Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Roadster

May 18, 2012

Bottom line: The 2012 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Roadster is a funmobile that can also serve as a long-distance runner or daily commuter. But you keep in mind that the fun comes before the practicality, so you are limited to one passenger and not much cargo.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets top marks in all three — an absolute joy to drive.

Head-turning quotient: It turned heads and brought smiles everywhere I drove it. If there is such a thing as a “happy car,” this is it.

Body style/layout: The John Cooper Works Roadster named after famed British racer and company co-founder John Newton Cooper, is a subcompact, front-engine, front-wheel-drive roadster with a standard, manually operable cloth convertible top. A power-assisted top with wind deflector is optional. This column recommends that you buy those options — $750 for the automated top and $250 for the wind deflector. There are three versions of the Mini Cooper convertible — base, S and John Cooper Works Roadster — and the choice is largely a matter of cosmetic preference.

Engine/transmission: The John Cooper Works Roadster comes with a standard turbocharged 1.6-liter, 16-valve, gasoline-direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine. The engine is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission.

Capacities: Seats for two. Cargo capacity is 8.5 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.

Real-world mileage: I averaged 31 miles per gallon driving mostly on highways.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear), four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, emergency brake-force distribution, and electronic stability and traction control.

Price: The base price on the 2012 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Roadster is $34,500. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $31,050. Price as tested is $40,200, including $5,000 in options (Recaro Sport seats, white silver metallic exterior paint, and other premium items including premium sound system and rear parking proximity warning system) and a $700 destination system. Dealer’s price as tested is $36,125.

Shopper’s note: The Mini’s small-car quality is unparalleled. But the car’s value is negatively affected by the pricing strategy of its maker, BMW. Compare with Fiat 500, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Volkswagen Beetle convertibles.

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