Mini Roadster

The Mini has been a runaway success for BMW since reintroducing the brand in 2001. The Mini hatchback, convertible, Clubman, Coupé and Countryman, have all tussled for the affections of the funky and hip and those that like a car that adds a bit of zip to the daily drive. And now you have the added option of the two-seater soft-top Roadster.

Mini is pitching the car against the Audi TT and much loved Mazda MX-5, aiming for people who want a second car when the sun begins to shine.

The Roadster is based on the same chassis as the hatchback – which was always tagged as giving drivers a go-kart experience behind the wheel – but has been made more rigid by placing more metal behind the seats, to balance the loss of stiffness when they removed the roof.

Mini might already have a convertible on the market but it wants the Roadster to be a more sports-focused vehicle. So they may share the same underpinnings but the Roadster is 5mm longer and has had 24mm shaved from its height, lowering the centre of gravity and making it more sure on the road.

The heavily raked A-pillars have been angled backwards by an extra 13° over the convertible improving aerodynamics. The Roadster also has a rear active spoiler. The integrated technology extends automatically as soon as the car reaches 50mph and drops back at 37mph, but should you like the look it can be raised and lowered with the touch of a button.

The Roadster is quick and solid on the road. The £20,095 Cooper S variant, powered by a 1.6-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged petrol engine and linked to a six-speed transmission, can hit 62mph in seven seconds and, if the law allowed, a top speed of 141mph, but only spits out 139g/km of CO2.

Around the Cotswold countryside it was not only swift but steady. So many times in higher powered, front-wheel drive vehicles the amount of torque makes the steering feel like it has a mind of its own but in the Roadster you get the sense that you’re in control.

Pressing harder on the accelerator until the needle hits 5,500rpm is a lot of fun because the engine’s full 184hp becomes available and from 1,600rpm the vehicle’s 177 lb/ft of torque pulls you forward.

But much of the Roadster’s desire isn’t based on the vehicle’s performance but on the driving experience. Once the rain stops falling and the sun comes out from behind the clouds it’s about enjoying the outdoors and the whistle of the wind in your hair.

The Mini Roadster’s roof can be taken down in eight seconds – though as it isn’t fully automatic it does require a strong wrist to unlock the hood and push it up before the electronics take over.

With the roof down, wind noise at higher speeds is minimal and it’s still possible to have a conversation with whoever is sat next to you – and should you chose the heated seats, the cabin is a warm place even on less attractive days. The Roadster is probably best kept for better weather though, as when the roof is up, the inside becomes quite dark and oppressive.

The Roadster has the same interior as other Minis in the range, with the large central circular speedo and the rev counter behind the steering and once you have become accustomed to its idiosyncrasies – the electric window switches are still housed in the centre console – it’s a comfortable place to spend your time, whether you’re going for a quick blast down the back roads or a longer trip down the motorway.

Mini has made a huge success of the vehicles it has launched and the Roadster’s sweeping looks, strong performance and a funky appeal make you wonder what is going to come out of the Mini production line next.

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Michael Woodhouse

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