It may soon be difficult to tell all the new players in the affordable roadster segment without a sports car, what with new offerings like the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S ready to take on the venerable Mazda Miata. Now, add in the Mini Roadster, making its U.S. debut at this week’s Detroit Auto Show.
The first open-top 2-seater in the British brand’s line-up, it offers a counterpoint to the 4-seat convertible that’s been a Mini staple since 2009. But, say company officials, it offers a “spontaneous, unadulterated recipe for urban driving fun.”
Add in simple and basic, like the original Miata, the new Mini Roadster holds down weight, complexity – and cost – with a purely mechanical canvas top; no fancy motor drive, you simply reach back and pull it up if the clouds start to threaten.
Expected to start at around $24,000 – or roughly $2,000 more than the Mini Coupe introduced last year, the new Roadster is actually almost the exact same length and only a wee bit lower and narrower than the 4-seat convertible, at 146.8 inches nose-to-tail, 64.5 inches wide, and 54.7 inches tall.
The good news is that the Roadster will actually offer something close to what might pass for real storage space in the trunk, at 8.8 cubic feet. You can even access the cargo compartment – or store longer items like skis, through a 14-inch-wide pass-through.
Like the new Mini Coupe, the Mini Roadster will provide three flavors of the British marque’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder Direct Injection engine. The base Cooper will make a modest 121 horsepower, the twin-scroll turbocharged Cooper S 181 hp. The performance pinnacle comes with the tuned John Cooper Works edition, at 208 hp.
Gearbox choices are a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed stick.
There are, unfortunately, no plans to bring a diesel Roadster to the U.S. In Europe, it reportedly yields better than 50 mpg.
With the addition of the Coupe and now the Roadster, Mini is offering a full six different models to U.S. buyers – and it is working up a seventh, a production version of the Paceman concept Mini revealed at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. It is still a couple years away from reaching showrooms.