Mini Roadster convertible (2011 - ) review
Read the Mini Roadster convertible (2012 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives
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Style is always a very personal thing, but there won’t be many people who disagree with our view that the Mini Roadster looks absolutely fantastic. With large alloy wheels pushed to the four corners of the car, a steeply raked windscreen and folding hood, the Roadster is a riot of bold lines and styling cues. There’s nothing quite like it, the Audi TT Roadster, Golf Cabriolet and Mazda MX-5 all offering a different take on the soft-top formula.
The huge speedo and chrome toggle switches give the cabin that retro feel typical of all Minis, but as in other examples, the dashboard is a classic case of style over substance. The ergonomics are terrible – even if you can find the switch you’re looking for, you might struggle to remember what to do with it. Rear visibility isn’t great, but the driving position is spot on and has loads of adjustment. On the quality front, most of the materials look fairly smart, but some panels are a little bit disappointing and not up to the standards you’d expect from a Mini.
As a two-seater, you might not expect much practicality from the Mini Roadster, but you could be pleasantly surprised. Both chairs are surrounded by ample space, giving the cabin a roomy feel. More importantly, the boot is actually pretty big by small convertible standards, at 240 litres, and it remains the same size whether the roof is up or down. Granted, the floor is uneven and the access is a little shallow, but there’s a handy hatch between the passenger compartment and the boot that lets you squeeze a small bag through without having to get out of the car.
Ride and handling
All Minis are set up for fun, and the Roadster is no exception. Grip is strong and body control is tight, while the steering is quick, responsive and jam-packed with feel. All this adds up to a truly exhilarating driving experience. The exception is the diesel, though, which has disconcertingly twitchy steering that makes it nowhere near as sharp or precise as the petrols. Granted, all versions have a firm ride that won’t be to all tastes, but it’s not too punishing considering the Roadster’s handling ability. Importantly, you don’t feel as much flex through the body as you do in some other convertibles, which also helps keep things civilised.
The three petrol engines on offer are all 1.6s and the range kicks off with the naturally aspirated Cooper with 120bhp. It’s no thunderbolt, but it delivers its power consistently and is quick enough to let you have fun. The turbocharged Cooper S has 181bhp and there’s a lot more sparkle to its performance. It pulls strongly from anywhere on the dial and is capable of true hot-hatch pace. The 208bhp John Cooper Works version feels even more brutal, and is sensationally fast and flexible. The Cooper SD diesel on the other hand, which has a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 141bhp, is rather disappointing. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick or as responsive as a car like this should.
No Mini is cheap to buy, but the desirable image, plus the Roadster’s rarity factor, will ensure that residual values remain high, so you’ll get a big slice of your outlay back come resale time. Fuel economy is pretty good across the board: even the hardcore JCW version returns a decent 41.5mpg according to official figures, while the other petrols get closer to 50mpg and the diesel can achieve 62.8mpg.
Although some of the Roadster’s cabin materials feel a little bland, there’s no doubting the solidity with which they’re assembled. Mini owners generally seem like a happy bunch, according to the various customer satisfaction surveys, and although Mini’s mid-table standing in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings isn’t particularly impressive, it’s acceptable. BMW and Mini have a long history of fitting folding soft-top hoods, so we’d be surprised if any issues arose with the roof.
The Roadster hasn’t been crash-tested by the experts of Euro NCAP and most other Mini models haven’t been tested for a good few years, but the Countryman did achieve the full five stars in 2010. The Roadster comes with most of the safety kit you expect, including four airbags and stability control.
The entry-level Cooper comes with alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, air-con, electrically adjustable heated exterior mirrors, a DAB digital radio and a CD audio system. The standard kit gets a little more generous as you go up through the range and, like with all Minis, the sheer length of the options list means it’s very easy to hike the price of your car up by thousands without really trying. The Chili Pack is worth having as it adds all sorts of desirable kit for an affordable price and it also helps protect the resale value of your car.
If you’re after a distinctive, fun-to-drive convertible with a decent boot and a very desirable image, then the Mini Roadster fits the bill perfectly. The ride may be on the firm side but if you can live with this, the Roadster will make every journey an event.