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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 MINI Roadster

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MPG 26 City / 35 Highway
Pros
  • Sharp go-kart-like handling
  • Strong acceleration with supercharged engines
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Rakish appearance
Cons
  • Almost harsh ride in performance models
  • Form-over-function styling reduces utility
, Automotive Editor -
There's nothing quite like the MINI Roadster, which can deliver impressive performance and economy in a stylish package.

Introduction

The MINI Cooper has enjoyed great success in a relatively small niche market since its release in the U.S. for the 2002 model year. As time progressed, MINI released several variations, but none as unusual as the Roadster in 2012. The jury is still out on whether the MINI Roadster will be a success or not, but there is no arguing its uniqueness.

The MINI Roadster comes in a trio of trim levels – Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works – and aesthetically, the three are very similar. Where the three models vary significantly is under the hood.

The Cooper trim starts things off with a 1.6-liter engine that pumps out 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque and links up to a standard six-speed manual transmission. This combination affords the Cooper Roadster a monstrous 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, but a relatively disappointing 8.7-second sprint to 60 mph, and a 124 mph top speed.



The Cooper S adds a twin-scroll turbocharger that bumps the 1.6-liter’s horsepower to 181 and its torque to 177 pound-feet. The engine connects to the same six speed transmission and gets 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway -- outperforming the Miata by 4 mpg and 7 mph, respectively. The Cooper S sees significant performance increases, as its 0-to-60 mph time drops to 6.7 seconds, besting the Miata by 0.2 seconds. Top speed jumps to 141 mph.

The John Cooper Works further tunes the 1.6-liter engine to 208 horsepower and hooks it up to the same standard six-speed transmission. Highway fuel economy drops to 34 mpg while city mileage remains steady at 26 mpg. The JCW model sees its 0-to-60 mph sprint fall to a brisk 6.3 seconds, and its top speed leap to 147 mph.

The Mini Roadster is certainly one of the cooler models available, but it has its issues. First of all, it is significantly more expensive than its closest competitor, the MX-5 Miata. The second issue is that its rather pricey base model is very underwhelming in overall performance. Lastly, its convertible top is little more than a piece of vinyl loosely laid over a metal frame, leaving a lot to be desired from a car that can crest the $35K mark.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 MINI Roadster
Starting price
$19,877

2013 MINI Roadster Cooper

Recommended for: Buyers looking for an inexpensive roadster with moderate performance

The Mini Roadster comes standard with a fair amount of amenities: a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine; anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution; 18-inch alloy wheels; chromed grille slats and tailpipe; a rollover-protection bar; the Mini Connected infotainment system with HD Radio, six speakers and iPhone integration; leatherette seating; a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons; power windows and door locks; and air conditioning.

2013 MINI Roadster
Starting price
$19,877

2013 MINI Roadster Cooper S

Recommended for: Buyers looking for a roadster with some relatively sporty performance and great mpg

The Cooper S adds: a 1.6-liter engine with 181 horsepower; an aggressive hood scoop; front fog lamps; a black mesh grille; and dual chrome tailpipes.

2013 MINI Roadster
Starting price
$19,877

2013 MINI Roadster John Cooper Works

Recommended for: Buyers who want the best-performing Mini Roadster available

The top-of-the-line John Cooper Works includes: a 208-horsepower 1.6-liter engine; electronic differential-lock control; and 17-inch Challenge-Spoke wheels with run-flat tires.

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