Full 2014 MINI Cooper Roadster Review
What's New for 2014
Other than slight revisions to its optional feature availability, the 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster is unchanged.
Leave it to Mini to build not one, but two fun-to-drive small convertibles. The regular Cooper convertible is the more established and traditional model with four seats. The two-seat 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster, meanwhile, emphasizes styling and a minimalist approach to open-air motoring. Picking one will likely come down to what you want.
Compared to the Mini Cooper convertible, the Roadster has a lowered stance, a more steeply raked windshield and twin fixed roll bars, which give it a decidedly more aggressive look. It also lacks the convertible's rear seat, of course. This could be seen as a downside, but the rear seat is so tiny that it's hard to say you'll miss it. Plus, the Roadster gives you a bigger trunk as a result. Like other two-door Coopers, the Roadster's performance promise is fulfilled by sharp handling and available turbocharged engines that practically guarantee to put a smile on the face of anyone who mashes the gas pedal.
The Mini Roadster does have a few notable shortcomings, however. The main one is the Roadster's unlined convertible top, which looks a little low-budget and makes for a noisier cabin in those instances when the elements preclude the whole top-down, wind-in-your-hair thing. Other drawbacks include limited visibility with the power-operated roof raised and a ride quality that can be uncomfortably firm on models fitted with larger wheels and the sport suspension.
Though all convertibles require their owners to accept some of these trade-offs, we'd still recommend potential Roadster buyers look at a few competing models before making up their mind. At the very least, your test-drive list should include the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata, as the Miata serves as the performance benchmark for the affordable two-seat convertible segment. Style-conscious buyers may also want to check out the Fiat 500 Convertible or the Volkswagen Beetle convertible. Overall, though, we appreciate the 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster's charm. If you're looking for a drop-top Mini, this could very well be the better choice of the automaker's two convertibles.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster is a two-door, two-passenger convertible that's available in three trim levels: Base, S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
Standard features for the base model include 16-inch alloy wheels, a power-assist convertible top, keyless entry, air-conditioning, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, height-adjustable seats, a wind deflector, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio input jack. The optional Sport package includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a dynamic mode for the traction control, foglights, hood stripes and sport seats.
Stepping up to the Cooper S Roadster gets you a turbocharged engine, foglights, a hood scoop and sport seats. The S model's available Sport package bundles 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, performance-based stability control and hood stripes. The performance-focused JCW upgrades to a more powerful turbocharged engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit and cloth upholstery.
Major options, many of which are grouped into packages, include adaptive xenon headlights, a sport-tuned suspension (base and S), keyless entry and ignition, rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, heated seats, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, leather upholstery and a wide variety of exterior and interior customizing trim pieces.
The Mini Connected infotainment system includes a 6.5-inch display screen built into the car's oversize center-mounted speedometer and provides enhanced Bluetooth and iPod functionality, plus voice commands and smartphone integration (iPhones only). It also serves as the display for the optional navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the base 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed automatic transmission 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 31 mpg combined (28 city/35 highway) with the manual and 30 mpg combined (27/35) with the automatic.
The Cooper S Roadster is powered by a turbocharged version of the same engine that puts out 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Mini estimates 0-60-mph acceleration at 6.7 seconds for the manual and 6.9 seconds for the automatic. Estimated fuel economy is still excellent at 30 mpg combined (26/35) with either transmission.
The same engine with additional turbo boost helps the John Cooper Works model's turbocharged four-cylinder generate a robust 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Despite the added power output, EPA fuel economy estimates are identical to those of the Cooper S Roadster. In Edmunds performance testing, a JCW Roadster with the manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
The 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster's list of standard safety features includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, seat-mounted side airbags and rollover protection bars. Rear 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 small, sporty convertible with summer performance tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
Settle down into the driver seat of the 2014 Mini Cooper Roadster and you'll come face-to-face with all the distinctive -- some would say over-the-top -- styling flourishes that have helped set the British carmaker's models apart from the competition for more than a decade. Unfortunately, these design-driven elements, like the huge yet hard-to-read speedometer in the center of the dash and the row of identical-looking toggle switches below it, aren't the best from a functionality standpoint.
The Roadster's optional Mini Connected electronics interface packs in a lot of functionality, with iPhone smartphone app integration providing features such as Internet radio and social media access. Unfortunately, some of the relevant functions require the car to be parked to access, and using Mini Connected can be tricky due to the limited functionality of the controller knob.
Mini made power operation of the fabric top standard last year. The top does raise and lower quickly, but it lacks the extra insulation found in most other convertibles. As such, it does a poor job of sealing out wind and road noise. Rearward visibility also suffers with the roof raised.
The one notable upside of the Roadster's design can be found out back. Compared to the Mini convertible's 5.7 cubic foot tailgate-style trunk, the Roadster's proper trunk offers 8.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the top up or down.
Like all two-door Mini models, the 2014 Cooper Roadster is good, clean fun. Driven around turns, it reacts eagerly to steering inputs and feels very nimble. Its small size also means it's relatively easy to park in tight spots. The Roadster's ride quality is pretty firm, however, and can get pretty choppy on rough roads. This is especially true on the JCW or other models fitted with the sport suspension and big wheels.
While the base engine is fine for leisurely cruising, the turbocharged engines under the hood of S and JCW models more effectively deliver the robust acceleration you likely expect from a Mini roadster. The six-speed manual transmission is an ideal fit for the car's personality, but the optional automatic shifts quickly and smoothly enough to make it a perfectly viable choice.