People have been chopping the roofs off Minis ever since Alec Issigonis' cheeky little citycar was released in 1959 - but this is the first Mini designed from the ground up as an open two-seater.
The sixth model in Mini's current range was released in South Africa this week, reiterating the 1.6-litre line-up that has become standard for Mini in this country: 90kW Cooper, 135kW Cooper S and 155kW John Cooper Works.
So let's get the bad news out of the way right now, shall we:
Mini Cooper Roadster - R296 881
Mini Cooper Roadster Steptronic - R314 520
Mini Cooper S Roadster - R351 480
Mini Cooper Roadster S Steptronic - R368 435
Mini John Cooper Works Roadster - R401 190
But what makes this Mini special is, of course, its fabric roof. As Minesh Bhagaloo of our sister publication Star Motoring noted at the world launch in Lisbon, “it opens and closes at a speed in line with your fitness levels.
“The roof is manually operated, and I found it a little difficult to reach back and grab when sitting in the car. But it's easy to use and clips or unclips with minimal effort.
“A semi-electric option does exist, though, and will be available in South Africa.”
SWEET AND SIMPLE
Fabric roofs also fold away neatly without stealing any storage space; this one keeps things sweet and simple by using the front third of the outer surface as a tonneau cover.
Boot space is a useable 240 litres - roof up or down - and there's some space behind the seats as well, with a push-through hatch for long, slim cargo (we refuse to dredge up the tired old snow-skis chestnut).
The windscreen is raked 13 degrees more steeply than on 'conventional' Minis, which makes the Roadster almost 20mm lower overall than four-seater variants.
Nevertheless, says Bhagaloo, “cruising through the mountain passes with the roof down you notice how, even with the lower A-pillars, wind is not a big issue in the cabin - the optional wind deflector between the anti roll bars is a must.
“Wind and road noise with the roof up did seem excessive, though.”
CLASSIC BARCHETTA STYLING
With its top down, the Roadster effortlessly melds signature Mini front-end styling with a classic barchetta (little boat) profile, the waistline gently rising to meet a flat rear deck.
Roof up, it becomes a rather silly little three-box coupé that looks more French than English from a rear three-quarter angle.
The windscreen frame has been beefed up - both to stiffen body and act as a roll-bar - supplemented by a stainless-steel hoop behind each seat. BMW says the suspension has been specifically set up to suit the Roadster, and an active rear spoiler extends automatically when the car reaches 80km/h.
“TYPICAL MINI GO-KART FEEL”
According to Bhagaloo, it works: “Handling lives up to all expectations, offering that typical Mini go-kart feel. Even without a roof to brace it the body felt rigid, with no traces of scuttle shake, and handled as well as any of its solid-roofed siblings.”
Speed-sensitive electric power steering is standard, as is dynamic stability control with traction control, while electronic differential lock control is standard on the John Cooper Works and optional on the other models.
Standard kit includes electrically adjustable door mirrors, parking sensors, eight-adjustable seats and an audio system with MP3-compatible CD player and auxiliary jack. Aircon is standard on the JCW and Cooper S models, optional on the Cooper.
As always with BMW products the colour options and extras list is a long as your arm, fully justifying the maker's claim that no two Minis need ever be identical - or are likely to be.