£18,295 - £28,920 Price range
38 - 62 MPG
The latest in an ever-expanding Mini line-up, the Roadster – a convertible version of the Coupe – gets some fairly mixed reviews. Critics are quite pleased with the trademark Mini styling, the engaging dynamics and the punchy engines. However, not all the testers appear to be that satisfied with it as an overall package.
The Roadster gets the same dashboard as the normal Mini, so you get a good quality cabin with a quirky, if slightly over-the-top, design and layout. However, there are some subtle differences – the windscreen, for instance, is much shorter and far steeper than it is on the drop-top Mini hatch.
Much like the Coupe, there aren’t any rear seats, but the boot is massive for a two seater rag top. That being said, although the roof doesn’t eat up the space when it’s folded away, it’s still quite shallow, so you’ll struggle to fit taller items in there.
Under the skin, it’s almost identical to every Mini on sale bar the Countryman (the 4×4 Mini). However, it does pay dividends – the Mini Roadster is still a hoot to drive, with a darty front end and substantial amounts of grip. There’s also the added bonus of lowering the roof, so you can enjoy the thrills of drop-top motoring.
However, it’s not all brilliant. To cope with the lack of a fixed roof, the rear suspension is much stiffer than on the Coupe – an already firmly sprung car – so the ride gets fidgety and bouncy on rougher roads. It’s also not that refined with the fabric top up or down, with some complaints about wind noise.
Just like the Coupe, there is a lack of rear visibility, thanks to the roll-over hoops and the self-raising rear spoiler. Apart from the raucous John Cooper Works model, all the Roadster variants can come with a six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a fairly decent unit that works quite well, but critics reckon that the stick shift suits the car’s sporty character better.
The Roadster range only has two different engines on offer – a 1.6 turbo petrol in three states of tune and a 2.0 diesel. The entry-level petrol is the Cooper (121hp), then there’s the more powerful Cooper S (181hp) and finally the really quick John Cooper Works (208hp) model. The 141hp Cooper SD is the only diesel currently on sale.
If you’ve been browsing the Mini pages on carwow, this will all seem somewhat familiar – most units are shared with the Coupe, Paceman and Countrymen. This means that, as usual, the Cooper SD offers almost as much pace as the Cooper S and significantly better fuel economy, so it’s the everyday choice. But no-one will listen and they’ll flock to the vocal Cooper S instead – and why not? It’s a belting engine and 47mpg isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The JCW offers silly performance, but then the price is pretty daft too.
The Roadster hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but it’s based on the old second-generation hatchback, which was rated in 2007. This means that the Roadster’s safety score is inferred from the hatch’s, but it’s a good rating and there’s reasons to be satisfied that the two-seat droptop will be a safe car.
There are a big bundle of electronic aids as in the hatch. Traction control and stability control are both standard, alongside cornering brake control and ABS with electronic brake force distribution. Add in six airbags for the two occupants and the Roadster should be a safe little cabriolet.
Being a Mini, it’s competitively priced, and has enough of a premium look and feel to tempt people away from rivals such the notably more expensive Audi TT Roadster. It’s also fairly well specified and is relatively cheap to run.
There are plenty of options that can increase the price of the Roadster, so be aware that what starts out as a well-priced car can easily cost a lot more once you’ve chosen options. The entry level Cooper is about the same price as the more driver-focused and very capable Mazda MX-5, but will beat the sector-defining entrant on fuel economy and running costs.
Overall, the Mini Roadster is a decent car that’s sure to be another huge hit for the brand. Its cheeky looks and funky interior make up a substantial part of the car’s appeal, alongside its dynamic abilities. The firm ride and less-than-perfect refinement are notable negative points, unless you’re completely sold on the Mini Roadster.
The Mini Convertible looks similar, is less money and almost as much fun but lets you have two extra friends with you. Unless you’re completely sold on the Mini Roadster, that’s the model we’d recommend.