash you want to cut. 

If not, then save yourself quite a deal of cash and get the regular Mini Cooper S, which is ever so slightly better to drive, considerably more practical and way cheaper.

I would love to tell you that I was deeply enraptured with this car — and to a certain extent I was, but just with bits of it. Unfortunately for the Mini Sidewalk I could find those bits elsewhere and for a lot less cash.

But, there is one other way of looking at this car: as an investment. If you’ve got the hermetically sealed garage at the ready and you have the shekels to spare, then this Mini is something which, if wheeled out in, say, 25 years’ time in showroom condition, it could be worth a lot of dosh. Just a thought.

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