The Cooper kicks off the range. Its 122bhp and 118lb ft is enough to haul the Roadster from zero to 62mph in 9.2sec. That means its no rocketship, but given the likelihood of it being bought by those happy enough to cruise rather than thrash, it seems like a fair amount of poke.
The 182bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine you’ll find in the current Cooper S is a greatly underrated powerplant. Developed jointly by BMW and Peugeot-Citroën, the motor is flexible and forceful and seems to deliver more in the way of vim and vigour to Mini’s Cooper S-branded cars than to almost any Peugeot or Citroën.
The Cooper S Roadster, in particular, should sprint to 62mph in 7.0sec (more on that in a minute) and top out at 141mph – figures that eclipse those of even the segment-defining Mazda MX-5.
On the road, the fountainhead of the engine’s appeal is the 177lb ft of torque that appears at 1600rpm and, thanks to the heady whoosh of the twin-scroll turbocharger, remains nailed firmly at that peak until 5000rpm. An overboost function can even temporarily push this to 192lb ft for a few seconds at full throttle. This makes the Mini not only quick but also very tractable from low revs.
Leave the nifty six-speed manual ’box in its fifth ratio at 20mph and it will still drag you to 40mph in 7.7sec – some 5.2sec quicker than the smaller, lighter Fiat 500 Abarth can manage.
The performance stakes are raised further with the JCW, which sees power increased to 211bhp and 192lb ft - with 206lb ft available through the overboost function. It shaves 1.2sec off the Cooper S' 0-62mph time and adds 6mph on the top end.
Off the mark, the Roadster is slightly less impressive. The car displays a certain shortage of traction at the front axle that can make wheelspin a problem, echoing a tendency of the John Cooper Works Coupé that we performance tested last year.
Our test car also suffered from an inexplicably sticky clutch pedal. Combined, those problems explain why our timed runs to 60mph in the Cooper S ended up 1.1sec adrift of the manufacturer’s claim to 62mph. The sticky clutch also had an effect on the car’s lap times.