MINI ROADSTER (2011-2016)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

2dr convertible (1.6 petrol/2.0 diesel [Cooper / Cooper S/ JCW/ Cooper SD])


The rakish MINI Roadster produced between 2011 and 2016 was yet another twist on the MINI theme, based on the Coupé model, offering two seats and delivering a whole lot of fresh air fun. This was the first real sportscar the brand had brought us. Throw back the hood on a sunny day and you'll wonder what can come close.

The History

Whatever you think about MINI, you can’t deny that it’s bought a spark to the small car market. This spark was much needed in an affordable Roadster segment that by late 2011 was a shadow of its former self. Once, this sector hosted all manner of makers – brands like Toyota, Renault, Fiat – all trying to emulate the purist appeal of the two cars that best encapsulate the Roadster concept in the minds of modernday motorists tempted towards it. Mazda’s MX-5 for those needing everyday transport. Lotus’ Elise for those with something more practical in the garage.

In late 2011 though, buyers looking for an affordable roadster found that unless they were prepared to consider something as outlandish as a Caterham 7, only the Mazda and the Lotus remained as options, extremes in a pretty extreme kind of market. So the MINI Roadster proposition, launched into the UK at that time, looked tempting. The idea was to provide potential customers with a blend of MX-5 and Elise virtues, along with an added dash of MINI magic.

This was the sixth different MINI bodystyle, following Hatch, Convertible, Clubman estate, Countryman five-door and Coupe model variants. It was the Coupe bodyshape that made this Roadster possible, that car donating all the underpinnings that make this Roadster quite a different proposition from the standard MINI Convertible. As focused as a Lotus, yet a car that you could use every day if you needed to. A bit of fun in a world that sorely needs it. The MINI Roadster’s period on sale lasted until a couple of years after the third generation modern era MINI Hatch was launched in 2014.

What To Look For

The Roadster hood needs no real care even if left outside year-round. You can indulge it to an occasional treatment with a roof cleaning/reproofing product (MINI sell one) but this really is only needed if you want to see rain bead on the fabric or you prefer cleaning to driving. The one long term thing that reproofing will do is protect against mould growth that can occur on a fabric hood, particularly if regularly left unused, or parked under certain tree types. Avoid parking your MINI Roadster anywhere near Lime trees; the roof will be glowing green in no time. You could always get a specialist car cover for this car. Specialist companies make ones that only cover the roof too.

Generally, build quality on the MINI Roadster is pretty strong – certainly much better than you’d have found on anything based on a first generation MINI model. However, secondhand examples do tend to sometimes suffer from teething rattles. We’ve had reports of the boot unlock button not working on the keyfob too. One owners we came across reported a faulty active spoiler – so make sure that works. And a number of Roadster buyers have found that the ride is rather over-rough: apparently, a cure for that is to fit a set of Continental Contisport3 205/45 R17 tyres.

On The Road

A Roadster should be a more involving thing than a simple convertible. You don’t, after all, make something into a sportscar just by chopping the top off it. And a MINI Convertible isn’t, by any stretch, a sportscar, even in its most powerful forms. This is. And all the reasons why are reasons why MINI Convertible customers won’t like it. The sharper, dartier steering, the much firmer ride, the acute angle of the windscreen and the way its header rail is positioned close to your head. Heck, even the lack of rear seats. All of this is exactly as it should be, both to position this Roadster MINI as a model in its own right and to pitch it as a credible alternative to an MX-5 or an Elise.

But as with any roadster, the magic of this car has little to do with straightline speed. Roof-down and being hurled from corner to corner is where this MINI is in its element, showing off its chassis’ enviable lack of bodyroll and tremendous grip. Achieved, you might fear, by a rock hard suspension set-up that’ll shake your fillings out. Actually, though it’s possible to get a MINI Roadster like that if you go for the top JCW variant or unwisely choose an example whose original owner ticked the boxes for sports suspension or huge optional alloys, the standard models, though always firm, are really quite compliant even over quite poor surfaces.

Which makes this car more of a likeable travelling companion than you might expect over longer distances. Top-up, refinement’s quite acceptable, unless it’s pouring and the rain’s pattering down on the thin single-skin roof. Still, you’d tend to forgive a real sportscar things like that. And this Roadster is a real sportscar. That’s also a real MINI.


When it comes to affordable open-topped sportscars that drive well and are usable every day, the used market isn't exactly swollen with talent. There's the evergreen Mazda MX-5, but beyond that, you'll need to step up to much pricier cars like the Audi TT Roadster. Slotting in between these two was an open goal that this MINI was never going to miss.

A little more extreme than an MX-5. A little easier to own – and much more affordable – than a Lotus Elise, this MINI Roadster was extremely carefully targeted, with a very different appeal to any of the brand’s previous soft-top models. Buying one will be an unashamed indulgence, as the purchase of any sportscar should be, the beginning of a driving experience that promises fun without too many hard core compromises. It’s the MINI method of sportscar ownership. And you can see why many in this market are going to like it.