The second of Mini’s new models will be this two-seat Roadster, unveiled at Frankfurt and due on sale in 2011.
The sister car to the Mini Coupe, the Mini Roadster will target the Mazda MX-5 and Audi TT Roadster. It will be built in the UK at Mini’s Oxford plant.
Based around the same re-engineered Mini Convertible bodyshell as the Coupe, the Roadster concept shares that car’s rakish A-pillars and lowered roofline.
The front pillars slope back an extra 16 degrees on the concept, an expensive feature to re-engineer but one that also gives the car a sportier look.
“The glasshouse is significantly lower, slimmer and more dynamic than the regular production models, providing a strikingly sleek silhouette,” Mini claims.
However, it is unclear if the production versions will feature this expensive change. One of the issues in sloping back the windscreen like this is the effect on the car’s performance in US crash tests. These have to cater for unbelted occupants because wearing a seatbelt is still not compulsory in many US states.
A source who has seen the production versions of both Coupé and Roadster suggests that the production models will not have the same degree of pillar rake.
The Roadster will also share its boot lid pressing with the Coupe, although clever body engineering means that they open in different ways.
On the Coupe it forms part of a roof-hinged hatch, while on the Roadster it opens like a conventional boot lid (unlike that of the Convertible, which hinges from the bottom). Boot volume is the same as that of the Coupe at 250 litres. The Roadster’s boot size remains the same regardless of whether the roof is stowed or not.
Where the Roadster differs from the Coupe is the lightweight, manual canvas roof that folds down just proud of the rear deck lid to open the cabin to the elements.
There’s no cosmetic body-coloured cover for the roof, for engineering simplicity and to keep weight down, so the roof is visible when stowed.
There’s a significantly different paint finish for the Roadster concept too. The white-and-gold colour scheme echoes a haute couture fashion theme, just like the Chanel-style houndstooth seat material.For the first time, a Mini gets body-coloured grille bars in place of the characteristic chrome finish.
Also different are the powerplants for its two new concepts, to reflect their different characters. This choice may well be reflected in production, too.
The harder-edged Coupe is powered by the 208bhp JCW version of the Mini’s 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine, while the Roadster is matched to the more refined 175bhp Cooper S 1.6 turbo.
There are no details on performance yet, although it is reasonable to assume that acceleration and top speeds will be very close to those of the regular Mini hatchbacks with similar engines.
Despite the use of a less frantic version of the 1.6-litre turbo engine, Mini says its new open-top is intended as a rewarding drive.
That’s one of the reasons why the Roadster is equipped with a simple, unpowered roof to keep weight and complexity down.
Ease of use is also important, with a clever, through-bulkhead compartment offering access to the boot. Items stored in the boot for security can be accessed from the passenger seat through the bulkhead. And the hatch can be locked to deter opportunist thieves.
There’s no official guide to Roadster prices yet, but it seems reasonable to assume at least a £3k premium over equivalent-engined hatchback Minis. That would mean a price of around £17k for a Cooper Chili, rising to nearly £22k for a Cooper S Chili.