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#6

in 2012 Affordable Sports Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $18,245 - $28,186
Original MSRP: $24,350 - $34,500
MPG: 27 City / 35 Hwy
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2012 Mini Cooper Roadster Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Most critics who’ve scored some seat time in the 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster have tested the S model, and in general, they love how the S Roadster’s fun factor is enhanced by its nimble handling, quick steering and responsive turbocharged engine. Some say that the Roadster’s performance gets even better when you press the Sport button, which sharpens steering and throttle response to make the Roadster even more engaging.

As a two-seat convertible, many test drivers compare the Roadster with the Mazda Miata. While the jury is still out on which is the better sports car, one reviewer notes that the Miata offers a better ride, saying that the Roadster’s stiff suspension transmits more bumps and road imperfections into the cabin.

  • "The steering is quick, informative, and accurate; braking is powerful and easy to modulate; shift engagements are precise; and throttle response is instantaneous." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Mini is justifiably proud of its ‘go-kart’ handling, but it shouldn't have to be accompanied by a go-kart ride quality. And this is the standard suspension. Overall, the rear-drive MX-5 remains the purer, more rewarding driving experience." -- Edmunds 
  • "Depress the Sport button and a symphony of pops and burbles will emanate from the center tailpipes with each throttle lift, and is better experienced-ergo, more addictive-in open-air mode. In addition to this aural entertainment, steering and throttle response (both electronically assisted or operated) are sharpened, which makes for a triple assault against your best efforts of fuel conservation." -- Road and Track 
  • "Like other Minis, the Roadster achieves its athletic responses with suspension tuning that's firm in the standard model and firmer still in the S and JCW versions. Combined with standard run-flat tires - there's no spare - this yields ride quality that can be harsh on even moderately rough pavement." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The S delivers great handling, and, when needed, there's extra torque available thanks to the Overboost feature. With or without the extra boost, though, the instant power and surprisingly throaty exhaust note will put a smile on your face." -- Popular Mechanics 

Acceleration and Power

Most reviewers who’ve tested the Mini Roadster have driven the S Roadster, which is more powerful than the base model. While the base Roadster has modest power, most critics love the S model’s peppy turbocharged engine and slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. A handful of critics note that the S Roadster suffers from a hint of torque steer and a bit of turbo lag, but most agree that the extra power is worth the trade-off.

The front-wheel drive Mini Roadster comes in three trims, which are based primarily on the drivetrain. The base Roadster gets a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 121 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. The S Roadster adds a turbocharger and direct injection to the mix, which ups engine output to 181 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 to 5,000 rpm. Both base and S models come with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.

The top-of-the-line John Cooper Works Roadster gets a similar turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but it generates more power. The JCW Roadster puts out 208 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 192 pound-feet of torque from 1,850 to 5,600 rpm. Mini says that the JCW Roadster will go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 147 mph. A six-speed manual is the only transmission offered on the JCW Roadster.

According to the EPA, the base Roadster gets 27/35 mpg city/highway with either transmission, while the S Roadster gets 27/35 and 26/34 mpg city/highway with manual and automatic transmissions, respectively. The top-of-the-line John Cooper Works model gets 25/33 mpg city/highway.

  • "The six-speed gearbox is exceptionally nice, with short, precise throws. In contrast to our long-term Countryman, we found the clutch here to be easy to modulate." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The performance of the Cooper S - Mini claims zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and a 141-mph top speed - also feels nicely suited to this car." -- Edmunds 
  • "Acceleration is modest in the basic Mini Roadster, but the pace picks up in the S and JCW versions, sprinting to 60 in the mid- and low-6-second range, respectively." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Pulling out into heavy traffic, you might find yourself fighting some front wheelspin and even torque steer if you need to get aggressive. But we wouldn't trade the oomph for more polish." -- Popular Mechanics

Handling and Braking

Like most Minis, the Roadster earns high points for its nimble handling and precise steering. However, some reviewers note that a stiff suspension (even in base models) means that the Roadster’s ride can be jarring over bumps and road imperfections.

  • "Typical for a Mini, the electric power steering is extremely well weighted and even provides a bit of feel. (Perhaps Mini could provide a tutorial in this area to other carmakers that are just now switching to electric assist.)" -- Automobile Magazine
  • "In higher-performance Minis, the combination of run-flat tires, stiff springs, and granitic suspension bushings produces ride quality that can be punishing. No bump is too small to ignore." -- Car and Driver 
  • "While the sportier versions of the convertible have an awkward tendency to flex and torque steer, the Roadster feels impressively solid. The steering is suitably quick-witted, and while the electric system is not overburdened with feel, it delivers a level of agility matched by few other cars." -- Edmunds 
  • "The 2012 Mini Roadster's structural reinforcements make it about 90 pounds heavier... than the Coupe, but there are still some chassis quivers on bumpy stretches. Nevertheless, the Roadster's steering is sports car quick and tactile, with eager responses and very little body roll, even in the basic model." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The Mini Roadster delivers the same kind of go-kart handling that made the redesigned Cooper a hit more than 10 years ago." -- Popular Mechanics

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