From £17,610
Although the Mini Roadster is a genuinely solid performer and great fun on the right road, its overall appeal is rather limited

Our Verdict

Mini Roadster
The Roadster is the first time the new Mini has been offered as a two-seat convertible

The Mini Roadster is punchy, practical and fun, but no match for a proper sporting roadster

  • First Drive

    Mini Roadster Cooper S

    Although the Mini Roadster is a genuinely solid performer and great fun on the right road, its overall appeal is rather limited
26 January 2012

What is it?

This is what you get if you take the roof off the recently introduced Mini Coupe – the Mini Roadster. The two cars were developed in a joint engineering effort following an unveiling in concept car form at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show and, apart from their respective roof concepts, are virtually identical.

As with the Coupe, the Roadster offers much the same engine line-up as the more familiar Mini hatchback and cabriolet, coming with a trio of turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder units developing 120bhp in the Cooper, 181bhp in the Cooper S and 208bhp in the Cooper S JCW (John Cooper Works) on offer here in the UK. There’s also a 141bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel in the Cooper SD.

The Roadster Cooper and Cooper S come with the choice of a standard six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox, while the top of the line Cooper S JCW is available exclusively with a six-speed manual.

Underneath, there’s a uniquely tuned chassis that Mini describes as being “more driver focused” than that of the hatchback and cabriolet.

Although its detailing is familiar, the exterior styling is unique to the Coupe and Roaster. And with a more rounded front end than its hatchback and cabriolet siblings along with a heavily raked windscreen and notchback rear end, it does manage to stand out from the small car crowd. It is bullish and, by dent of its wide tracks in relation to its relatively short wheelbase, a particularly confident looking car.

Additional stiffening measures have been introduced to the floorplan to counter the lack of a fixed roof structure. The fabric hood, developed in partnership with German open top specialist Edscha and boasting a heated glass rear screen, retracts back behind the seats electrically and stows in an exposed position. The upper section of the roof acts as an integral tonneau cover.

What’s it like?

The first thing you notice as you enter the Roadster is the acute angle of its windscreen and the way its header rail is positioned relatively close to your head. It is seriously disconcerting, even for someone of moderate height.

Worst of all, the thick frame of the windscreen, a drawback of additional stiffening measures to satisfy roll over safety regulations, obstructs visibility up the road, leaving you to crank your head around the header rail at times. Not a great start, then.

Mini predicts the majority of Roadster sales will be for the Cooper S, so it wasn’t surprising to find that all the examples of the new open top that it brought along to its launch in Portugal ran the familiar turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit already found across its range.

The aluminium block engine, developed in partnership with Peugeot, is a gutsy performer, endowing the Mini Roadster with a solid levels of off-the-line and in-gear shove. However, it is a little gruff and undistinguished in sound.

Official figures put the Mini Roadster Cooper S’s 0-62mph time at 7.0sec – making it 0.3sec faster to the benchmark than the similarly powered Mini Cabriolet. It also gets from 50-75mph in fourth gear in 5.8sec and hits a top speed of 141mph. So, it’s not exactly lacking in performance.

The Roadster delivers all the driving fun and excellent dynamic properties of the Coupe – direct and well weighted steering, brisk turn-in qualities, excellent body control and plenty of front end bite when you attack corners with gusto.

Depress the Sport button at the base of the centre console and the steering becomes even more immediate in its actions, providing whip crack response in the first couple of degrees of lock. At the same time, the throttle mapping is advance to give the engine added response.

Mini marketing men once again wheeled out the ‘kart-like’ analogy to describe the handling of their latest model at its launch in Portugal. It’s a tenuous description, I know. But in this case it is not too far from the truth

It’s not all roses, though. Despite the inclusion of unequal length driveshafts and all sort of electronic driving aids, the Roadster’s otherwise excellent steering can’t mask the odd ping of old fashioned torque steer under heavy throttle loads.

On less than totally smooth roads you also become aware of scuttle shake. It rarely upsets progress, but there is a degree of flex and shimmy within the Roadster’s steel body structure over broken bitumen that suggests enthusiast drivers would be better served by the Coupe. That said, it feels a good deal stiffer than the Cabriolet – thanks it seems to a rather prominent brace across the floor of the boot.

