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2013 MINI Roadster Overview

Justin Cupler
Automotive Editor - February 21, 2013

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.