The MINI Roadster is not, as you might suspect, simply a MINI Convertible with two fewer seats. Instead, its a MINI Coupe with one fewer roof.
Admittedly, the MINI Coupe is largely a MINI hatchback with a different roof, but frankly the entire MINI range has been a bit confusing ever since they started slapping the badge on estate cars and off-roaders. MINI could put its badge, a Union Jack roof decal and some googly-eyed headlamps on a donkey and it would sell, so it’s best not to question their methods and instead enjoy the products themselves.
Luckily, the MINI Roadster John Cooper Works is an enjoyable product, even if its own rear end resembles that of the aforementioned four-legged ass in execution. Matte silvery-white with red stripes is an odd paint combination too, though other shades are available.
Inside things improve, and the top-end Roadster has a real sense of occasion. What isn’t swathed in leather is wrapped in touchy-feely Alcantara, and the rest is glitzed up with either chrome or red plastic. You sit low too, and the racy bucket seats are comfortable.
Out on the road, the raspy exhaust encourages you to squirt the throttle out of roundabouts and play with the slick gearbox, and theres a decent turn of speed to be had if you do – the turbocharged 1.6 develops 211 bhp and only stops accelerating a whisker from 150 mph.
That said, its hard to see what speed youre actually doing. The dinner-plate speedometer has transitioned from inconvenient to useless as a device for actually measuring speed since it gained a central display, and only a tiny digital number in the rev-counter is offered as an alternative.
Luckily, the MINI is fun at low speeds, too. The steering is darty, well-balanced and reasonably endowed with feel, and there’s good grip on offer.
Not as much as a Mazda MX-5 though, by any metric. The Roadster might have felt better if wed not recently tested its rear-drive Mazda rival, but the Japanese roadster is a far more engaging tool to thread along a country road, and it doesnt ride like a mule either.
The MINI rides harshly – the car’s keen responses seemingly achieved through lack of suspension. It’s fun, but better on smooth roads than your typical British country B-road.
Price as tested: £27,040 (approx.)
Combined mpg: 41.5
CO2: 157 g/km
For many, it wont really matter that the MINI can’t out-point an MX-5 in the corners, as it has the cooler badge and the funkier options. Its also faster, though to match the Mazda on price youd have to drop the Works badge and move down to slower versions. For the driving enthusiast though, the Roadster is a little too much style over substance. Okay, its not quite a donkey – more a stylish zebra – but nor is it a thoroughbred like the MX-5.
For more information check out the full summary of the Mini Roadster alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos!