Mini designers had some fun creating the Mini Cooper Roadster, the drop top version of the Mini Cooper Coupe. Available in base, S and John Cooper S trims, the design is pure Mini but its "mojo" is reminiscent of British two seaters like the MGBs and Triumphs of old.

To say the Mini Roadster is eye candy is an understatement. At first glance, it's an undeniably iconic "toy." Add the optional double stripe down the middle and the word "go-cart" immediately springs to mind. Like all Minis, its high wheelhouse provides over-the-wheel visibility - the better to see and be seen.

When viewed from the front, the large circular headlamps smartly flank the hexagonal texture of the grille and the heavy black border around the bottom animates the car even more. It's as though a drawing of the perfect roadster jumped off the page and started tooling down the street.

Wide Range Pricing Menu

But there's some muscle under all that cute, cuddly visual. The Roadster S sports a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection achieving 181 hp and 1777 lb-ft of maximum torque. This little package comes with a biggish price starting at $28,050, but the less powered up base version with only 121 horses starts at $25,050. If you want to really tear up the streets, the Mini John Cooper Works Roadster gets a whopping 208 hp and does 0-60 mph in only 6.8 seconds for an equally whopping MSRP starting at $35,200.

Like all the cars in Mini's lineup, Mini Roadsters are fully customizable, so pricing will vary after an endless array of exterior and interior color and fabrics, tires, sport tuning and infotainment choices are made.

Top Ups and Downs

Mini's decision to scrimp on the convertible top is logical enough. Staying true to the "roadster" motif, one could argue that the ragtop is not the most important feature when this car is meant to be an open-air vehicle. There are two ways to open and shut the top. One is manual and a little challenging and the other is a $750 option for electric assist which may well be worth it since the snapping device takes upper body weight you may not want to expend on a daily basis.

But on the up side, the top snaps neatly into its cubby with no additional cover needed, leaving an impressive 8.5 cubic ft. trunk with a nifty lockable pass-through hatch that goes from behind the driver through to the trunk.

Inside Job

Minis are known for their striking interiors and the Roadster's interior follows the pure retro racing dashboard style. All the classic round "portholes" are in tact and the new, large and optional 6.5" screen features the Mini Connected system. This connects you to an on-board computer with Internet music integration so you don't have to fuss around with your mobile device to stream some great tunes. Of course, there's Bluetooth and USP/iPod adapters, but the simple convenience of snapping your phone into a charging cradle in the center armrest while connecting to an outer antenna for internet streaming is what makes this old fashioned looking car truly modern.

Mini has also thrown in music-related gimmick to amuse your friends on a sunny afternoon. It's an available option called Dynamic Music and if you turn it on, it will replace the sound of your blinkers with percussion beats (sounds like castanet's) and the beat of this background music rises and falls to the level of speed.

Driving Mini Roadster

With its low center of gravity, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), rigid body and Electric Power Steering, the Roadster takes twisting roads much like it's bigger brother, the Mini Cooper, firmly planted on the ground with quick and responsive steering and very little body roll. But with no spare and run flat tires, you'll be able to feel every bump in the road. This is not a problem if you believe that's really what roadsters are all about, however.

If an affordable, fun, two-seat roadster is on your shopping list, Mini Cooper Roadster should be near the top, alongside the Mazda Miata MX-5.

author photo

Joni Gray is a long-standing member of the automotive industry and has worked on both the corporate and publishing sides of the business. Over the past 20 years, she has managed advertising and marketing programs at Mazda, Hyundai and Honda and has been an editor at both Kelley Blue Book and the Los Angeles Times.

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