Full 2013 MINI Cooper Roadster Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Mini Cooper Roadster gains a standard power top, wind deflector, Bluetooth and/iPod integration. Satellite radio is now an option and an automatic transmission is now available on the sporty John Cooper Works model.
If you're seeking road-going charm, it's hard to beat a Mini. These playful and nostalgic vehicles can certainly fulfill the desire for some drivers to express themselves, but like anything else, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind.
In the case of the 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster, the flaws may seem a bit more prominent than with the standard Mini Convertible on which it is based. One major difference is the Roadster's convertible top, which lacks an inner liner and leaves the roof's internals exposed to occupants. Some may be able to get past this lack of refinement, but will likely have a harder time ignoring the increased amount of wind and road noise that intrudes into the cabin. At least this year, Mini saw fit to equip all roadsters with a standard power top and wind deflector (both were much-needed options last year).
On the bright side, the 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster manages to benefit from a few of its differences, too. The raked-back styling and lower stance certainly add a sporty flair compared to the more upright Mini Convertible. Furthermore, with the absence of the Convertible's generally useless rear seats, the Roadster instead benefits from a larger cargo hold. Out on the open road, the Mini Cooper Roadster behaves just as you'd expect from other Minis. It's immensely fun to pilot, particularly in the Cooper S and John Cooper Works trims.
For those contemplating any two-seat convertible, it's quite possible that the aforementioned shortcomings are easily forgiven. That said, there are a few alternatives that could be considered. Retro-themed open-air driving can also be found in the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, while the 2013 Fiat 500 Convertible has an Italian charm all its own and is reasonably fun to drive. The 2013 Mazda Miata is still a benchmark for driving excitement on a budget, even if it is ubiquitous nowadays.
The 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster is anything but bland, but the only question for you is, "At what point does charm outweigh its flaws?"
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster is a two-door, two-passenger convertible that is offered in three trim levels: Base, S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
Standard features for the base Mini Roadster include 16-inch alloy wheels, a power-assist convertible top, a wind deflector, full power accessories, cruise control, remote keyless entry, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, six-way manually adjustable seats, a trip computer, interior ambient lighting and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, iPod/USB connectivity and an auxiliary audio jack.
Stepping up to the Cooper S Roadster adds a turbocharged engine, a hood scoop, foglights, firmer suspension tuning, sport seats and alloy pedals. The performance-focused JCW upgrades include a more powerful turbo engine, 17-inch wheels, upgraded suspension components and tuning, sport-tuned traction control, Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit, cloth upholstery and piano-black interior trim.
Bundled options include a Cold Weather package (power-folding and heated mirrors, heated seats and headlight washers), a Premium package (keyless ignition/entry, automatic headlights and wipers, chrome interior accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic climate control) a Technology package (center armrest, rear parking sensors, a premium Harman Kardon surround-sound system and Mini Connected smartphone integration) and a Sport package for the base trim (17-inch wheels, hood stripes, foglights, sport seats and dynamic traction control). The Sport package on the Cooper S also includes xenon headlights.
Many of the packaged features are also offered as stand-alone options, along with a variety of 16- and 17-inch wheel designs, adaptive headlights, a sport suspension, Recaro sport seats, cloth upholstery, lumbar seat adjustments and satellite radio. As with all Mini vehicles, buyers can choose from a seemingly limitless combination of colors and graphics, while the Mini Yours program allows for additional customization with exclusive exterior colors, upholstery and interior surfaces.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Mini Roadster is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard and a six-speed automatic with shift paddles is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped Roadster will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds (10 seconds with the automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined for both the manual and automatic.
The Cooper S Roadster has a turbocharged version of the same engine, increasing output to 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration in 6.7 seconds for the manual and 6.9 seconds for the automatic. Estimated fuel economy is still excellent at 26/35/29 with the manual and 26/34/29 with the auto.
Thanks to increased turbo boost, the John Cooper Works churns out 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Despite the added power output, fuel economy estimates are identical to the Cooper S Roadster. In Edmunds performance testing, a Roadster JCW with the manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
Standard safety features for all 2013 Mini Roadsters include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, seat-mounted side airbags and rollover protection bars. Parking sensors are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a John Cooper Works Roadster stopped from 60 mph in 115 feet, which is what you'd expect from a roadster with summer tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
As expected, the interior of the Roadster is done up with typical Mini flair, including the infamous toggle switches, giant speedometer and body-colored panels. They're all nice nods to the original Mini, but in terms of practicality, it comes off as a bit gimmicky.
Unlike the four-seat Mini Cooper convertible, the Roadster takes a more frugal approach and, as a result, suffers from a distinct lack of refinement. The Roadster's single-layer folding fabric top (as opposed to the Convertible's twin-layer) lets quite a bit of road and wind noise into the cabin and leaves the top's mechanicals exposed to the occupants.
One of our biggest complaints about last year's Roadster was the fussy manually operated top and non-standard wind deflector. This year, Mini has addressed these problems by including both as standard features. With the top up, however, rear visibility is notably poor, making the available rear parking sensors a sensible add-on.
The Roadster does manage to improve upon the Convertible in one area: cargo capacity. Featuring a more conventional trunk lid instead of the Convertible's odd tailgate-style opening, the Roadster can hold up to 8.5 cubic feet (the Convertible tops out at 6 cubes).
Reactions to the 2013 Mini Roadster have been mixed, but it's worth noting that the split occurs down trim level lines. Most of the criticism levied at the Roadster and Roadster S stems from a lack of distinction from the standard convertible in terms of performance, and a ride quality that can be considered too harsh for some. 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. The car's electric-assist power steering is as good as any manufacturer has developed, with crisp reactions and laserlike precision.
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.