Yet Another MINI, but the Roadster Is Sharp

MINI Roadster, front end

Carmakers usually think that if they have a hit with one or two cars, they can spin off a dozen more and the fish will continue to bite. To change the metaphor, it’s like too many flavors in an ice cream shop.

In fact, if you go to the MINIUSA website and click Models, it states, “every flavor except vanilla.”

All their many confusing Cooper-labeled cars—Hardtop (hatchback), Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe, and now the Roadster (the Roadster hasn’t arrived at the website yet)—come in at least three different trims, with prices beginning in the low $20s and running to $52K for the limited-edition Cooper S Hardtop.

With each new version, the company (BMW) seems to move further from the original Alec Issigonis-John Cooper concept, which really irks some people (see first comment here). The new Roadster (above) is no exception, but perhaps it will finally achieve a purity on its own. The car looks right and finally gives real competition to the Miata, which is getting long in the tooth.

2012 MINI Roadster interiorThe MINI Convertible, on the other hand, seems like a silly compromise—ugly with the top up, too-small seats in back, and the Roadster has more trunk space.

The Roadster is basically a reworked Coupe with a manual soft top. The U.S. will get three engine choices: the standard 1.6-liter with 121 hp, a turbo version of that engine in the Cooper S Roadster (181 hp), and the full-bore John Cooper Works Roadster with 208 hp and an overboost to give you, momentarily, 207 lb-ft of torque.

2012 MINI Roadster, rear end

That one should be fun: 147 mph and 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Motor Trend lists prices from $19,500 to $35,100, but we will bet them a rusty split-window Corvette that showroom prices will be higher.

If I were a little younger and had at least $35 grand to burn, this one would be a real tempter. TopGear, which is always offering questionable opinions, says the Roadster has, quoting MINI, “a ‘full-blooded go-kart feeling’ with a bespoke chassis setup.” Others concur.

The JCW Roadster in England costs £24,850, or close to $40K U.S. Our prices may be a little less.

Is MINI burning itself out with too many models, trims and choices? We hear the company just posted record sales, up 16 percent over last year.

—jgoods

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1 Comment

  1. When I was stationed in England back in the early 1970’s, I owned a mini (delivery version) with two of my friends. What BMW makes is no mini, but that’s not a bad thing. What surprises me is the rediculous prices and the steady stream of customers plunking down big bucks for monstrosities like the stretched mini. As I always say, people with bad taste need to buy cars too, and running up a big bill on credit to buy something “stylish” is the American way. But that old mini with right hand drive sure was fun to learn shifting with the left hand on thos English back roads in the midlands, yes, even dodging sheep.

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