Mini Roadster: A roadster for the enthusiasts?Roadsters have a long and fruitful history in the story of British motoring, but in recent years the scene has dried up. Is the Mini Roadster the antidote?
-Britain has a problem. Well, Britain's drivers do, anyway. You see, as a nation, we used to make some truly fantastic cars. They were light, nimble, agile, all about from corner to corner-- in the fun way, not the broken way. They were the Roadsters. See, the likes of the Lotus alone and the MGB may top this motoring. Something for the boys. They tinker with their cars in the morning, and in the afternoon, head off to a country lane and jumps around to their heart's content. Thing is, while the old boys are still around, fiddling with their land, time has this habit of never wanting to stop. So, one day, they simply won't be here, as many people like to point out. The British car industry just doesn't make them like it used to. And the best British Roadster you can buy, well, that's Japanese. -Roadsters also have something of an image problem. The general consensus is that open-topped cars are for girls. Look at the list of available options. The MX-5, the Audi TT and well, that's not about it. And before you start, the Peugeot 207 CC at all don't count because frankly, they're rubbish. Many hopes to give Roadster something of a resurgence with this, the sixth model in its lineup, the MINI Roadster. It is, to allay your numerous fears, the same as the CoupÃ©, which is essentially the hatch with the sporty roof. Inside is standard mini fair, too. Lots of switches, swoops, and general niceness. To give it a sporty silhouette and so the roof isn't too complicated, many has raked the windscreen back by 13 degrees. But all that seems to do is make the Roadster look as though it's mostly body and little else--much like, well, a body builder. You've got a choice of four engines, just like the CoupÃ© Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper SD, and John Cooper Works. The Cooper is bent enough for a good pose, the S is quick-- but not so quick your hair will go out of place. The SD is for frugal people who want to go quickly-ish. But if you've got any interesting driving, what you're gonna do is you go to your dealer and you say, "I want the indecently fast John Cooper Works model," and be on your way. It's level and longer than a hatch, which means it drives a little more keenly than its seatier sibling. And by that, I mean it's a more complete engaging experience than the hatch. Its lower center of gravity gives it a little planted feel on the road, which makes you feel a little bit more confident. Thankfully, there are plenty of traction control systems to keep overconfidence in check. It's a straight two-seater. So, the rear seats have been replaced with room for a boot and storage for the roof. It does mean that there's more boot space in here than the hatchback. 240 liters, or in XCAR terms, around four cheerleaders. The John Cooper Works is the one you get if you actually want a car with performance to match its looks. It will do nearly 150 miles an hour and hit 62 from rest in just 6.5 seconds. With a car like this, you do have to do the performance a bit properly. It's cute, too. A good thing for MINI as it means that once again, it will stand out on the road-- but not a good thing for Roadsters in general. Now, take the Mazda MX-5 in mind. It's a brilliant car, handles fantastically, but will ride-- used to ride it as being a bit of a hairdresser's car. Then, you take the Audi TT. Built fantastically, will hold its value longer than you'll be alive. But it's a bit girly compared to the manly, manly CoupÃ©. And the MINI Roadster? It's brilliant fun to drive and will fit in rather nicely in Cheshire, Chelsea, and Fulham. But can you see a sports car [unk] in one, or do you reckon I'll head over to the hot hatch side of the force?