MINI redefines

roadster fun

MINI Roadster, online display
MINI Roadster Cooper S, front
MINI Roadster Cooper S, side, roof down
MINI Roadster Cooper S, side, roof up
MINI Roadster Cooper S, boot
MINI Roadster Cooper S, interior
MINI Roadster Cooper S, rear

ANY roadster worth its salt has to max out on the fun scale - and MINI has just pushed that to a new limit

The great British brand's first venture into two seat, open top motoring has delivered a gem which is as affordable as it is dynamic.

Low slung and with a choice of four engines, the sixth version of the new MINI is a car for those who love motoring.

In a nutshell, it's a rag top version of the recently launched MINI Coupe and it's a car which demands to be driven with the hood down.

Exposed to the elements, not only does the MINI Roadster look the part but it is also one of the best handling two seaters on the market.

The MINI's go-kart like feel has been renowned since the first hatchback model arrived more than ten years ago and now the roadster, along with the coupe, takes that up a ratchet.

It sticks like glue, never fazed in corners and with delightfully responsive steering the roadster is a dream to drive.

Only under harsh acceleration from slow speed will its manners be questioned with a touch of torque-steer.

But that's to be expected from a front-wheel-drive car with the potential to pump out 211 horsepower in John Cooper Works guise giving it a rapid 0 to 60 time of less than 6.5 seconds.

That top specification version will set you back £24,860 - and that's before you add some extras so popular with MINI owners who just love to personalise their cars, which are likely to push the price up closer to £28,000 or beyond.

However, the roadster range can be had from £18,000 and that's for the 1.6-litre 122bhp Cooper which can manage 0 to 60 in 9.2 seconds, a top speed of 124mph and will average almost 50 to the gallon.

With some added turbo boost comes the Cooper S at £20,905 which gets 184bhp out of the engine resulting in a lively 0 to 60 time of seven seconds, a maximum of 141mph while still returning a very respectable 47mpg.

Emissions for the Cooper are rated at 133g/km, 139 for the S and 169 for the John Cooper Works and if CO2 output is a critical factor there is a diesel in the line up in the form of the Cooper SD which is rated at 118g/km.

The SD is priced from £21,630 and has a two-litre engine developing 148bhp making it no slouch but capable of achieving more than 60mpg. It can top out at 132mph and with plenty of mid-range torque manages 0 to 60 in a shade over eight seconds.

All versions use fuel saving stop/start technology and are fitted with energy regeneration systems which helped us achieve 52 to the gallon in the SD and 37 in the Cooper S - and that was without trying.

Both put a smile on your face but the free flowing power delivery from the Cooper S coupled to a nice growl from the exhausts probably gives it the edge.

With the hood down there is little buffeting in the cockpit and there's also a surprising lack of reflection from the instruments, even in sunshine.

Roof up and the insulation is good enough to make it draft free and almost as quiet as a hard top.

The air conditioning system is highly effective and good enough to keep you warm even on a chilly day with the roof down.

The hood is semi-automatic and retracts electrically in around eight seconds after being unlatched by hand, stowing flat behind the seats. It can also be operated on the move at speeds of less than 20mph.

Like the MINI Coupe, the styling is radical. The roadster looks its best with the roof down and with the optional sports pack which adds a front air dam and other aerodynamic tweaks.

The roadster's lines are accentuated with a steeply raked windscreen and forward sloping roll bars while, like the coupe, it also has a pop up spoiler on the boot which deploys automatically at 50mph for added stability.

The cockpit is roomy, especially for a two seater, and there is good storage space behind the seats. It also comes with a lockable glovebox.

Its boot of 240 litres is bigger than a standard MINI - although not as large as the coupe - and there's a ski-hatch, again lockable, for longer loads.

All that makes the MINI Roadster a very practical two seater and ideal for touring.

As well as the sports pack, which costs from £1,195, another ‘must have' is likely to be a media pack which includes sat nav and a smartphone hook up which enables a variety of techno extras such as text to speech messaging, additional instrument displays showing driving performance data and engine output figures as well as an ‘openometer' to reveal how long the car has been driven roof down.

It can even link in to Facebook and the like as well as delivering web radio programmes.

The media pack is priced from £1,015, depending on model, but it really is a stand out feature which makes the roadster absolutely engaging.

Within the MINI range the roadster may sit alongside the existing convertible but in reality it is as different as chalk from cheese.

This is a car for those who want a serious driving experience as well as having the wind in your hair.

Realistically the MINI Roadster is in a niche of its own and although pound for pound it will compete with the likes of the Mazda MX-5 and even the Audi TT it's a car which dares to be different and delivers all in stand out fashion.




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