2012 MINI Cooper BaseView Vehicle Profile
New Mini big on performance
If you’ve driven any of the existing MINI lineup, you will immediately feel right at home behind the wheel of the 2012 Cooper Roadster.
When BMW recreated the iconic Mini brand a decade ago as MINI, the little cars were almost universally loved. When the second generation bowed in late 2006 as a slightly more refined, slightly less mini MINI, some pundits questioned how much longer BMW could milk the British marquee. They couldn’t have known how ambitious the powers that be at MINI really are, nor the number of exciting variations that were coming down the pipe.
In 2010, the hatch and convertible models were joined by the Countryman, a four- seat crossover with available all-wheel-drive. Countryman may be bigger, but is instantly recognizable as a MINI. The addition of a CUV brought a new potential owner into dealerships, this one had a family. Just short of a year ago, the two-seat MINI Coupe joined the roster with its funky looks and a new interpretation of the MINI vibe. The helmet-inspired roof of the Coupe actually looks like it should retract and that brings us to the newest model of the family: The 2012 MINI Cooper Roadster.
If you’ve driven any of the existing MINI lineup, you will immediately feel right at home behind the wheel. The biggest difference to the funky interior is also the most obvious: there is no back seat. Instead, there is a parcel shelf behind the seats that is spacious enough to carry a large purse or briefcase for both the driver and passenger. Above the parcel shelf is a pass-through into the trunk, which allows access to the trunk from inside the car, plus it allows drivers to carry longer objects such as a snowboard. The trunk itself is surprisingly roomy, with storage space that would be just right for a weekend’s worth of stuff for a couple of travellers.
A traditional roadster was typically a stripped-down version of an existing car that held only two passengers and put the emphasis on performance driving. The MINI Roadster fits that mould quite nicely, beginning with the top. Designed to be operated with one hand from inside the car, most drivers will likely opt to lower the top from outside the car, as it is a bit cumbersome to lock the top in the down position. Even still, it’s a simple task to release the single latch and snap it down into place. An electric-assist feature is available for an additional $750 for those who really don’t want to make the effort. With just a single layer of cloth, the top allows a bit more road noise than the more heavily insulated MINI Convertible. My time at the Canadian press launch took place on a blustery, rainy day in the Kawarthas and the cabin was a nice and toasty place to hide from the elements. Sadly, the weather didn’t allow for any top-down driving.
Other differences from the Coupe include a slightly longer front lower chin spoiler and revised rear suspension settings. The soft top shaves a bit of weight from the Coupe, which allowed engineers to choose slightly softer rear springs and sway bar to keep the ride comfortable and provide the same level of handling.
Like the other members of the MINI family, the Roadster comes with three possible power plants. The Cooper receives the familiar 1.6L four-banger that generates 121 horsepower and sips fuel at 5.7 l/100 km. At the top of the range is the fire-breathing John Cooper Works edition with 208 horsepower. The car I drove was a Cooper S, with a six-speed manual transmission. This is exactly the combination I would order: the turbocharged 1.6 in the Cooper S pulls strongly throughout the rev range thanks to a healthy 177 lb.-ft. of torque that is on tap from 1,500 r.p.m. all the way to 5,000. With 181 horsepower, MINI claims a 0-100 km/h time in the seven-second range. That feels about right by the seat of my pants, but the wet roads prevented any exuberant driving.
The teenage car enthusiast in me would be disappointed if I didn’t mention the “sport” button. Tucked away in front of the shifter, this little button changes the engine computer settings to allow for more sporting performance. In daily driving, that matters little, but it also changes the exhaust. When in sport mode, the Roadster’s exhaust snaps and snorts like a race car every time the throttle is released. Even with the top up, the sound is glorious and I can imagine a drive in the countryside with the top down, listening to the mechanical music!
An entry level MINI Cooper Roadster can be had for $28,900 while the JCW model will set you back $39,900. The Cooper S such as I drove goes out the door for $32,900. Of course all of those prices are before the $1,595 destination charge is applied. The MINI brand thrives by allowing consumers to option out a vehicle that is truly unique to them. Tick off a few boxes and those prices will escalate rather sharply, but does that really matter when you cruise a country road with the top down, listing to the blat of the exhaust?
turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder
181 hp/177 lb.-ft.
6.7 L/100 KM combined city/highway
Open air MINI experience for two
Funky interior styling can make interpreting controls confusing for those who are new to MINI.
Sounds great when “sport” mode engaged
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