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MINI Roadster Cooper S

Click to view picture gallery“Assuming we get some sun this
  summer, the latest MINI Roadster
 
is ready and waiting — in the case
  of the
181bhp Cooper S,
its also
  locked and cocked
...”

PRICES FOR THE NEW MINI ROADSTER range from 18,020 up to 24,860. Plus there's the usual arm-long list of extra-cost option packs and goodies on offer so customers can make the model of their choice a genuine 'one-off'.

Standard, as expected, is kart-like MINI handling and a semi-automatic tailored fabric roof with rapid opening and closing — and it doesn't affect the MINI Roadster's practicality in any way.

There are four engines to choose from and each and every one of them comes with a stop/start system. Three are 1.6-litre petrol units; the fourth is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel. The trim options mirror that of the tin-top two-seater Coupe introduced last year with the 121bhp Cooper version, the turbocharged 181bhp Cooper S, the turboed 208bhp John Cooper Works, and the 141bhp Cooper SD turbodiesel.

“Still on the subject of speed, the fabric roof can be raised or lowered in just eight seconds — a good feature bearing in mind the changeable
UK weather.
Raising the top can also
be done at up to
20mph
...”
The all-important fuel consumption and CO2 figures range from 38.7mpg for the JCW version up to 62.8mpg for the SD diesel; the best-selling naturally-aspirated Cooper 1.6-litre petrol model is the cleanest petrol unit — its 133g/km of CO2 incurs a £120 road tax bill.

The Cooper S is only marginally behind these figures, with 47.1mpg, 139g/km, and road tax also of 120. The SD diesel offers 62.8mpg, CO2 at 118g/km, and road of 0 in the First Year, thereafter 30 per year. The JCW, with 169g/km, sees a First Year road tax rate of 275.

If it's speed you're after, the Cooper runs to 124mph with zero to 62mph in 9.2 seconds. The Cooper S is quicker: 141mph and 7 seconds. The JCW beats them all with a top speed of 147mph and a 6.5 second 0-62mph time. The SD turbodiesel is faster than maybe you'd expect: 132mph and 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds.

Also handy, and standard on all MINI Roadster models, the Sport button on the centre console allows the driver to adjust the car's steering characteristics and accelerator responses. And if the optional six-speed automatic gearbox is specified (1,085 and available on all except the JCW), pressing this button also shortens shift times.

Still on the subject of speed, the fabric roof can be raised or lowered in just eight seconds — a good feature bearing in mind the changeable UK weather. Raising the top can also be done at speeds of up to 20mph.

Another nice feature is that the canvas roof folds right down into the rear body of the car for a nice clean body line and reasonably good rear visibility when down. Not like the pram-type folding roof of the MINI Convertible which sits proud of the body, looks terrible and blots out rear vision.

When it comes to optimising occupant protection, the Roadster is fitted with a pair of roll-over bars behind the seats — an essential safety feature, certainly, although they do restrict rear visibility. The good news is that, roof open or closed, the driver and passenger have a 240-litre load compartment at their disposal, and just enough room behind the seats for a carrier bag each. Additional practicality is provided by the wide, through-loading facility into the passenger compartment.

“Inside, it’s MINI
through and through.
Roomy for two adults in
the front, with enough
arm space — just — and
enough legroom to
slide the front seats fully
back for long-legged
drivers. Even the
hood-up headroom is
good enough for
six-footers
...”
The Roadster carries the premium image BMW has carefully crafted for the MINI, underscored by a high-quality range of standard equipment. This includes air conditioning, power door mirrors, Park Distance Control, height-adjustable seats and an audio system with MP3-compatible CD player and AUX IN connection for all versions.

MINI's extensive list of optional extras means the comfort and individuality of the Roadster can be enhanced in an almost unlimited number of ways including a wide range of entertainment, communication and navigation systems.

The Roadster also offers the innovative MINI Connected infotainment and communications features with web radio, Google services, RSS news feeds and in-car access to Facebook and Twitter.

