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Review

First Drive: Mini Roadster car review

22/03/12

WHO SAID greed was bad? Doing the right thing is usually shorthand for being selfless and putting the needs of others first. But at what point do you get to do something for yourself? This logic applies as much to cars as it does to where you go on holiday. Happily Mini can now help you treat yourself with the most selfish Mini to date – the Roadster.

It’s not really selfish of course; it’s just biased towards the needs of the driver and possible passenger, as this is the first two-seater drop top Mini. It���s not the only Mini with a folding fabric roof of course, as there’s been a Mini Convertible from the first generation model. But that car is based on the hatchback while the Roadster is based on the Mini Coupe, which makes it something of a different animal.

For starters, the lack of a fixed metal roof may give it the edge over the Coupe in some people’s eyes – whether roof up or down the Roadster is a pretty little thing and the typical Mini styling cues translate well to the open-air shape. Like all Minis there’s an element of choosing your own style, with colour and wheel combinations having a big impact on the overall look. But it has a pert rump, chrome rollover bars and clean lines where the roof folds away, and therefore most people will find it ticks the box marked ‘attractive’ right from the off.

Losing seating for two in the back might seem like a significant sacrifice, but if you can live with a car that only has seating for two then the upshot is more boot space. 240 litres of storage is on offer in the rear compartment, regardless of whether the roof is up or down, and behind the seats there’s a through-loading facility, the kind of practicality you don’t really expect from a car like this. In the cabin there’s not a huge amount of storage space for oddments, but you can reach into the back without any fuss.

The same goes for the roof mechanism. Whether you opt for the manual or semi-automatic roof option, folding or raising the roof is the work of a moment. Raising the roof requires you to reach behind to mechanically release the roof from its stowed position but with a little practice you could do this without looking. The extra-lazy amongst you will appreciate the electric assistance.

Under the bonnet the Roadster comes in four flavours; Cooper and Cooper S, Cooper SD and John Cooper Works, but it’s the Cooper S which is likely to be the most popular petrol option. With 182bhp and 177lb.ft of torque (with an overboost facility up to 192lb.ft) it gets along as smartly as you would hope. In fact the linear delivery of the engine almost disguises how fast it is; it revs keenly and without any power peaks, then you look down at the speedometer and realise just how quickly it has accelerated. There’s also a pleasing, purposeful noise coming from the exhaust – well short of raucous or loud – but enough to remind you this is a car designed for fun.

The theme continues when you hit the first bend. All convertible cars are compromised to a degree by the absence of a metal roof holding them together, but in truth the only time you even notice is if you slap into a particularly bad bump at speed. The rest of the time the Mini Roadster displays all the vim and enthusiasm of its siblings, turning in keenly, gripping strongly and encouraging you to exploit its abilities. Yes in ultimate terms the Coupe would offer a purer drive, but on the one day of the year that mattered you’d miss the 100-odd days of sunshine-bathed roof down motoring.

What makes all this fun even more pleasurable is that you don’t have to sell your soul to do it. The list price is not insignificant, but neither is it expensive for a two-seater roadster with a powerful turbocharged engine. It’s also only £600 more than the less pretty and less fun Convertible. But with a combined fuel economy figure of 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km, it certainly doesn’t cost sports car money to run. Although, like all Minis, resisting the temptation to make it uniquely yours will be hard to resist. Good luck keeping your sensible head on.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Mini Roadster Cooper S, £20,990 Engine: 1.6-litre petrol producing 182bhp and 177lb.ft of torque Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels Performance: Top speed 141mph, 0-62mph 7.0 seconds Economy: 47.1mpg combined Emissions: 139g/km of CO2

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats2

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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