MINI JCW Roadster

We've driven the MINI John Cooper Works Roadster on UK roads. Is it the best MINI soft-top ever?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The JCW Roadster is the best open-air MINI to drive, with its pin-sharp handling. Sporty looks and hot hatch-rivalling performance also add up to a pretty tempting package. On the downside, though, in everyday driving it’s hard to justify its £3,955 premium over the more comfortable Cooper S.

The two-seater MINI Roadster has been given a John Cooper Works performance overhaul, and this is our first chance to try it in the UK.

The already extrovert styling has been beefed up even more, with a wide honeycomb grille that features flared air intakes. There are also polished black multispoke alloys and red brake calipers to match the racing stripes on the bonnet.

As a result, the JCW Roadster looks surprisingly mean for such a small car, but with the semi-automatic roof in place (you still need to unlatch it manually), the raked windscreen makes the Roadster look a little ungainly compared with the hatch.

Inside, the sporty treatment continues, with unique dark grey instruments and soft suede trim for the dashboard and chunky sports steering wheel. The heavily bolstered standard sports seats provide much better support than those in the regular Roadster, too.

On the downside, standard equipment for the £24,860 car is basic. Bluetooth, a wind deflector and climate control are all extra; add them all, and the price rises into high-spec Audi TT territory. At this sort of money, the car really has to impress out on the road.

The pace is certainly there; the familiar 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbo engine is tuned to produce 208bhp and 280Nm of torque. And unlike the JCW Countryman, the Roadster doesn’t suffer from a harsh ride.

Even torque steer is kept under control, and the narrow body means the car feels agile on winding roads. The crackles and pops from the twin exhausts also sound great with the top down.

Fuel economy of 41.5mpg and emissions of 169g/km are better than most of its rivals, too.

The problem is that it doesn’t feel much faster than the cheaper Cooper S Roadster, which is more comfortable and more efficient.

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