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The Top Gear car review:Mini Roadster
For:Roof is neat, tenacious handling, punchy
Against:Too much like a Mini Convertible with two fewer seats
1.6 Cooper 2dr
What we say:
A somewhat oddly-conceived Mini that's fun but too similar to the Mini Convertible it's based on
What is it?
The Mini Roadster is a Mini Coupe with a ragtop. As opposed to a Mini Convertible, which has four seats, a more generic rear end and a less steeply raked windscreen. Yes, it’s a curious beast. Does Mini really need another soft-top in its range? Particularly one that, from certain angles, needs a trained eye to spot the differences? The jury’s out.
It does at least have extra bracing behind the front seats, stiffening the shell, and uses Mini’s first electric pop-up spoiler to reduce rear end lift. The roof looks better than the pram-like Mini Convertible when lowered as well. So, see it instead as a Mini that has just that extra bit of individuality. After all, Britain loves its Minis.
The Roadster is more rigid than the Convertible, thanks to its extra bracing, but you can still see the reflection in the rear-view mirror blurring over bumpy roads. It’s rigid enough, then, rather than truly rigid. This body twist costs some precision gained by suspension slightly stiffened over regular Minis, but it’s still enjoyable and sensitive to the throttle. You get a good feel of what it’s up to, albeit through the seat rather than the steering wheel.
The engines are familiar Mini units from the more powerful end of the range. They are swift but also give a bit of torque steer when you nail it - which, with an unsettled ride and the numb steering, are all reminders the Mini could do with a bit of work now.
On the inside
It’s fundamentally the same as the regular Mini inside, which is pretty disappointing given how it’s meant to be a bespoke-feel roadster. You also don’t sit low and snug like you do in other roadsters, and don’t see a long bonnet stretching far ahead of you. It’s too much like a conventional Mini with two seats and some fancy trim options. It feels just like the last Mini you drove. It’s just not bespoke enough.
The roof isn’t even fully electric. You have to twist a handle to release it first. At least it’s better than European models, which don’t actually get electric ragtop operation as standard…
The Roadster is around £600 more expensive than the Convertible, which is a lot to pay for two less seats, but perhaps not a lot given the fact it’s a more convincing open top than its ugly sibling. A real roadster it is not though. We’d much rather have a Mazda MX-5 for similar money - even if it wouldn’t be able to match the Mini’s highly impressive fuel economy, retained values and overall running costs. Indeed, economy is probably one of the Mini’s trump cards. How many sporty roadsters can you name that can average up to 62.8mpg and, even in 211bhp full-fat form, will return nearly 39mpg?