Mini Roadster Review: Top Down on Fun

Mini Roadster Review

The MINI Cooper has always been synonymous with go-kart-like handling and a certain cheeky charm. But what happens when you take that iconic formula and chop off the roof? You get the MINI Roadster, a car that cranks up the fun factor to eleven. Introduced in 2012, the Roadster was MINI's first foray into the world of two-seater convertibles, and it brought with it all the hallmarks of the brand: sharp styling, a punchy engine, and a playful attitude. This review dives into the heart of the MINI Roadster, exploring its performance, design, practicality, and overall appeal to help you decide if this wind-in-your-hair machine is the right fit for your driveway. Whether you're a die-hard MINI enthusiast or simply someone looking for a unique and exhilarating driving experience, the Roadster promises an adventure like no other.

Design and Styling

The Mini Roadster takes the iconic Mini Cooper design and injects it with a dose of open-top sportiness. The low-slung, two-seater profile is unmistakably Mini, yet the steeply raked windshield and fabric roof give it a roadster-specific silhouette. The signature Mini design cues are all present, including the round headlights, hexagonal grille, and contrasting roof color. However, the Roadster differentiates itself with its unique rear end, featuring a small trunk lid that doubles as a spoiler. The interior largely mirrors the standard Mini Cooper, with its quirky styling and centrally mounted speedometer. While the cabin is cozy, the use of high-quality materials and attention to detail maintain a premium feel. The Roadster's design is a successful blend of classic Mini charm and modern roadster aesthetics, appealing to those seeking a stylish and fun-to-drive convertible.

Interior and Comfort

Slipping into the MINI Roadster's cabin is like putting on a snug-fitting glove – if gloves were exhilarating and full of character. The interior design echoes the classic MINI aesthetic, with a heavy dose of sportiness. The circular theme continues inside, with a prominent central speedometer and round air vents. Despite its compact nature, the Roadster doesn't skimp on comfort. The standard sport seats provide excellent support, even during spirited driving. However, taller drivers might find headroom a bit tight, especially with the top up. Speaking of the top, the Roadster's manual soft top is a breeze to operate, effortlessly folding down to reveal the open sky. Trunk space is surprisingly generous for a car of its size, easily accommodating a weekend's worth of luggage. While the interior is well-appointed with quality materials, some may find the abundance of hard plastics a tad underwhelming, especially considering the Roadster's premium price point. The infotainment system, while functional, feels a bit dated compared to newer models. Overall, the MINI Roadster's interior is a delightful blend of classic charm and modern functionality. It's a driver-focused cockpit that enhances the overall fun-to-drive experience. While there might be a few minor drawbacks, they are easily overshadowed by the Roadster's undeniable character and charm.

mini roadster review

Engine and Performance

The Mini Roadster shares its engine lineup with its Cooper hatchback sibling. This means a range of peppy and efficient engines that make the Roadster a blast to drive. The base Cooper model comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 121 horsepower. While not a powerhouse, it's enough to scoot the lightweight Roadster around town with enthusiasm. If you crave more power, the Cooper S Roadster is your go-to. It boasts a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter engine, pumping out a much more spirited 181 horsepower. This translates to a significantly quicker 0 to 60 mph time, clocking in at around 6.7 seconds.

No matter the engine choice, the Mini Roadster delivers that signature go-kart handling the brand is known for. The steering is sharp and precise, making it incredibly fun to carve through corners. The suspension is firm, keeping the car planted even when pushed hard. However, this also means you'll feel more bumps and imperfections on the road. Overall, the Mini Roadster offers a thrilling driving experience that's sure to put a smile on your face. It's a true driver's car that prioritizes agility and responsiveness.

Handling and Ride

The MINI Roadster's handling lives up to the MINI name, offering a fun and engaging driving experience. The steering is sharp and responsive, making it easy to place the car exactly where you want it. Body roll is minimal, and the Roadster feels planted and confident even when pushed hard through corners. The ride is on the firm side, which enhances its sporty character but can be a bit jarring over rough pavement. You'll feel more of the road's imperfections, but that's often part of the go-kart-like charm MINIs are known for. It's worth noting that the Roadster's stiffer suspension does translate to a slightly less comfortable ride compared to the standard MINI Cooper. However, the trade-off is a more agile and responsive car that's undeniably fun to drive, especially on winding roads.

