Used 2015 MINI Cooper Roadster John Cooper Works Review
Edmunds expert review
It has some drawbacks to be sure, but the 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster is still an appealing choice for a fun and personable roadster that can be had on a reasonable budget.
What's new for 2015
The 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster, which is a drop-top version of the two-seater Mini Cooper Coupe, successfully blends a fun-to-drive, open-air driving experience with racier, more aerodynamic styling than Mini's traditional convertible model. It has a lower stance, a more steeply raked windshield and twin fixed roll bars behind the seats, all of which give it a more aggressive look and a striking road presence.
Like other two-door Coopers, the Roadster also delivers sharp handling, precise steering and available turbocharged engines that provide grin-inducing acceleration. Of course, it doesn't have the rear seat of the convertible, which gives up some practicality, but its trunk is a little larger.
While a noisier cabin is the trade-off with any soft top, the Mini Roadster's power-operated top is unlined, which looks a little low budget and makes for a noisier cabin than otherwise. The raised top also limits visibility. Another drawback is that the Roadster's ride can be uncomfortably firm, especially on models with the sport suspension and larger wheels, which are standard on the JCW version and optional on the others.
If you're drawn to the Mini Roadster, we'd also recommend that you check out a few competing models before deciding. A must for your test-drive list should be the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata, which also provides spirited, fun-to-drive, open-air motoring and has long been a benchmark among affordable two-seat convertibles. Style-conscious buyers may also want to check out the 2015 Fiat 500 Convertible or the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, although neither delivers as much zip or personality as the Mini Roadster. Finally, the 2015 Mini Cooper Convertible should also be on your radar screen, if only to compare the practicality of that extra rear seat space for passengers, gear or, yes, grocery bags.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster is a two-door, two-passenger convertible that's available in three trim levels: Base, S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
In addition to the safety features listed below, the base Roadster comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, run-flat tires, a semi-automatic soft top, automatic wipers, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, six-way manually adjustable seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, push-button ignition, automatic climate control, cruise control, full power accessories, color-adjustable ambient lighting, heated mirrors, daytime running lights, an air-conditioned glovebox, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio input jack. Among the many available option packages, the Sport package includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dynamic traction control, front foglights, sport seats and hood stripes.
The S model adds a turbocharged engine, front foglights, six-way manually adjustable sport seats, a hood scoop and additional styling details. The optional Sport package for the S model bundles 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, dynamic traction control and hood stripes.
Stepping up to the higher-performance John Cooper Works version nets you a more powerful turbocharged engine, a sport-tuned suspension (optional on base and S versions), 17-inch alloy wheels, dynamic traction control, front Brembo brakes, an aerodynamic body kit, distinctive cloth upholstery and exclusive styling details.
Major options, many of which are grouped into packages, include leather upholstery, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, rear parking sensors, heated seats, heated power-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio and a wide variety of exterior and interior customizing trim pieces, body graphics and color themes.
The Mini Connected infotainment system includes a 6.5-inch display that's located inside the car's oversize center-mounted speedometer, a corresponding console-mounted joystick, enhanced Bluetooth and iPod functionality, voice commands and smartphone app integration (iPhones only). A navigation system can be added to the Mini Connected system for an additional cost.
Performance & mpg
In base trim, the 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 121 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. According to Mini, this version can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds when equipped with a manual transmission and 10.0 seconds with the automatic. EPA-estimated fuel economy is a very good 30 mpg combined (27 city/34 highway) with the manual and only slightly less with the automatic: 29 mpg combined (26/34).
For more zip, the Cooper S Roadster uses a turbocharged version of the same engine, which delivers a stronger 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. According to Mini, this version cuts 0-60 mph acceleration times to 6.7 seconds with the manual transmission and 6.9 with the automatic. Better yet, fuel economy is almost as good as in the base version, with EPA estimates of 29 mpg combined (26/35) with the manual and 28 mpg combined (25/34) with the automatic.
The same engine is under the hood of the John Cooper Works version, although added turbo boost increases output to 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy estimates are identical to the S version. In Edmunds performance testing, a JCW Roadster with the manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
A Sport button that sharpens steering effort and engine response is standard in all versions. Premium gasoline is recommended for all models.
The 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster's list of standard safety features includes antilock disc brakes, stability control and seat-mounted side airbags. Dynamic traction control is standard on the John Cooper Works version and optional on base and S trims. 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.
Like all two-door Mini models, the 2015 Cooper Roadster is thoroughly fun to drive. It feels very nimble when driven through turns, and it responds eagerly to steering inputs. The car's small size also makes it relatively easy to park in tight spots. The Roadster's ride quality is pretty firm, however, and it can get a bit choppy on rough roads. This is especially true with the sport suspension and larger wheels that come standard on the JCW model and are optional on other versions.
While the base engine is fine for leisurely cruising, the turbocharged engines in the S and JCW models deliver the more satisfying performance and robust acceleration you likely expect in such a sporty-looking car. 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 as well.
The interior of the 2015 Roadster is, well, all Mini. You're greeted by the huge centrally mounted speedometer, the row of toggle switches for power windows and locks and the many rounded styling flourishes that have helped set the British carmaker's models apart from the competition. As cool as they look, however, a lot of the controls and gauges aren't the best from an ergonomic and functional standpoint.
The optional Mini Connected infotainment system packs in a lot of features, including voice commands and iPhone app integration that lets you stream Internet radio, access social media and more. The iOS GoPro app even lets you control a GoPro camera from the center console screen. Some functions, however, require the car to be parked to access, and using Mini Connected can be tricky due to the limited functionality of the controller knob.
The powered fabric top raises and lowers 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 when the roof is raised.
As you would expect of a small two-seat convertible, the Roadster's cargo space is modest. Still, the car's design does provide more -- 8.5 cubic feet -- than the Mini Cooper Convertible's 5.7 cubic feet. There's also a small pass-through door that allows longer items to extend into the passenger compartment.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was 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.