2012 Mini Roadster: Up Close

The new Mini Cooper Roadster represents the automaker's best take yet on top-down motoring. By ditching the tiny backseat of the Mini Cooper convertible, the Roadster embraces the fact that convertibles aren't the most practical of cars and turns that perceived shortcoming into an advantage.

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I was most interested in the operation of the Roadster's manual soft-top. There's still good headroom for taller drivers like myself when the top is up, and it unlatches from the windshield frame with a twist of a center handle. You have to twist your arm a bit when letting the top fall, but it's possible to lower the roof in a few seconds with one hand when sitting in the driver's seat. That's just not possible in many convertibles these days with the proliferation of slower, albeit powered, tops.

The soft-top collapses on top of the rear deck, creating the clean appearance of a tonneau cover. The top doesn't intrude on trunk space, either, which is decent for a Mini at 8.3 cubic feet considering the Roadster's overall size. There's a trunk pass-through, too, if you need to carry something slightly longer.

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