First Drive Review: 2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

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2013 Mini Roadster

With your hair in the air

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

   SEE ALSO: MINI Roadster World Premiere at 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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2013 Mini Roadster

SINTRA, Portugal - January 26, 2012: The weather in my home base in The Netherlands was in a true grey mode, with rain and much wind. So you can imagine how happy I was to make it to Portugal for the first driving event of the Mini Roadster - the 6th model of the trendy brand, and the first open two-seater in its history.

Disappointingly, Portugal was colder than I had hoped, but I just wanted to give driving-with-your-hair-in-the-wind a try. After hitting the roads of the Lisbon area, the first thing you notice is that the typical vehicles on the road in Portugal are not as new or clean as in Northern-Europe. You constantly smell the exhaust fumes of old diesel trucks and older gasoline engines. There was a sharp contrast to the low CO2-emission of the Mini Cooper S test car, which lists 139 g/km.

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2013 Mini Roadster

After reaching the winding roads on the way to the coastal area west of the capital, air quality did get better and you could even enjoy the smell of the surrounding environs. Unfortunately, at mid afternoon the temperature dropped significantly and I decided to close the classic black soft top. Topless driving does not mean that your hair is blown off your head, but the wind simply was too cold. Putting the top up in the new Mini Roadster I was driving was a manual affair: I had to close the soft-top by hand. This requires doing it the old-fashioned way, meaning that you will have to step out of the car, push a button between the two roll-over bars, lift the top out of its anchorage points and move it towards the wind screen. Then you sit down and turn the lever to secure the soft top. During the opening or closing procedure, the side windows are automatically lowered in order to let the roof move into its place.

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2013 Mini Roadster top up

The moment I fixed the roof, I was not really paying attention to the voice coming out of the sound system, but I thought I heard something like “Ha,ha, you may want to have your hair in the air..” This must have been the Mini Connected system that ‘knew’ I closed the top and that wanted to make me feel guilty, or make me smile – which was what I did. Good to realize those possibilities are there… and indeed, the Mini fans love it. Of course, the Always Open Timer that was introduced in the Mini Convertible, is also available as an option for the Roadster.

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2013 Mini Roadster interior

As I knew from the original market introduction last February 22, the Roadster can be also ordered with a semi automatic top. Then, the only thing you’ll have to do is to release the lever above the rear view mirror and push the button in the center console to start the process that is finished in a couple of seconds.

Watch TACH's exclusive Mini Roadster promo video

Scooter thieves
As the soft top folds down completely behind the seats, the Mini Roadster looks elegant with its lines untouched, which you cannot say about the Convertible. But indeed that is a four-seater and the Roadster only takes two. Behind the standard sport seats, there is some storage space, but you cannot use that for a handbag. The scooter thieves will be quick to take that from you when you are waiting at a traffic light.

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2013 Mini Roadster - trunk
So I stored mine in the back, which only offers 240 liter / 8.47 cu-ft of storage room, or enough for two cabin trolleys and a couple of soft bags. With the roof closed, it is pretty quiet inside and even though the view to the rear is not ideal, you see just enough of the traffic behind you to feel comfortable.

The Roadster is available with the three most powerful petrol engines and the most powerful diesel in the Mini line-up. That means that all Roadsters are Coopers. All tests cars in Portugal were Coopers S.

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2013 Mini Roadster top up

With its 184 hp strong 1.6-liter turbo engine (and with 177 lb-ft of torque), the Mini should be able to reach 62 mph in just 7 seconds. I did not look on my stop watch, but the feeling was there. The little two-seater also should reach a top speed of 141 mph. Again, I had no opportunity to come even close, but usually those figures are correct and will provide the speed to chase scooter thieves in case you were silly enough to leave your valuables in clear visibility.

Convertible or Roadster
Customers who choose the Roadster instead of the Convertible have only two seats and will also miss the fully automatic roof. The 600 dollars they save, may be used for the semi automatic soft top (price unknown yet), or if they do not mind to get out of the car, they keep the money in their pocket.

With a torsional stiffness that is 10 per cent higher than that of the Convertible and with 100 lbs. less weight, a lower center of gravity and a tuned suspension, the Roadster offers a sportier feeling than the open 4-seater. In fact, you get a more truly Mini go-kart feeling.

The active rear spoiler that flips up when the car reaches 50 mph adds to the aerodynamic balance. The Roadster feels like it’s glued to the tarmac and my roundabout-test proves that its intention to under-steer can be easily changed into a slight over-steer, which in itself is also easy to cope with. The Mini, of course, remains a front-drive car, but the limits are high. You can only reach them with Dynamic Stability Control switched off, which I did not do in this case.

On winding roads the Roadster provides the most fun; feels very sporty and agile, while its sport seats provide outstanding support in quick corners. But the Roadster also gives you the opportunity to enjoy a lovely area at a slower pace – in true roadster style.

I should not forget to mention that the Cooper S Roadster’s fuel consumption in the EU cycle is 6 liter per 100 km, or 46.1 mpg. When you are a sporty driver, you will not be so lucky to accomplish this, but somewhere in the high ‘thirties’ or low ‘forties’ is imaginable. With gas prices rising fast now – in The Netherlands we pay close to $8.70 dollar a gallon – it is important to be able to have fun without burning a hole in your wallet.

Pricing (MSRP) of the Mini Roadster has been fixed at $ 25,050 for the Cooper, $28,050 for the Cooper S, and $ 35,200 for the JCW. I think the price represents a good deal when you take into consideration that the Roadster is a gorgeous Mini.

Of course, the Roadster is a niche model, but with more new models in the making, Mini may soon have to consider expanding their production capacity. At the moment the Oxford plant in Great Britain and the Magna plant in Austria can cope with the demand. However, we heard that Mini is considering building another facility in Brazil, or extending the Spartanburg plant in the future.

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