Fuel Economy

The MINI Roadster doesn't exactly scream "fuel efficiency." It's a car designed for spirited driving, with its low-slung profile and powerful engine options. However, don't let that fool you into thinking it's a gas-guzzler. The MINI Cooper Roadster, equipped with a peppy 1.6-liter engine, delivers a respectable fuel economy for its class. You can expect around 28 mpg in the city and up to 35 mpg on the highway, making it suitable for daily commutes and weekend getaways. If you crave more power, the Cooper S Roadster, with its turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, will still return decent fuel economy figures, although slightly lower than its less powerful sibling. Expect around 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and your actual fuel economy will vary depending on driving conditions, driving style, and other factors. But overall, the MINI Roadster offers a good balance between fun and frugality.

mini roadster review

Features and Technology

The Mini Roadster takes the iconic Mini Cooper design and chops off the roof, creating a stylish and fun-to-drive convertible. Don't let its small size fool you, the Roadster is surprisingly spacious inside, especially for a two-seater. The soft-top roof folds and unfolds manually with ease, allowing for open-top driving in a matter of seconds.

Under the hood, the Mini Roadster offers a range of peppy engine options, from the fuel-efficient 1.6-liter four-cylinder in the Cooper model to the more powerful turbocharged 1.6-liter found in the Cooper S and John Cooper Works variants. Handling is nimble and responsive, thanks to the car's go-kart-like steering and sport-tuned suspension.

Inside the cabin, the Roadster retains the Mini's signature quirky styling, with a large central speedometer and toggle switches for various controls. Despite its compact size, the Roadster offers a decent amount of cargo space, with 8.5 cubic feet of room behind the seats.

Standard features include air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a six-speaker sound system. Optional upgrades include leather upholstery, heated seats, and a navigation system. Overall, the Mini Roadster offers a unique and exhilarating driving experience that's sure to put a smile on your face.


The MINI Roadster doesn't skimp on safety features, despite its sporty demeanor. You get standard safety features like Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and traction control. These features work together to help you maintain control during emergency maneuvers or on slick roads. The MINI Roadster is also equipped with front and side airbags for both driver and passenger, providing crucial protection in case of a collision. However, it's worth noting that the Roadster's smaller size and lack of rear seats mean it might not offer the same level of protection as larger vehicles in certain types of accidents. Visibility can be a bit of an issue with the Roadster's low-slung design and small rear window. Optional parking sensors and a rearview camera can be helpful in mitigating this. Overall, the MINI Roadster offers a decent level of safety for a small car. It's important to be aware of its limitations and drive accordingly.

Price and Value

The Mini Roadster doesn't come cheap, especially when compared to its hatchback sibling. Expect to pay a premium for the wind-in-your-hair experience and the sleek, sporty aesthetic. Base models offer a good amount of standard features, but be prepared to shell out more for options like leather seats, upgraded technology, and performance enhancements. While the Roadster holds its value relatively well, depreciation is a factor to consider, especially if you plan on selling it in a few years.

mini roadster review
Mini Roadster Model Comparison
Feature Cooper Roadster Cooper S Roadster John Cooper Works Roadster
0-60 mph Acceleration
Fuel Economy (City/Highway)
Top Speed
Soft Top Type Manual Manual Manual
Standard Features
Price (Starting MSRP)

Potential buyers should weigh the Roadster's price against its practicality. It's a niche car, best suited for individuals or couples who prioritize style and driving enjoyment over practicality and everyday usability. If you need ample cargo space or regularly transport more than one passenger, the Roadster might not be the most sensible choice. However, if you're looking for a fun, head-turning roadster that delivers a unique driving experience, the Mini Roadster's price might be justified. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your individual needs and priorities.

The MINI Roadster isn't for everyone, and that's precisely what makes it so appealing. It's a car for those who value driving thrills, head-turning style, and a healthy dose of practicality. While the small cabin and limited cargo space might deter some, those willing to embrace its quirks will find a rewarding and undeniably fun driving experience. The MINI Roadster is proof that practicality doesn't have to come at the expense of personality. It's a car that begs to be driven, top-down, with a smile on your face. If you're looking for a unique and engaging roadster that captures the essence of the MINI brand, the Roadster deserves a spot on your shortlist.