Diesel drop-top delight

New car review

Thursday, 3rd October 2013, 1:23 pm
Mini Roadster Cooper

MINI Roadster Cooper SD

by Andy Enright

Yet another twist on the MINI theme, the Rakish Roadster is based on the Coupe model and offers two seats and a whole lot of fun.

Mini Roadster Cooper

Yes, MINI already makes a convertible model but this one is a bit cheekier and slots into a market that should be receptive to just such a thing - at least in petrol form.

But with a diesel engine? Will that be a step too far for buyers in this sector?

You don’t expect to turn the key of something like his and hear a diesel engine beneath the bonnet. The unit in question is the same 143bhp 2.0-litre turbo powerplant used elsewhere in the MINI line-up and once you get underway, many of your doubts are banished.

Sixty takes 8.1s on the way to 132mph but of greater import is the 305NM of torque that makes this such a potent overtaking tool.

MINI claims the Roadster generates a “go-kart feeling” on the road, and highlights the vehicle’s stiffened bodyshell and canvas roof which helps to further lower the centre of gravity.

There’s also the offer of sports suspension but having tried this on the Coupe, I’d probably counsel against it on typically scabby British Broads, especially with a slightly less stiff open-top chassis.

Owners also get a rear spoiler that pops up above 50mph, speed sensitive power steering and a Sport button which gives the steering more heft and also means a sharper throttle response.

This car is more of a likeable travelling companion than you might expect over longer distances. Top-up, refinement’s quite acceptable, unless it’s pouring and the rain’s pattering down on the thin single-skin roof. Still, you’d tend to forgive a real sportscar things like that. And in this Roadster, we have at last, a real sportscar. That’s also a real MINI.

If you didn’t care for the rather divisive styling of the MINI Coupe, you might find the Roadster a little more to your liking.

The 13 degrees of increased rake in the windscreen lends the car a sleeker look, especially when the roof’s down. Even with the fabric roof in place, it’s not a bad looker, although if you’ve been weaned on roadsters with long bonnets and feline silhouettes, you’ll still probably find this rather sit up and beg.

Where the MINI Roadster does score, somewhat unexpectedly, is in terms of practicality. Granted, there are no rear seats, but the boot is fairly generous 240 litres and when coupled with the low boot sill it results in a car where you can travel with more than just a credit card and wash kit.

The MINI Roadster might just be a more likeable car than its Coupe sibling and it’s surprisingly likeable in SD diesel guise. Whereas the Coupe version of this model rather struggles to justify its existence, the Roadster is an unashamed feel-good experience where the very last few per cent of its dynamic envelope are, to most target customers, broadly an irrelevance.

So it doesn’t matter too much that it might not have the most aggressive limited slip differential or the stickiest tyres.

They’ll care more about the fact that it looks good, it’s fun to drive and it’s just an extremely covetable ownership proposition. Throw back the hood on a sunny day and you’ll wonder what can come close.

In short, not a whole lot. When it comes to modestly priced open cars that drive well, the market isn’t exactly swollen with talent.

There’s the evergreen Mazda MX-5 and then you’ll need to step up to cars like the Audi TT Roadster. And neither is offered with diesel power. If you’re shopping in this sector then, this is one car you’ll need to try.


CAR: MINI Roadster Cooper SD

PRICES: £21,660-£22,945


CO2 EMISSIONS: 118-143g/km

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 8.1s/top speed 132mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 62.8mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: stability control, ABS, twin front and side airbags

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE? length/width/height mm 3734/1683/1390