Simply joyous - that's the sensation behind the wheel of the MINI Cooper Roadster.
Motors took the convertible, two-seat Roadster to North Wales - and for once this summer the sun actually shone! The fixed-roof MINI Coupé is a hoot to drive as we have reported before at Motors, but the cloth-roofed drop-top adds the much-loved, wind-in-the-hair motoring experience.
The original, pre-BMW standard Mini never came in an official convertible form, although there were a few companies that made after-market conversions for them. The standard BMW MINI convertible was the first drop-top in the range and now MINI Roadster is the first two-seat convertible built at the Oxford plant in the UK.
The roof mechanism for Ireland features a familiar semi-automatic opening set-up (other countries get a manual roof as standard). To operate it, you firstly manually twist and pop up an overhead handle. Then you simply press a button to complete the rest of the operation.
Outside, Roadster really stands out from the crowd. The cloth roof lowers the car by some 20mm over the standard MINI and draws your eye to the sturdy bodywork. At just 3.734 metres long and 1.683 metres wide, the front-wheel drive Roadster is a compact machine. Riding on a wheelbase of 2.467 metres, Roadster's footprint is close to the standard MINI. The windscreen is angled by an extra 13 degrees compared to the standard MINI. The rear features a boot and this makes MINI Roadster one of the most compact '3-box' cars (i.e. boxes for the engine, passengers and boot) on the market.
Inside the cabin you don't really miss the rear seats! There is loads of room up front and plenty of cubbies – there's even 240 litres of boot space! It's funny, but you can convince yourself that this is adequate when you love the car. In real terms the boot is tiny, but if you have soft baggage or the bespoke MINI luggage you will be surprised at how much you can carry. The dinner plate-sized speedometer dominates the centre of the iconic dashboard, while the chunky steering wheel delivers go-kart-like driving thrills.
The engine range features three petrol units and one diesel – all are four-cylinder engines. The power outputs are 122bhp (Cooper Roadster), 184bhp (Cooper S), 143bhp (Cooper SD) and 211bhp (JCW). Roadster prices start at €26,260 on the road and if you can stretch closer to €40,000 the sublime John Cooper Works is the ultimate version.
The engines are all relatively economical, delivering averages of between 38mpg up to 63mpg depending on the model. The very stiff body of the Coupé allows the drop-top version to have minimal scuttle shake - even on bumpy roads - while cornering performance is excellent. A host of driver aids are also available, but to be honest MINI Cooper Roadster performs and grips so well you will hardly need them. As for optional extras, you can easily spend five or six grand on sports packs, electronic toys and trim - so you have been warned.
Grin-inducing is the best way to describe what MINI Cooper Roadster is like to drive. Roof up or roof down, the Roadster is about rewarding the driver for simply driving.