You donâ€™t have to take it all the way across Africa â€” just driving it to the corner garage is an adventure, writes Andrea Nagel I WAS first impressed by the new incarnation of the Mini Cooper S in 2006 when, 47 years after the debut of the first Mini, a convoy of three cars completed the Mini Odyssey overland through Africa from Joburg to Oxford, England. The odyssey was designed to draw attention to Miniâ€™s thrill-seeking nature, but also highlighted its robust durability and mechanical integrity. Places that would have scared off the most ardent 4x4â€™s were conquered by these little two-wheel-drive super-hatches as they travelled through 10 African countries, encountering the most intimidating of roads and the most awe-inspiring landscapes. Who would have believed that this trio of automobiles, thought by many to be all about trendy looks and funky inner-city capability, would make it across the wild terrain of East Africa to their refined university home town, where they were welcomed by flutes of MoÃ«t, exaltation, rapture and exclamations of joy from the factory staff. The next year, the Mini impressed me a little closer to home when my mother traded in her Swiss-styled Saab for the Mini Cooper S Convertible, exchanging the large boxy drop-top for a smaller, swankier, hipper car. Neither of us has ever looked back. The new Mini Cooper S Convertible, decked out in its custom Interchange Yellow, continues to impress where the older model left off. Powered by a four- cylinder petrol engine with turbocharger and direct fuel injection, the newest Mini proves that you donâ€™t need to travel the length of Africa to find excitement. Just plant your bum on the driverâ€™s seat, adjust the steering, press the new automatic start button and youâ€™ll be on an adventure all of your own. The interior is dominated by the circular dials, vents and chrome knobs of previous models and the trademark centrally mounted speedometer remains, proportionately out of proportion, on the dash. Next to it, a circular petrol gauge lets you know, one little light at a time, when youâ€™re running low on gas. But even when I was driving the Mini hard, its fuel economy was impressive. The round dials and gauges are echoed externally by the large round headlamps with integrated indicators that enhance the rounded, flowing curves of its body. The conspicuously hot colour of the car, complete with black racing stripes on the bonnet, has been carried through to the interior with flashes of the yellow enlivening the inside and subtle hints of it incorporated into the fabric of the ergonomic racing seats. Driving the car is like downing a shot of tequila. It momentarily takes your breath away, gives you a speed wobble and then settles down at the pit of your stomach, entering your bloodstream, where it starts to intoxicate you. Unlike tequila though, this hot little Mini kept me yearning for more. Itâ€™s a seriously quick car that evidently likes to go fast. Seductively, it coaxed my right foot ever closer to the floor, wiggling its squat body before settling into speed. The racing suspension means it holds its own around corners, and it has a rather precise handling to match its seriously impressive acceleration, thanks to the turbocharger. Going up the road to a service station in the middle of winter with the top down to fetch wood for the fire could seem like an incongruous thing to do, but the ease with which the roof goes down and the sexiness of the car with its top off encourages you to brave the cold. The automatic canvas roof can be fully retracted in 15 seconds using a toggle switch mounted to the left of your head. Should it start snowing, the roof can be closed with the car moving at a speed of up to 32km/h. The sunroof, apparently, can be operated at a speed of 120km/h. The new Mini Cooper S Convertible is a head turner that delivers performance to match its flirtatious looks. You donâ€™t have to be hot to drive this little number, but it sure as hell helps.