2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
Test Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe

Manufacturer’s web site
Mini Canada

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2012 Mini Roadster

How far can you take a single theme? Well, if you are Mini, it seems endlessly. Mini now has 7 variants in their showrooms of the ‘Mini Cooper’ theme thanks to the addition of the all-new Clubvan. If that weren’t enough, there is a Mini Paceman due to hit showroom floors in the near future. All of this makes the new for 2012 Mini Coupé and Roadster look like yesterday’s news.

So before the onslaught of new-new Minis hits our shores, I thought I would take another look at the Mini Roadster and see if my findings were similar to Peter Bleakney’s review of this car. First and foremost, the one thing that stuck out to me like a sore thumb was the Mini’s lack of chassis rigidity. Many reviews from around the world commend the Mini Roadster for curing the four-seat Mini Convertible’s excessive cowl shake, but like Peter, I did not find this to be the case. I have now driven an even dozen convertibles this summer and I must say the Mini Roadster is right up there with the Infiniti IPL G Convertible for the ‘Most Likely to Wiggle’ award.

2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster. Click image to enlarge

But a shaky car does not make for a poor car or a poor handler. Handling is what the Mini is known for and the Roadster is no different. Keep the Mini below 8/10ths of its ability and it isn’t detectable whether this vehicle is front-wheel, all-wheel, or rear-wheel drive. However, really press the Roadster and the unfavourable characteristics of front-wheel drive cars, like torque steer and the tendency to spin the inside front tire when cornering, rear their ugly heads. That said, the Mini, in almost all of its variants, is still one the most sorted out front-wheel-drive platforms in recent memory. It has that special something the Acura Integra GS-R/Type R and Honda Prelude had. Sure the original Neon-based SRT4, Cobalt SS, and Mazdaspeed3 were fast, but none of them felt as connected to the road as the Mini does. You feel one with the road surface, for better or worse, at all times.

Being that the Roadster is 20 mm lower than the Convertible, the Mini rides a bit harsher. Add in the optional $990 Sport package that includes the sport suspension, dynamic traction control, and upgraded 17-inch wheels, and the ride becomes downright punishing. Call me crazy, but I found the ride in the Mini S Roadster to be more violent than that of the Mini John Cooper Works Hatchback.

The aforementioned upgraded wheels are wrapped in 205/45R17 performance run-flat tires that do a great job in keeping the Mini glued to the road. At 1,245 kg, the Roadster is only 30 kg more than the Mini Coupé and the weight penalty is unnoticeable. Fun fact of the day: the Cooper S Roadster is the least aerodynamic of the three Roadster trims (Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works).

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