I spent a while recently driving around in a Mini Roadster Cooper S, and there’s no doubting that it’s a flawed car. But let’s admit what we all know; nobody considering actually buying one will care. Not even a little bit.
And actually, whilst I have been massively frustrated by the ride quality and interior ergonomics of every single BMW Mini I’ve ever driven, I do see the appeal of the Roadster. I’m sort of just pleased to see another manufacturer paying attention to the two-seat, £20k sports-roadster niche because I’ve always liked the more attainable take on such an indulgent class of car.
I also believe that most enthusiasts will look at this car in the wrong way. Is it as good to drive as a Mazda MX-5? Don’t be ridiculous, of course it’s not. Does it ride and handle properly? No and yes, respectively. Is it desirable? Opinion-dividing, but I’d say without a doubt to the relevant audience.
Which is exactly how I approached it initially. But then with a little time in the car it struck me that this isn’t an expensive Mazda MX-5, it’s a cheap Mercedes SLK (albeit a much less refined one thanks to the fabric roof). The appeal over the hatch is that it is more overtly ‘sporty’ in its looks and dynamics, and you don’t see one just about everywhere. And actually, in these times £21k for a car of this performance and appeal is quite competitive. It’s only £500 more than the substantially less premium and efficient 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5, after all. Or you can pay £10k more for the base Mercedes SLK.
Ultimately, the Mini is a disappointing car to those who’d been hoping for something that will appeal to the enthusiast elite. But it makes sense for the audience that just likes stylish roadsters with premium badges and sporting intentions. Alright, this clearly narrows it down to women. Mostly of the single and wealthy kind. And another roadster-related note: Who else would be gutted if VW cancels the BlueSport?. If this drives like a Scirocco it could be the MX-5 rival that the Mini Roadster isn’t.