Review: MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015)
Looks more sporty and purposeful than the MINI Convertible. Enjoyable to drive. Offers plenty of customisation
Rear visibility isn't great when the roof is raised. Some of the materials are starting to show their age. Optional extras push up price.
MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015): At A Glance
With the Countryman and the sporty Coupe, MINI’s model range is ever expanding. While there is already a convertible model in the line-up, MINI has decided to add a more focussed two-seater Roadster. It’s not going to be much good if you have children, but where the rear seats used to be is a larger, more practical boot.
The Roadster is similar in style to the Coupe, but while that has a fixed metal roof the Roadster comes with a folding fabric one. It can be raised or lowered in eight seconds at speeds up to 20mph, so you really can do it at traffic lights. It doesn't affect the 240-litre luggage area, either.
The canvas roof is lighter and less complex than a metal one, which means the Roadster is lightweight and has a low centre of gravity, so none of the enjoyable MINI handling is lost.
The Roadster is fun to drive over country roads and offers good performance, with an entertaining exhaust note, precise steering, and head-turning looks. It’s offered with a selection of petrol engines ranging from 122PS in the Cooper to 211PS in the John Cooper Works. There’s also a 143PS diesel.
Much like the rest of the MINI range there are hundreds of customisation options, covering everything from the caps on the mirrors to little lights behind the door handles, as well as plenty of colours, stripes and various different alloy wheel designs – the list is very long indeed.
Prices start at £17,845 for the entry level Cooper, rising to £24,860 for the high performance John Cooper Works (JCW) model, but buyers should budget a little more for customisation and extras.
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MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 240 litres
Anyone familiar with the MINI hatch will recognise the interior of the Roadster. It’s got the same ‘pod’ rev counter and oversized speedo. Everything feels solid and well screwed together but there are some areas that feel a little dated now, with harder plastics where you might expect to find soft-touch materials on a car of this price.
Another minor niggle is the seat height, which is a little high for a sports car even at its lowests setting. The biggest problem though, is the visibility when the roof is in place – there’s just a small rear window to peer through and no over-shoulder visibility at all, which can make oblique junctions and lane changes tricky.
Nontheless the Roadster has a comfortable interior with plenty of character. Switches for the windows, roof and various other minor controls are reminiscent of old aircraft buttons, which is an interesting juxtaposition against the modern infotainment screen when it’s specified.
The roof is raised and lowered electrically in eight seconds, but it must be locked or unlocked from the windscreen manually. When retracted it folds neatly behind the seats, with no effect on the fairly generous load space of 240 litres. Refinement is acceptable when the roof is in place but there's more wind noise than you'd get in a car with a folding metal roof.
There’s a good sized glove compartment, storage behind the seats and a through-hatch for golf clubs, skis or snowboards. There are also cubby holes under the centre stack, cup holders and usefully large door pockets.
There’s a decent level of standard equipment across the range, with DAB radio, aux-in, active rear-spoiler, air-conditioning and a sport button fitted to all models. It’s unlikely that many buyers will choose a standard car though, because there’s such a wealth of optional equipment.
Most buyers will go for the Chili pack, which adds automatic air-conditioning, xenon headlights, the interior lights pack, a wind deflector and an on-board computer, as well as other bits and pieces depending on the initial specification chosen.
iPhone users who have the onboard computer fitted also benefit from an app which will lets them know the remaining range, as well as other interactive functions like an accelerometer. Some of this technology is a little gimmicky, like music that moves back and forth and side to side depending on G-forces, but it’s all in keeping with the fun spirit the Roadster provides.
Standard equipment from launch (April 2012)
Cooper models come with DAB radio, aux-in, active rear-spoiler, air-conditioning and a sport button, dynamic stability control (DSC), heated washer jets and mirrors, parking sensors, roll-over hoops, sport stripes, tyre pressure monitor.
Cooper S and SD models come with the same equipment as the Cooper, but with the addition of sports seats.
Cooper JCW models come with the same equipment as the S and SD, but with the addition of an Alcantara steering wheel, aerodynamic styling kit, uprated brakes and twin exhausts.
Child seats that fit a MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015) like to drive?
MINI is calling the Roadster a sports car, singling out the Audi TT Roadster and the Mazda MX-5 as key rivals. In terms of driving enjoyment it doesn’t disappoint. The gear change is satisfying and the steering is direct and well-weighted, which inspires confidence through bends. Over smoother roads the Roadster is extremely composed and doesn’t feel flustered.
It’s not perfect though. Over rougher, more uneven surfaces the Roadster is bouncy which isn’t great for comfort. This problem is less pronounced in the diesel model, though, with its heavier engine.
With the roof down it’s easy to hold a conversation, even at motorway speeds. There is wind noise, but it’s far from intrusive and at B-road pace the Roadster is a perfectly serene environment. The exhaust note sounds good and it's enhanced when the ‘sport’ button is pressed. Sport mode also weights up the steering and sharpens the throttle response.
The Roadster is offered with a 2.0-litre diesel engine or a 1.6-litre petrol, the latter of which is available in three outputs – 122PS, 184PS and 211PS. The petrol engine we tested was the 185PS unit offered in the Cooper S model which provides plenty of enjoyable and useable performance.
Peak torque is 240Nm, available between 1600-5000rpm, plus there’s an overboost facility to push that up to 260Nm for overtaking. It makes for quite exhilarating pace and the exhaust even pops and crackles when you back off, adding to the experience – particularly with the roof down.
The diesel engine gives the Roadster a completely different character. It’s quiet and refined save for a little bit of clatter at start up, while it delivers a healthy 305Nm of torque between 1750-2700rpm. Keep it in the power band and it surges forward, but without the same exhaust note it feels much more grown up. It will be better suited to long distance touring. It’s the most efficient engine in the range too, with an official economy figure of 62.8mpg and emissions of 118g/km.
The petrol engines are also quite efficient. The entry level 122PS engine emits 133g/km of CO2 and has an official economy figure of 49.6mpg, while the 184PS Cooper S emits 139g/km and has an economy figure of 47.1mpg. The top-of-the-range JCW model manages 38.7mpg and 169g/km of CO2. All cars come with ‘Minimalism’ technology, which reduces fuel consumption by way of a stop/start system, brake energy regeneration and a shift indicator.
|Cooper||50 mpg||9.2 s||133 g/km|
|Cooper Automatic||43 mpg||10.5 s||154 g/km|
|Cooper S||47 mpg||7.0 s||139 g/km|
|Cooper S Automatic||43 mpg||7.2 s||153 g/km|
|Cooper SD||63 mpg||8.1 s||118 g/km|
|Cooper SD Automatic||52 mpg||8.3 s||143 g/km|
|John Cooper Works||42 mpg||6.5 s||157–169 g/km|
|John Cooper Works Automatic||39 mpg||6.7 s||153–169 g/km|
Real MPG average for a MINI Roadster (2012 – 2015)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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