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#9

in Affordable Sports Cars

MSRP: $25,550 - $35,700
Invoice: $23,505 - $32,845
MPG: 28 City / 35 Hwy
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MINI Cooper Roadster Performance

Reviewers say that Mini’s go-kart driving dynamics are alive and well in the 2014 Roadster, thanks to its nimble handling and quick, accurate steering. Additionally, most critics say that the fun factor is enhanced in S models, which feature a responsive turbocharged engine. Still, a few test drivers write that the Roadster’s ride quality can be harsh when driving over rough roads.

  • "To its credit, every Mini's mission, regardless of model/trim is to provide a uniquely sporty driving experience, and the Mini Roadster fulfills that promise." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "Mini Roadsters are zippy, fuel-efficient, immensely nimble vehicles that can also perform surprisingly well on the open highway." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "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 (2012)
  • "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 (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 121 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 118 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. The Cooper S adds a turbocharger, which boosts the engine’s output to 181 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 to 5,000 rpm. Both base and Cooper S models come with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. According to the EPA, the base Roadster gets up to 28/35 mpg city/highway, which is considerably better than the fuel economy of more powerful sports cars like the Mazda Miata and Ford Mustang convertible.

The top-of-the-line John Cooper Works Roadster gets a more powerful turbocharged,1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 208 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 192 pound-feet of torque from 1,750 to 5,500 rpm. Mini says that the JCW Roadster has a top speed of 147 mph and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.

While the base Roadster has adequate power, most critics love the Cooper S’ peppy turbocharged engine and slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, which offers short throws and a clutch that’s easy to use. A handful of reviewers note that the Mini Cooper S Roadster suffers from a hint of torque steer (an experience that causes the Roadster’s steering to pull the car to one side under hard acceleration), but they say that the extra power is worth the trade-off.

  • "Overall, the base 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster will likely satisfy most drivers, with the S trim adding a little more thrill with its turbocharged engine. Opting for the 208-hp John Cooper Works is a commitment best left to the most spirited drivers only." -- Edmunds (2013) 
  • "Mini says more than 30 percent of its models are ordered with a manual transmission, and we can see why: They have a splendid one. Short on throws, long on enjoyment, a manual just makes sense in a Mini." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "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 (2012 Cooper S)
  • "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 (2012 Cooper S)

Handling and Braking

Like most Minis, the Roadster earns points for its nimble handling and precise steering. However, a few test drivers say that a stiff suspension means that the Roadster’s ride can be jarring over bumps and road imperfections.

  • "Because of a low center of gravity, a rigid body and electric power steering, the MINI Roadster takes twisty roads much like the traditional MINI Cooper: firmly planted on the ground with quick, responsive steering and very little body roll." -- AutoTrader 
  • "While many sporty cars can only claim to have go-kart-like handling, the Roadster delivers on the promise: the short wheelbase ensures extremely rapid direction changes, the steering is quick and communicative and the chassis provides a good ride and handling compromise." -- Left Lane News
  • "The car's electric-assist power steering is as good as any manufacturer has developed, with crisp reactions and laserlike precision." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "Mini has done a laudable job of adding structural rigidity to compensate for removing the roof in the Roadster. But doing that has made it heavier than the Coupe, and some chassis quiver remains on bumpy roads." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
Review Last Updated: 5/13/14

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