Editor’s note: You may also want to read Autotrader’s 2013 Mini Roadster review, the 2014 Mini Roadster review and our in-depth article, Buying a Used MINI Cooper: Everything You Need to Know.
Some Mini models emphasize a balance between practicality and driving enjoyment. The 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster isn’t one of those models. Instead, the Mini Cooper Roadster offers just two seats, a small passenger compartment and an even smaller trunk. That’s in direct contrast to Mini’s other drop-top, the Mini Cooper Convertible, which has four seats and room for some gear. Why choose the Roadster over the Convertible? Simple: It’s more fun.
The Roadster is based on the 2-seat Mini Cooper Coupe, which is known for razor-sharp handling and a generally enjoyable driving experience. The Roadster keeps those traits, but it also includes the added benefit of a ragtop for open-air fun on warm, sunny days. If you want the most exciting Mini that you can buy, this is it.
Of course, good things don’t come cheap, and the Roadster is no exception. Pricing is in luxury-car territory, which means that you’ll have to decide if the pleasure you get from Mini’s tiny drop-top is worth the price. See the 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster models for sale near you
What’s New for 2015?
The Mini Cooper Roadster receives only minor changes for 2015, including newly standard rain-sensing wipers and automatic climate control.
What We Like
Very fun to drive; classic Mini styling; long list of customization options and features
What We Don’t
High pricing; lethargic base model; poor visibility with the top on
The Mini Cooper Roadster offers three powertrains. Base-level models use a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that returns 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with either the standard 6-speed manual or the optional 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Cooper S Roadster adds a turbocharger to that engine for a total of 181 hp. Fuel economy ratings for that model stand at 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the automatic or 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual. The John Cooper Works model, which adds 27 more hp for a total of 208, returns the same 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the manual and 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The Mini Cooper Roadster comes in three available trim levels. There’s a base model, called simply the Roadster, a midlevel Cooper S Roadster and a high-performance John Cooper Works model.
Drivers who choose the base-level Cooper Roadster ($27,000) get 16-inch alloy wheels, a power convertible top, and basic power accessories such as windows, mirrors, locks and keyless entry — along with newly standard automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers. The Roadster also includes standard leatherette upholstery, along with iPod and USB connectivity. The Cooper Roadster uses a 121-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine.
Upgrade to the Cooper S Roadster ($30,000), and you get a turbocharged version of the base model’s engine, good for 181 hp. Other upgrades include fog lights, a firmer sport suspension, sport seats and sport pedals.
Topping the range is the John Cooper Works ($37,100), which boosts power to 208 horses. It features an even firmer sport suspension, an aerodynamic body kit, 17-in wheels and strong Brembo brakes.
While those prices may not seem so bad, the Cooper Roadster’s biggest problem is that so many features are relegated to the options list. There’s a Cold Weather package with heated seats and heated mirrors; a Premium Package with keyless ignition and automatic headlights; a Technology package with the Mini Connected smartphone integration system, rear parking sensors and an upgraded sound system; and a Sport package, which adds larger wheels, sport seats and sport-tuned traction control. Like most Mini models, the Roadster also offers a long list of color options. An automatic transmission is $1,250 extra.
All 2015 Mini Cooper Roadster models come standard with a long list of safety features, ranging from anti-lock brakes to side airbags, rollbars for increased rollover protection, dual side airbags, traction control and stability control. Likely owing to the Roadster’s low production volume, the model has not yet been assessed in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests.
Behind the Wheel
Due to a low center of gravity, a rigid body and electric power steering, the Mini Roadster takes twisty roads much like the traditional Mini Cooper does: firmly planted on the ground with quick, responsive steering and very little body roll. But with low-profile tires, you’ll be able to feel every bump in the road. For some drivers, that’s no problem, but for those interested in comfort, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Mini’s models are known for their striking interiors, and the Roadster’s cabin is no different. The brand’s classic round portholes are present, and the large central circle includes the optional Mini Connected system and its 6.5-in screen. Opt for Mini Connected, and you get an on-board computer with Internet music integration, so you don’t have to fuss around with your mobile device to stream tunes. Of course, the Roadster includes Bluetooth and USB/iPod adapters, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of snapping your phone into a centrally mounted charging cradle.
The Roadster also features a funny gimmick designed to amuse you and your friends on a sunny afternoon. It’s an available option called Dynamic Music. Turn it on, and it will replace the sound of your blinkers with percussion beats that rise and fall with your speed.
Other Cars to Consider
FIAT 500 Abarth Cabrio — It’s not a true convertible, thanks to frame rails that stay in place even when the top is down, but the Abarth Cabrio offers similar thrills to the Roadster, plus two rear seats. It’s also cheaper, offering Cooper S Roadster power for base-level Cooper Roadster money.
Mercedes SLK-Class Roadster — OK, so the SLK250’s base price is more than $43,000 before options, but a well-equipped John Cooper Works Roadster is in the same league. The SLK offers more room, roughly the same power and the cachet of the Mercedes brand name.
MINI Cooper Convertible — That’s right: One of the Cooper Roadster’s biggest rivals is in the same showroom. The Cooper Convertible boasts four seats, along with similar performance, pricing and interior quality.
With its distinctive styling and impressive handling, the Cooper Roadster is an excellent choice, but high-level models can be expensive, especially with options. We recommend a midlevel Cooper S Roadster to maximize thrills, and we recommend going easy on the options to minimize cost. Find a Mini Cooper Roadster for sale