MINI Roadster Cooper S - Road Test

The new Roadster is the sixth distinct model in the amazing reinvention of the MINI. It is the first open-topped two-seater MINI ever and is built at Plant Oxford so can claim to be the spiritual successor to the traditional British roadster.

This is a fun car to drive but it is surprisingly practical with a decent boot of 240 litres with a ski hatch to fit in long items. As you would expect, the build and finish are of premium standard and there are literally dozens of options to personalise your car.

With a more raked windscreen and a lower roofline, the Roadster crouches on the road yet the ride is not uncomfortable. The body has been strengthened to minimise what we used to call scuttle shake. Certainly, this feels like a very solid car.

The cloth top operates semi-automatically and can be lowered at speeds up to 20mph. You just unlatch the roof and press a button. It folds down very neatly behind the seats. An active rear spoiler deploys itself at about 50mph to provide a bit more downforce and stability.

Inside, you get the familiar circular speedo in the middle, the rev counter perched behind the wheel and the line of toggle switches for the windows and other functions. This is what they call DNA and it grounds the design in the roots of MINI tradition.

I tried out both the MINI Cooper S and the Cooper SD over some inviting roads in the Cotswolds. Each offered a lively driving experience but in different ways. My first drive was in the beefy 143bhp turbo-diesel which had loads of torque and could move quickly up through the six-speed manual gearbox.

Top speed on the 2.0-litre SD is 132mph and it can sprint from rest to 62mph in just over 8 seconds. So this is a very quick diesel but it also has good potential economy. It returns almost 63mpg on the Combined Cycle and has emissions of just 118g/km. List price is from £21,630.

Next came the legend that is the MINI Cooper S. This 184bhp 1.6 petrol engine with twin scroll turbo could really sing along the twisting roads. This is a very sweet and smooth power plant that pops and crackles as you lift off the power. It was a sheer entertainment to drive and had impressive pick-up and flexibility.

The figures for the Cooper S show 0-62mph in 7 seconds and 141mph top speed. Given its sporting potential, the Combined 47mpg is creditable as is the emission figure of 139g/km. This one is priced from £20,905.

Other variants of the 1.6 petrol Roadster range from the 122bhp MINI Cooper 1.6 to the flagship 211bhp John Cooper. Prices span from £18,020 to £24,860.

Whatever the model, the Roadster is an appealing little car that feels agile and stable even when being driven with spirit. An intriguing alternative to a Mazda MX-5 or an Audi TT cabriolet. There seems no end to what they can do with the modern MINI.


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