Fun in the sun!
This week I have been charged with getting a sun tan the fun way – by driving the 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster around. Yes, some guys have all the luck…
The Roadster, which comes in three flavours, the John Cooper Works, the Cooper S, and Cooper is the sixth model in the Mini line-up. My Cooper S version was loaded with Premium, Entertainment and Sport Packages and some stand-alone options like the 17” wheels.
My first reaction to the new Roadster, was one that seems to fit all the others, ‘that’s cool’. We all know the trick to a good looking roadster is that the proportions have to be right – with the top up and down. Now, the Roadster has quite a high belt line, but it still looks great.
Power is just about right in the Cooper S, with it producing 181bhp from its 1.6L twin-scroll turbocharged engine. The six speed manual gearbox is smooth and the brakes and suspension are perfectly suited to pounding around the back roads, while being not too stiff on the city streets.
Now, the Roadster is supposed to get an average fuel consumption of 6.7L/100km but to be honest, I’ll have to take their word on that because if you drive it like it is meant to be driven, you won’t be close to that. I really enjoyed listening to the turbo whine and woooosh every time I changed gear or breathed the throttle – and if you press the sport button, it just gets that much better with the occasional light pop from the exhaust.
You can hear all this because the Roadster has a single handle, unlock and stow top. Its stupid easy to use, just unhook it at the front, and chuck it over your head and it latches behind you….simple.
One of the biggest surprises in the Roadster is the trunk room. You see, many of these will be used for a weekend get-away, and you really need space to store a couple of bags. With only two seats, there is no chance of the kids coming along. The 240L luggage area is plenty to hold two decent sized overnight bags.
But really, the Mini is about putting the fun in driving and that is where the Roadster excels.
I found the Roadster to be, well, lively when under duress. By that I mean it talks back to you through the steering wheel and seat, which enhances not only the feel, but the fun factor. Turn in is super crisp for a front driver, and it can be balanced well through sweeping curves. A slight lift mid corner will reduce any understeer and it will also bring a smile to your face as you dance through corners.
We all know that we can’t have fun all the time, and the Roadster, with the top up is quiet and comfortable. Of course it has all the latest safety features including a very liberal traction system. The entertainment package comes in handy during the daily commute offering SIRUS Satellite Radio, a great Harman Kardon sound system and media connect.
I think the new Roadster will be well received offering good value for money. It’s a nice addition to the Mini line-up, and now, thanks to Mother Nature and the Roadster….I have a decent tan.
2012 Mini Roadster
Trim level: Cooper S
Price as tested (before taxes): $38,420
Options on test vehicle: Premium Package (Chrome Line Interior/Exterior, Black mirror caps, headlight reflectors and sport stripes, alarm, comfort access, wind deflector and front center armrest) $1,250 Entertainment Package $1290, Sport Package (Sport suspension, dynamic traction control) $990, Leather Punch $1,500, Metallic Paint $490.
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.6L turbocharged inline 4 cylinder
Power/torque: 181hp/ 177lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Premium (50L)
Fuel economy ratings: 7.6 L/100km city; 5.6L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 11.1 L/100km over 500 km (included half day track use)
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 12 years/ body warranty
Competitors: Mazda MX5
Strengths: fun factor, good power, easy top
Weaknesses: small buttons on dash, back seat adjustment