The new MINI Roadster is a pretty package with its seemingly longer canvas roof than the bubble hard-top Coupe. They both look sportier than other MINI versions — helped enormously by the extra 13 degrees of swept back angle for the screen pillars.

Inside, it's MINI through and through. Roomy for two adults in the front, with enough arm space — just — and enough legroom to slide the front seats fully back for long-legged drivers. Even the hood-up headroom is good for six-footers.

With the rain pelting down and the canvas roof up it was just like old roadster times (memories of bygone days driving Triumphs and MGs); but with today's powerful heaters, demisters and AirCon, enjoyment reigned. And when the rain stopped, down went the roof.

A quick manual release of the centre manual catch, then push the button to quickly power park and stow the roof. Repeat the process and the roof was raised — then even the April showers couldn't dampen our driving experience. The roof does require a firm grip to lock it back into place though; so, ladies, watch out for chipped fingernails.

As for performance, classic kart-like handling with steering that seems even sharper. As we all know, when hatchback roofs are lopped off, there can be rigidity implications. But the Roadster doesn't suffer from body tremors to a great extent; certainly the shell appears very stiff thanks to a new strengthening crossbeam behind the seats.

Push on through tight corners and there's some wheel/suspension shake felt through the steering wheel. As always, the smaller the wheels the better the ride comfort will be — and it's no different with the new Roadster.

“The 181bhp 1.6-litre
turbocharged Cooper S
is always a delight
of an engine to drive.
Plenty of power,
response, and good
on fuel — officially 47.1mpg for the Combined Cycle, my spirited test drive over winding A and B Cotswold roads returned 37.7mpg
...”
Driving the Cooper S with the must-have Chili Pack gives the Roadster 17-inch instead of the standard 16-inch wheels. The ride is sportingly firm anyway, but the larger wheel size just compromises the suspension's ability to soak up ripples and bumps in the tarmac at higher speeds, and increases the road noise intrusion.

But then Roadster drivers are traditionally hardy folk who enjoy taking the rough with the smooth. The interior is of impeccable quality, but too many fiddly switches for us older drivers with less nimble fingers — nevertheless, it's a classy piece of soft-top motoring.

At the Roadster's press launch this week MINI didn't, unfortunately, have any of the best-selling 18,020 Cooper versions; only the 20,905 Cooper S and the 21,630 Cooper SD diesel models. Be warned: those prices are only the start because option packs, although not compulsory, are expected — both my test Roadster models had over 6,000 worth of extras, some being must-haves for better resale demand.

The swift 1.6-litre, 181bhp turbocharged Cooper S is always a delight of an engine to drive. Plenty of power, response, and good on fuel — officially 47.1mpg for the Combined Cycle. On my spirited test drive over winding A and B Cotswold roads and without any motorway cruising, the figure was 37.7mpg. Given the performance and zero to 62mph taking 7 seconds, that's pretty acceptable. The top speed of 141mph was never an issue.

Because of its lower price, UK customers tend to opt for the non-turbocharged version of this engine with the basic Cooper. And to be honest, with our road conditions and high fuel taxes, we can all live with a bit less speed and a bit more mpg.

With its 141bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, the Cooper SD Roadster unit will be an option for business owners rather than company car drivers — can you honestly see any company car driver getting their fleet manager to sanction a two-seater MINI Roadster as a company car? For the record, top speed is 132mph, zero to 62mph takes 8.1 seconds and, officially, it will do 62.8mpg — on test it returned 48.9mpg.

For? Classic British two-seater roadster design, impeccable ultra-modern interior of high quality, kart-like handling, brisk performance, and relatively affordable to run.

Against? Firm ride; unsettled at times. Other irritations are the fiddly switches, and it's pricey when options are added.

The UK is the second largest market in Europe for convertibles of all makes. But with a Roadster version to suit all pockets, the MINI Roadster's sales success seems assured. — David Miles

MINI Roadster Cooper S | 20,905
Maximum speed: 141mph | 0-62mph: 7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 37.7mpg
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2 139g/km