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

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

Manufacturer’s web site
Mini Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2012 Mini Roadster

As with most convertibles, when you put the 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster’s top away on a warm sunny afternoon, all is forgiven.


To elaborate, this pricey ($38,820 as tested) niche-within-a-niche Mini and me got off to a rocky start.

Southern Ontario was hit with a lengthy and wild rainstorm on June 1, and I spent a good portion of it in the Mini, driving into downtown Toronto from Oakville and running a bunch of errands in the city. This was not the right tool for the job.

The 2012 Roadster is a drop-top version of the two seat Mini Coupe. Unlike its weirdo helmet-headed sibling, the Roadster is impossibly cute with canvas lid both up and down, but like the Coupe, visibility is bad all round. Actually, worse.

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

With a tiny back window and thick B-pillars, rear view is hopeless. At just under six-feet, I had to adopt the posture of Qausimoto to peer under the headliner at traffic lights. The rear-view mirror was right in my line of vision when looking ahead down the road.

Adding to my annoyance was the little roadster’s propensity to rearrange my internal organs and, seemingly, rattle itself to pieces over the pockmarked city streets. Fingers could be pointed at the optional $990 Sports Package that adds 17-inch alloys, Dynamic Traction Control and sports suspension.

The Mini Roaster gets a C-minus for structural rigidity, so a stiff sports suspension is a bad idea. There was plenty of cowl shake plus a surprising number of squeaks and rattles in the cabin.

The next day was mostly sunny, so I tossed the delightfully purist manual top over my shoulder, pressed the Sport button on console and headed for some of my favorite country roads. Much better.

As with all Minis, the steering is quick and direct, the clutch and shift action well integrated, and here, the 181 hp, 177 lb-ft (192 lb-ft on overboost) 1.6L Cooper S turbo four gives the car fantastic spirit and a healthy dose of torque steer, which I’ve come to accept as part of the car’s personality. A six-speed auto with paddle shifters is offered in the Cooper and Cooper S Roadster for $1,300.

The Sport button livens throttle response, firms up the steering, and also has the exhaust farting and popping quite vociferously on overrun. Fantastic!

Over smooth winding roads on a sunny day, the Cooper S Roadster comes into its own. You still have to stay away from the rough stuff with this sports suspension. Hit a bump mid-corner and the chassis flex throws the car off-line.

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

Inside, visual treats abound. Those hip to Mini-ness will feel right at home here – the Frisbee-sized central speedo and row of funky toggle switches are all cues taken from the original car, blown up here to Fisher Price proportions. Yes, it’s a bit of an ergonomic mess but nobody buys a Mini for logical control placement. The seats are comfortable, and behind is a storage shelf and a pass-through to the usable trunk.

When entering the world of Mini, one must be prepared for an inflation of bottom line. The 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster starts at $32,900, but this tester had the $1250 Premium Package (extra chrome trim, black-capped mirrors, black headlight reflectors, black sport stripes, alarm, proximity key, wind deflector and front centre armrest), $1290 Entertainment Package (Sirius radio, Harmon Kardon sound, media connect), and the aforementioned $990 Sports Package. Stand alone options included metallic paint ($490) and Lounge Leather ($1900).

As a two-seat premium plaything, the 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster scores on many fronts. It’s uber-chic, a hoot to drive, and from the cool roll hoops to the whimsical “top open timer” gauge that tells you how long the top has been down, the design details delight. My advice would be stay away from the sports suspension and rainstorms.

Pricing: 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster
  • Base price: $32,900
  • Options: $5,920 (Premium Package, $1,250; Entertainment Package, $1,290; Sports Package, $990, metallic paint, $490; Lounge Leather, $1,900)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,595
  • Price as tested: $40,515

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Mini Roadster

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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