2012 Mini Cooper Roadster
2012 Mini Cooper Roadster Review
Nimble handling and stylish drop-top looks make the 2012 Mini Roadster a fitting competitor to the Mazda Miata.
Sports cars are supposed to offer an engaging driving experience, and the 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster delivers with the go-kart handling that Mini has become famous for. Some reviewers slammed its hardtop sibling, the Mini Coupe, for not offering any extra performance over the standard Cooper hatchback. However, the Roadster’s top-down driving experience seems to have laid those qualms to rest.
“The Mini Roadster adds affordable sports car fun to what has been a 1-car segment, belonging to Mazda's MX-5 Miata,” says Kelley Blue Book. “The Miata is competent and well made, but after 23 years, it lacks the sassy, distinctive persona of the Mini Roadster and the performance of the Roadster's turbocharged models.”
While the Mini Roadster undoubtedly gives Mazda some new competition, not all reviewers are convinced that the Roadster is as refined as the MX-5 Miata. Their main gripes involve the ride. The Roadster’s stiff suspension means that it handles well on smooth surfaces, but on rough roads you’ll probably feel some bumps. Additionally, its unlined soft top can make the Roadster noisy at highway speeds, especially when compared with the Mini Convertible’s higher-quality soft top.
While affordable sports cars aren’t always about refinement, the Mini Roadster offers an upscale interior, engaging driving dynamics and good cargo space. If you’re looking for a convertible that’s fun to drive and you don’t need a back seat, the 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster deserves to be on your short list.
Other Cars to Consider
If you’re looking at the base Roadster, but want a little more power, consider the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Miata is a perennial favorite for its nimble handling and good reliability, but it also costs less than the Roadster. Thanks to these attributes, the Miata is also our 2012 Best Sports Car for the Money.
While the Roadster and Miata are both a blast to drive, they only offer two seats. If you need a little extra space, consider the Mini Cooper Convertible. It’s a little more expensive than the Roadster, but the Cooper Convertible can seat four in a pinch. Additionally, many reviewers think that the Convertible has a better soft top, which makes it quieter on the highway.
Mini Cooper Roadster: The Details
The Mini Cooper Roadster is new for 2012 and comes in three trims, which are based primarily on performance. The base Roadster comes with a four-cylinder engine, while S Roadster and John Cooper Works models add a turbocharger and more power. All models come standard with a manual transmission, though an automatic is optional on base and S models. See the full 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster specs.
- "Slightly cheaper, lighter, and stiffer, the Roadster is a subtly different riff on an open-topped Mini. Even with its two seats and stubby little trunk, however, we have a hard time thinking of this as a sports car. More sports-car-like? Yeah, okay -- I mean, roger that." -- Automobile Magazine
- "And with the top down and the pop-up rear wing deployed (at 50 mph), the roadster becomes a chunky little bulldog of a sports car with a level of c'mon-let's-play appeal that's hard to resist." -- Car and Driver
- "We have no doubt the Roadster will find a willing army of fans who must have the latest Mini. It is fun to drive and, to our eyes, better-looking than the Coupe, but the ride quality is still questionable and the roof is crude. For $28,000, we expected more." -- Edmunds
- "Even with its mild weight gain and inherent loss of torsional rigidity, there are definite gains enjoyed with this new Roadster, which further underscores Mini's reputation for building cars that are perhaps best described as front-drive Nirvana." -- Road and Track
- "The Cooper S Roadster is serious fun, but it's also serious money." -- Popular Mechanics