With the launch of the 2012 Mini Roadster Cooper S, the company has officially transitioned from making the purely versatile to the mostly fashionable. It's the first time Mini has ever offered a two-seater convertible, and it sits alongside the new two-seat Coupe in a six-car lineup.
Built to squeeze more life from an aging platform, the 2012 Mini Roadster Cooper S is being put forth as an alternative to the Mazda MX-5 Miata. That's no small task given the Miata's history, but Mini has plenty of history of its own.
Like the recently introduced Coupe, the Roadster is less an all-new model than another reinterpretation of existing themes. It's fractionally shorter and just under an inch lower than the familiar, four-seat Mini Convertible, and the Roadster shares a nose with the Coupe. Priced from $24,350 for the Cooper to $34,500 for the John Cooper Works, it's just a smidgen cheaper than the four-seat ragtop but seeks to score a new audience with its charm and exclusivity.
Why Choose the Roadster? There are two key reasons why people will choose the 2012 Mini Roadster: the way it looks and the fact that it's more exclusive than the Convertible. Mini would add, "the way that it drives," too, but we'll come to that.
First shown at the Frankfurt auto show in "concept" form in 2009, the Mini Roadster has barely changed for production. The only obvious addition is a pop-up rear spoiler, which rises above 50 mph and retracts below 37 mph.
The "three-box" shape with the flat trunk lid echoes that of the Coupe. To our eyes, though, the canvas hood is more aesthetically pleasing than the Coupe's inverted baseball cap. It's nicely integrated, too, avoiding the Convertible's awkward hump when the roof's folded down, although the absence of rear seats is a high price to pay.
Familiar Chassis The Roadster's suspension has been plundered from the Mini parts bin. The dampers are from the Convertible, while the springs are from the Coupe. Otherwise, it's the familiar setup of MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink rear. A sport suspension with changes to the dampers, springs and antiroll bars is available as an option.
Mini is offering three versions of the Roadster in the U.S.: the 121-horsepower Cooper, the 181-hp Cooper S and the 211-hp John Cooper Works. All feature a variant of the 1,598cc engine, while the "S" and "Works" also boast a turbocharger. We drove a Cooper S on modest 16-inch rims and the standard suspension.
Mini claims that the addition of a steel bulkhead behind the seats has increased the rigidity of the Roadster by 10 percent compared with the Convertible. On the road, that makes a huge difference. 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. 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.
The trade-off, though, is a ride quality that remains on the firm side of acceptable. It's as if to differentiate the Roadster from the standard hatchback, Mini has seen fit to deliver a "sporty" ride, by which it means solid. 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.
No Abundance of Refinement In a bid to reduce the cost and complexity of the 2012 Mini Roadster, the fabric hood now has just a single layer, compared with the Convertible's dual-layer setup. On the road, this has a significant bearing on refinement. The Roadster is, to put it bluntly, crude. Wind noise at highway speeds feels like a '90s throwback, and the exposed roof elements hardly smack of premium appeal. Moreover, with the roof up, the over-the-shoulder visibility is dreadful.
Another throwback of questionable merit is the absence of electric assistance. It is possible to raise the hood from the driver seat, but only if you have arms that combine the length of Mr. Tickle with the forearms of Popeye. At $750, the semiautomatic soft top is a must-have option. You still have to twist a handle to lock it into place, but at least it rises and falls without human help. In the U.K. it's standard, but U.S. buyers are forced to cough up extra for it as an option.
With the roof down, the Roadster ensures you're at one with the elements. That steeply raked roof line also generates more buffeting than you'll find in the Convertible, although the problem can be alleviated with the purchase of a wind deflector. That's another ($250) option and another must-have.
At least the underpinnings have afforded the Roadster decent practicality. In common with the Coupe, the Roadster has a broad hatch that links the cockpit with the trunk. The latter has a capacity of 8.5 cubic feet, which compares more than favorably with the Miata's 5.3 cubic feet.
Worth the Sacrifice? The Roadster is a logical extension of the Mini brand, but is hardly the last word in originality. The big challenge for the Mini types in Munich is to conjure something more imaginative without offending its more traditional fans. The handsome, innovative Rocketman looked like the way forward, but has now been cancelled.
We have no doubt the Roadster will find a willing army of fans who must have the latest Mini. It is fun to drive and, to our eyes, better-looking than the Coupe, but the ride quality is still questionable and the roof is crude. For $28,000, we expected more.
After considerable seat time in the 2012 Mini Roadster Cooper S, we couldn't help but think that we still find the original Mini (the modern one) the best of the breed. The constant tinkering over the years has brought about some different looks, yet the dynamics of that first hatch were spot-on from the start. The Roadster's funky styling scores it some points, but it's not enough to make up for its other notable shortcomings.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
2012 MINI Cooper Roadster Overview
The 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster is offered in the following submodels: John Cooper Works, Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl 6M), S 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M), and John Cooper Works 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M). Cooper Roadster models are available with a 1.6 l-liter gas engine, with output up to 208 hp, depending on engine type. The 2012 Cooper Roadster comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual. The 2012 Cooper Roadster comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster?
Save up to $0 on one of 3 used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadsters for sale at dealerships within 25 miles of Ashburn, Virginia with prices as low as $12309 as of Nov 18, 2017, based on data from 3 dealers and 3 consumer-driven dealer ratings ranging from 5 to 5 out of 5 stars.
Price comparisons for used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster trim styles:
The 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster S is priced around $15425 with average odometer reading of 32553 miles.
Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, Virginia. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.
Is the 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2012 Cooper Roadster featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2012 Cooper Roadster 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2012 Cooper Roadster.
Review Fun, fun, and more fun! This is the most amount of fun I have ever had driving a car. Nothing else compares! As far as convertibles I have owned a Miata, Z4 and a Mustang GT in the past and this Mini has a fun factor those 3 could not touch. Sure the Mini is not the fastest out of those 3, but they did not evoke a fun to drive attitude as much as the Mini. The option list on the Mini is crazy good, and (take note BMW) everything works like it is supposed to. The upgraded stereo is a must and so is the semi automatic top. By the way the 2013 have the semi-auto top standard.
How can Edmunds help? Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
2012 mini cooper-roadster S 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 6-speed manual, premium unleaded (required) 30 combined MPG 27 city MPG/35 highway MPG
2012 mini cooper-roadster John Cooper Works 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 6-speed manual, premium unleaded (required) 28 combined MPG 25 city MPG/33 highway MPG
What options are available on the 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster?
Available MINI Cooper Roadster 2012 Submodel Types: Convertible, John Cooper Works
Available Trims: S, Base, John Cooper Works
Exterior Colors: Chili Red, Midnight Black Metallic, British Racing Green II Metallic, Eclipse Gray Metallic, Lightning Blue Metallic, White Silver Metallic, Kite Blue Metallic, Pepper White, Spice Orange Metallic
Interior Colors: Punch Carbon Black leather, Carbon Black SensaTec leatherette, John Cooper Works Black Checkered cloth, Carbon Black Punch leather, Carbon Black leather/cloth, Carbon Black leather/sueded microfiber, Carbon Black leatherette, Cross Check Polar Beige/Carbon Black leather/cloth, MINI Yours Satellite Grey Lounge leather, Toffee Lounge leather
Popular Features: Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Aux Audio Inputs, Post-collision safety system, Soft Top, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Bluetooth, USB Inputs, Heated seats, Auto Climate Control, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Leather Seats, Upgraded Headlights, Upgraded Stereo