2012 MINI Roadster

As it’s not a hybrid, the MINI Roadster might not seem like a car that shoppers for alternative energy vehicles would fancy. This was also said about the standard MINI Cooper, yet the Cooper’s most cross-shopped car is none other than the Toyota Prius. Could the Roadster continue this trend?

Those who would consider a MINI vs. a Prius are probably less interested in the amazing fuel economy of the Prius (though it’s certainly a factor) and more impressed by the car’s look and the image it portrays. These “lifestyle buyers” are exactly the sort of shopper that would also consider purchasing a MINI Roadster.

Fuel economy numbers have yet to be released for the Roadster, but if they’re anything like the Coupe, expect digits in the high 30s on the highway – not in Prius territory, but again, this unlikely competitor is not only about fuel efficiency.

Motivation

In base form the Roadster is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine making 121 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It gets a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds, but in true MINI fashion will likely feel faster. Despite some added weight, surprisingly, acceleration is improved over the convertible Cooper model, due in part to sportier gearing.

As mentioned, no fuel economy numbers are yet available, though the mechanically similar Coupe gets 29 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the manual transmission or 28/36 for the six-speed automatic – projected to be the more popular option.

Those looking for more power (at the expense of fuel economy) can go with the Cooper S Roadster that’s equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder making 177 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque in an overboost mode. Fuel economy will likely ring in at around 26/34 mpg. Then there’s the JCW with even more thrust at 208 hp, but with what is expected to be a 25/33 mpg rating.

While not exactly hybrid numbers, MINI has always made fuel economy a priority and look for that to continue into the future with rumors of a new and significantly more fuel efficient 3-cylinder powerplant to be rolled out across the brand’s lineup in the near future.

Designed For Fun

Sporting the same cute but sophisticated design cues as the rest of the MINI lineup, the Roadster is notably less testosterone infused than the Coupe. Gone is the backwards baseball cap roof in favor of a classical cloth top. In an effort to keep weight down, the soft-top design is manually operated, not electronic. Thankfully, it’s light and a breeze to use.

As a true two-seat roadster and not a convertible, this car was purpose built to have its top down and looks equally good rain or shine. A more dynamic aero kit on the John Cooper Works performance model – not to mention some large 17-inch wheels and tires (optional on Cooper S) – really makes the Roadster stand out. You’ll have to pay big bucks for that option though, and with 208 hp on tap, as mentioned, look for fuel economy somewhere around to 25/33 mpg.

Compared to the hard-top, the Coupe and Roadster get a more steeply raked windscreen, adding style and improving the car’s aerodynamics, while stylish chrome rollover bars add protection, not to mention safety.

Other design highlights include the rear spoiler, which pops up at speeds above 50 mph and lowers again at speeds below 37 mph. Don’t need the added downforce (and drag) at speed, or want to show off with it up at low speed? No problem, the spoiler can be raised or lowered at the push of a button as well.

Interior Originality

The cabin is nearly identical to the rest of the MINI lineup, with its unique, though often ergonomically frustrating, toggle switches.

As with other modern MINIs, the Connected telematics system is available as an option. Introduced a few years back on the hard top, it’s proved to be a trend-setter, updating the car’s system by updating the app that controls it. Automakers like Toyota, Chevy and Hyundai are now following a similar path, acknowledging that connectivity technology is changing at a pace well beyond the product cycles of a car. By syncing your smart phone (check to see which apply), with the MINI Connected App downloaded to it, the car can simply pull up other related apps, like the MOG music service which provides access to 12 million songs. The MINI Connected system does cost $750 (and MOG is $9.99 a month), but its potential is far reaching with new apps being developed all the time.

One fun feature borrowed from the rest of the MINI Convertible range is an Openometer, which documents the time spent behind the wheel with the top down.

Cargo room is far from extensive, but not terrible either. At 8.5 cubic feet, it’s slightly smaller than the Coupe, but better than the conventional MINIs. It’s important to note that the space provided is entirely separate from the convertible top and so the full storage area volume is retained even with the top down. Adding more functionality is a pass-through into the cabin to help fit larger objects.

The Bottom Line

Pricing for the Roadster is set at a premium over its Coupe counterpart, starting at $25,050 for the base Cooper and rising to $28,050 for the Cooper S. Those on the hunt for performance as a priority can select the John Cooper Works model for a lofty $35,200.

A purely economical or environmental means of transportation? Hardly. But one that offers rather surprising fuel economy with plenty of top-down fun. You bet!

Prices are Manufacture Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of writing and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.


Price quote for MINI Roadster

2012 MINI Roadster
Base MSRP: $25,000
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