Used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster John Cooper Works
- Sharp handling
- distinctive exterior styling
- great fuel economy
- highly customizable
- slightly more cargo capacity than the Mini convertible.
- No measurable performance gain over Mini convertible
- choppy ride (especially in the John Cooper Works trim)
- convertible top lacks refinement
- limited outward visibility.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Though its overall performance isn't very different from that of the regular Mini, the 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster brings some visual differentiation to the model lineup.
There's a new addition to the family of those quirky, zippy and fun cars known as Minis. The 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster is a simpler, more basic convertible that still delivers the twisty road entertainment that has become synonymous with the Mini brand. With a convertible Mini already in the family, however, some may wonder if the Roadster is really necessary.
Placed next to the regular convertible, the Mini Roadster's most prominent difference is its raked-back windshield. In back, there's also a hint of a conventional trunk lid in place of the convertible's odd tailgate hatch. In the absence of rear seats, the Mini Roadster benefits from more luggage space than the convertible. Unfortunately, that is just about where the Roadster's advantages end.
The Roadster's fabric top is the source of most of the car's drawbacks. With the top up, the lack of an inner liner means that all of the roof's internals are visible, while road and wind noise are noticeably louder. And just as with the Mini Convertible, rear visibility leaves much to be desired. The top is also manually operated and not at all easy to deploy from a seated position. With the top down, the wind buffeting at highway speeds is nearly intolerable. We heartily recommend that buyers purchase the optional power-assist top and wind deflector.
Otherwise, the 2012 Mini Roadster behaves as any Mini Cooper does, and that's a good thing. With sharp handling and adequate power in the base model, Mini's spirit of fun is most certainly still alive, but it's also not the only game in town. The rear-wheel-drive Mazda Miata offers similar thrills behind the wheel and is also available with a retractable hardtop. In terms of charm, the Fiat 500 Convertible can warm the coldest of hearts, while those of a slightly more practical mind could find the regular Mini Convertible and its backseat to be (slightly) more useful on a day-to-day basis. In the end, the 2012 Mini Roadster is worth consideration, but you'll certainly want to be aware of its significant drawbacks.
2012 MINI Cooper Roadster configurations
The 2012 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, 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, satellite radio and 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, a power-assist convertible top, a wind deflector, Recaro sport seats, cloth upholstery, lumbar seat adjustments, Bluetooth and iPod/USB connectivity. 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.
Performance & mpg
Powering the 2012 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 27/35/30 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. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission, and fuel economy is 25/33/28. In Edmunds performance testing, the Roadster JCW went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
Standard safety features for all 2012 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.
Reactions to the 2012 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.
When it comes to the John Cooper Works model, however, the burly exhaust note and tossable nature around corners had us giggling like schoolchildren. Yes, the ride is on the harsh side on broken pavement, but the payoff when driven hard is well worth the sacrifice. Furthermore, the car's electric-assist power steering is as good as any manufacturer has developed, with crisp reactions and laserlike precision.
Overall, the base 2012 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 of drivers only.
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.
To compound matters, the Roadster comes standard with a manually operated top. A power-assisted top is available as an option, and we highly recommend springing for the added cost, as well as the wind deflector to combat the intrusive amount of buffeting. With the top up, rear visibility is notably poor, making the available rear parking sensors a sensible add-on.
Fortunately, 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).
Features & Specs
More About This Model
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.
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.
Used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster John Cooper Works Overview
The Used 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster John Cooper Works is offered in the following styles: John Cooper Works 2dr Convertible (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.