I recently had the MINI Roadster S, and let me just tell you, it took great personal restraint to hold that right foot back. One of the things that has stood out for MINI since the brand “hit our shelves” so to speak, is the driver experience. For the longest time getting behind the wheel of a MINI Cooper was an experience second to none. Sure the VW Beetle tried to challenge the niche market, and more recently the Fiat 500 with more success, but the MINI holds the lead much like it holds those corners.
There’s a niche out there where few play, but all that do have heaps of fun. The spunky two-door roadster convertible is the car many dream of, but are precluded from letting their hair down for practical reasons. The Roadster stands by its name and is a two-seater cabriolet, without even pretending to have back seats. Being a 20-something single guy, I still have the ability to play, and when Lyndhurst Auto MINI asked me to try their roadster out, I grabbed that key and ran.
Before you even grip the chrome handle to open the door, the looks of this vehicle are a draw card on their own. The curvy nature of its lines, and the aggressive, sporty feel to its grill and sports kit make for an impressive façade. But let’s get down to the important bits… how does it perform?
MINI are known for their playful handling and monster grip to the road. This variation on the original MINI Hatch is no different. The Roadster puts you in the driver’s seat with the feeling of complete freedom and unhindered possibilities. E-toll gantries notwithstanding, I was ready to own the road. The power is impressive in this small body, with a performance boasting 135kW and a claimed 0 – 100km/h record of a mere 7 seconds. I didn’t test these limits, but it sure has heck made the drive along William Nicol Drive a snappy one.
The engine in this model, which has won numerous awards, is a four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo, and for those of you who aren’t big into the technical specs of a vehicle. All you need to know is that power is no question.
It has the classic styling of the modern MINI interior, however this was the first time I’d played with an automatic gear box in the MINI range. I popped it into sports mode, and felt it devour the road beneath me as I pulled off from the traffic lights. It is without a doubt a sports car, and one which takes the small roadster concept to a whole new level.
But wait, I forgot the best part… With the twist of a handle and the flick of a switch, the roof lifts off and tucks away quickly behind you, leaving you feeling like a leading man in the closing titles of a cult classic 90’s film. So aviators on and windows down, the MINI Roadster S is the kind of car that becomes part of your personality.
Let’s talk specs. I drove the MINI Copper S Roadster, but the range also has an entry level MINI Cooper version, and the monster JCW (John Cooper Works) editions.
The technology within the cabin is fantastic, with a 6.5”, high resolution display screen in the centre console, from which you can control all entertainment features and connectivity. The optional Wired Package also includes MINI Connect, which allows you to sync certain of your smart phones social media and communication tools to the computer, so that you never have to take your eyes off the road. There are many other options, such as Bi-Xenon technology and adaptive headlights, but the great thing about MINI is that from the look to the features, you can customise your own unique vehicle basically.
Size wise the Roadster, as with most MINI’s, will surprise you once you are behind the wheel. This 6 foot 5 inch driver had no problem with the adjustable seats and steering column, and had plenty of space to spare. Being a two-seater, the Roadster has an extended boot, so slightly more space in the back than you would be used to with the Hatch. Even once the roof is down, which takes up some of the top space, there is more than enough for your luggage or shopping. Getting your golf clubs in may be an issue, but that’s why they gave you the Paceman.
Take a breath because we’re going to talk pricing. The automatic (steptronic) version I had is going for around R418 000, with the manual version roughly R400 000 on the nose. Drop down to the standard Cooper model and you’re starting at around R340 000, and if you want to jump up to the JCW, you’re looking at forking out R456 000 and R473 000, depending on which transmission you pick.
Cost aside, it a vehicle that’s worth the price tag, for the love of the drive alone. If you are looking at the two-door sports roadster range, you will be hard pressed to compare, but for interest sake, I’ve compared it to the only other obvious player, the Mazda MX-5, although in my opinion completely different drives.