The ride is also very firm – unnecessarily so it would seem. In a bid to give the Roadster a more focused feel than the Cabriolet, Mini’s chassis engineers have fitted it with firmer springs and dampers and larger diameter anti-roll bars. It does wonders for body control, which is quite exemplary. But an inability to soak up even small bumps means it can all to easily be thrown off line mid-corner.

Should I buy one?

At £20,900, the two seat Mini Roadster Cooper S is pitched just £505 above the more practical four seat Mini Convertible Cooper S. But while a genuinely solid performer and great fun to drive on the right road, its overall appeal and usefulness is rather limited.

Its two seat layout, awkwardly placed windscreen, shallow luggage space, overly firm ride and relatively high price virtually rules it out as an everyday car for most. In this respect, it’s probably best seen as a second car for those that can afford such a luxury.

Mini Roadster Cooper S

Price: £20,900; Top speed: 141mph; 0-62mph: 7.0sec; Economy: 47.1mpg (combined); CO2: 139g/km; Kerb weight: 1185kg; Engine: 1598cc, four-cylinder, petrol; Power: 181bhp@5500rpm; Torque: 177lb ft@1600-5000rpm; Gearbox: six-spd manual.

Join the debate

Comments
13

28 January 2012

I like most Minis but gotta say that this one is a bit pointless vs the standard cabriolet. A premium of £500 for a less comfortable ride and two less seats? Surely it should be cheaper than the cabrio by virtue of having less in it. Also it looks a bit too dinky with the roof up, bit like a Daihatsu Copen. Bet its great to drive, but then so is the cabrio.

28 January 2012

The main plus point is it's much better looking than the coupe but I don't think it's actually that much better looking than the normal Cooper convertible, in fact I would say the now defunct Ford StreetKa was much better looking.

I would prefer the MX5 but at least the MINI will offer the only other only decent modern affordable roadster up to c£20k now that Renault will be withdrawing their Wind. I'm unsure about this and the Coupe models, maybe they should have made both a bit more distinctive from the rest of the MINI range, such as a different face. With so many different versions of the MINI can it can still be called desirable and cute like of the orignal new MINI was when it was introduced back in 2004? I think the Fiat 500 has probably taken that mantle.

28 January 2012

Pandamonium says the main advantage of the roadster is that it looks better than the coupe, talk about damning with faint praise as my rse looks better than the coupe, this is another pointless mini offshoot that will undoubtedly sell.

28 January 2012

Mini (or BMW) really need to sort out the ride comfort of the coupe and its topless variants. While people do enjoy the go-kart handling, for over 90% of day to day driving it's ride comfort that is probably the more useful dynamic characteristic.

Not saying this car should ride like a limo, but it's gotta get better than this bone shaking effort.

28 January 2012

Just wondering why a car built for posing needs so many engine options and needs to be so absurdly fast? I guess it should be cheaper but they obviously think they will get what they're asking even if there are better choices for the money.

28 January 2012

Bunch of monkeys.

28 January 2012

[quote benjamino]Bunch of monkeys[/quote]

.... could have designed a better car than this. That's what I meant. Honestly. What next - a single seat version? How about one with no seats at all? Or maybe a long wheelbase 6 seat version? Bunch of monkeys, that's what BMW are taking their customers for.

28 January 2012

The First BMW mini was good. Now they are losing sight and focus on what makes the brand so attractive. The Countryman is grotesque, as is the coupe and this cabrio as some have rightly pointed out is pointless.

What on earth is BMW thinking?

28 January 2012

So, in essence, we have a relatively pricey two-seat convertible that looks hideously chintzy, has a compromised ride and is a flexing rattle-box - and it's front-wheel drive. Ooo, what's that noise? That'll be Mazda's MX5 design team and mktg dept: "Kerching!"

First there was the Clubman's dumb door layout, then the gargoyle that is the Countryman, now there's this über naff Roadster - anyone else get the feeling that BMW is losing the plot re the Mini 'brand'?

30 January 2012

Has this car, like the coupe, been designed to attract men?

From the report, I wouldn't imagine many blokes (unless they are jockeys) would fit.

I know what they were trying to do with this car, I just don't think they've succeeded.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

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