MINI Cooper S Roadster Review
Chopped top

Story by Mark Yeo Photos by Yang and Raymond Lai
19 May 2012

The Mini Roadster is for those who reckon that the ‘regular’ Mini Cabriolet isn’t sporty of funky enough.

Introduction, styling

A roadster is defined as an open top car with strong emphasis on sporty handling. Some models that have used the roadster moniker in recent years include the Tesla Roadster, Mazda MX-5 Roadster and so on. Now, there’s a new model with the Roadster moniker from Mini.

When Mini first launched the Coupe over a year ago, it was pretty predictable and logical for the brand to introduce a topless version of the quirky two-seater coupe at a later time. The result is the Mini Roadster. Like how the Coupe differs from the regular Mini, the Roadster is distinguished from the familiar Cabriolet by its lower overall height and other unique styling features.

Just like the Coupe, the Roadster features a three-box profile when its roof is in place but thankfully doesn’t replicate the fixed roof model’s ‘ reverse baseball cap’ roof profile.  The Roadster’s overall length and width is actually identical to the hatchback and Cabriolet body styles but its overall height is 29mm lower. In addition, the A-pillars and windscreen are sharply raked by 13 degrees compared to the hatch, resulting in a smaller frontal area that gives the Roadster excellent aerodynamic properties and a real sporty look, according to Mini. The lower height and that sharply raked windscreen are most obvious when the Roadster’s roof is stowed away. With the roof down, the Roadster hunkered down stance looks sporty and purposeful indeed, even more so than the slightly awkward looking Coupe.

The rear deck features a movable spoiler that deploys automatically when the car reaches 80km/h – and drops down again at 60km/h – but can be operated manually via a button in the overhead control panel, just like on the Coupe.

Overall, the Roadster looks markedly prettier than the Cabriolet roof up or down. It looks especially good with the roof down while the Cabriolet somehow manages to look like a pram when its roof its stowed away.

A manually operated roof is standard for the Roadster with an electrically operated one an option. The car we drove came with the manually operated roof, which I personally found fiddly to use. You’d need to twist a lever on top of the windscreen frame to release the roof’s locking mechanism but the hard part comes after this – unless you have enough muscle power to push back the roof at an awkward angle from the driver’s seat, you’d need to get out of the car to manhandle the roof back and downwards into the rear deck behind the seats. Putting up the roof is much easier but it’d still be easier if you were out of the car. You just have to release the locking mechanism by pressing the chrome knob on the rear bulkhead, pull the roof up into shape, get into the car and twist that locking lever to lock the roof in place once again. A manually operated roof might be in the spirit of a roadster model but we reckon an electrically operated one is better and more convenient, especially when the roof needs to be up urgently in the event of a sudden downpour.   

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