MINI has unveiled the details of its latest creation, the all-new 2012 MINI Roadster. The new two-seat drop top MINI Roadster is smaller in every dimension when compared against the current MINI Cooper convertible, but only by the slimmest of margins. The end result is a visually-stretched runabout that injects some excitement into the company's lineup without straying too far from MINI's successful design DNA.
2012 MINI Roadster Details Released
The 2012 MINI Roadster is slated to go on sale by the summer of next year, and its MSRP should hover somewhere in the mid-$20,000 range. What do buyers get for the money that they slap down on the table for this attractively-styled convertible? For one, the vehicle's folding top mechanism has been designed so as to offer maximum cargo space, taking advantage of the absence of rear seats in order to offer up just under nine cubic feet of trunk. This represents a significant improvement over the current MINI Cooper convertible, although whether a back seat or a larger trunk is the more practical option is a matter for debate. The soft top is manually operated, and can be opened from the driver's seat with relatively little drama. Roll-over bars accent the vehicle's passenger compartment, which can be ordered in a wide range of different colors and trim levels.
The Roadster will offer the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine found across the MINI lineup, rated to provide 121 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque in the standard model. As with the MINI Cooper, the MINI Roadster will also be offered in turbocharged S and John Cooper Works editions, producing 181 and 208 horsepower, respectively. The latter is capable of hitting 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just 6.3 seconds.
A six-speed manual transmission is included as standard equipment, while a six-speed automatic can be ordered as an option. The Roadster's platform has been tweaked for additional stiffness, and it has also been given a number of aerodynamic improvements designed to enhance stability at high speeds (including an active rear spoiler system that extends from the tailgate at speeds above 50 miles per hour). Dynamic stability control and traction control are standard, and buyers can also order an electronically-locking front differential in order to improve traction off of the line.
The 2012 MINI Roadster is clearly not being marketed as a practical automobile. Rather, the Roadster is targeted at drivers seeking a fun weekend driver or sporty summer car. The MINI Roadster's primary competitor is the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which has over the past two decades become the gold standard of affordable, sporty convertibles. With a relatively low curb weight and go-kart-like handling made possible by its "wheels at each corner" design, the Roadster may indeed have a shot at stealing away potential Miata customers. However, given that the MINI maintains the brand's standard front-wheel drive setup, the different driving dynamics offered by the automobile might not be a legitimate match for the vaunted balance and precision provided by the Mazda. With so few compact roadsters on the market, it will be an interesting battle for supremacy between the respected old guard Miata and the upstart MINI Roadster.