2012 Mini Roadster review

* New Mini Roadster driven in UK * On sale now * Priced from 18,020-24,860...

2012 Mini Roadster review

The Mini Roadster is a two-seat, soft-top convertible thats designed to steal sales from Mazdas iconic MX-5.

Its based on the recently introduced Coupe, and is the sixth derivative in the current Mini line-up; joining the hatchback, the four-seat Convertible, the Countryman, the Clubman and the aforementioned Coupe.

Whats the 2012 Mini Roadster like to drive?
From the moment you ping the starter button, slot the chunky six-speed gearlever into first and shoot off like the proverbial rat-up-a-drainpipe, its clear the Roadster is not so much fun as absolutely hilarious.

The 181bhp 1.6-litre Cooper S uses a turbocharged engine that revs like crazy and packs a real punch, dismissing the 0-62mph sprint in just 7.0 seconds.

As if that vivid acceleration werent addictive enough, every rifle bolt gearchange is accompanied by an exuberant volley of popping and banging from the stubby sports exhaust pipe.

With razor sharp steering, strong grip and minimal body roll, the S changes direction in a thrice and hangs on gamely in bends; thats always providing the road surface is smooth.

Throw in a few bumps and, because the suspension is quite firm, a fair amount of shudder goes through the cabin, causing the windscreen, the steering wheel and any excess saggy bits you may have, to wobble. This trait is all the more noticeable in the heavier, less powerful SD diesel version.

Rear visibility is pretty rubbish in both cars, and noise levels are raucous, even with the skimpy cloth roof in place.

Then theres the gale-force windblast with the roof down, which, even with the side windows up, will clear your dandruff more effectively than a bottle of Head and Shoulders.

Whats the 2012 Mini Roadster like inside?
The Roadsters soft-top is only partially electric, so you need to twist and release a central handle at the top of the windscreen before pressing a button to fold the roof down. Its a pretty painless operation, though, and the roof can be raised at speeds of up to 20mph.

Theres a limited amount of adjustment in the steering column and the seats are a bit awkward to adjust, but the driving position feels spot-on, providing youre not too tall. If you are, then the top of your head will be exposed to lots of windblast with the roof down, because the windscreen is steeply raked and rather shallow.

Like all Minis, the Roadster has a rather chaotic dashboard layout, with switches dotted above, below and to the left and right of the comically obese central speedometer.

Unlike the Coupe, which gives you hatchback versatility, the Roadster has to make do with a boot. At 240 litres its useful rather than capacious, but at least theres a through load facility to accommodate your skis or golf clubs.

Should I buy one?
The Roadster is by no means perfect, but it is fun, so its easy to forgive its many eccentricities.

Most of these cars will be bought as weekend leisure vehicles or as second cars, so we see little point in recommending the more expensive SD diesel, even if it does return 62.8mpg, compared with the Cooper S's 47.1mpg.

Theres still one fly in the ointment: the rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5, which is a better bet if you prefer the balanced feel of a purists sports car. However, the Mazda cant match the Minis outlandish performance or its more affordable running costs, so its very much a case of you pays your money

Audi TT Roadster
Mazda MX-5

What Car? says

Pete Tullin