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Spunky Mini Cooper S Roadster makes for an irrepressible ragtop

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mr. Grant, boss of Mary Tyler Moore’s fictitious TV newsroom, once told the budding executive: “You know what? You’ve got spunk. I hate spunk!”
P90085931_highResMr. Grant obviously never drove a Mini Cooper S Roadster. Rarely has spunk been such a defining attribute of a car.
In this case, it not only makes the little two-seater a blast to drive, but it also functions to paper over the few little niggling things this car comes equipped with.
Consider: Visibility with the top raised is atrocious. Drop the top, problem solved.
Then there’s the car’s run-flat tires that deliver a super-stiff ride, transmitting every pebble, crack and lump to the driver through the steering wheel and seats. But they grip like glue, helping make the Cooper a paragon of front-drive handling.
P90085814_highResThe dashboard relies on a certain retro charm to justify the somewhat cobbled-together construction of numerous hard plastic pieces that occasionally creak as the chassis flexes. But it does have personality, right down to the center-mounted, dessert plate-size speedometer that doubles as an audio/nav/systems info screen.
With the top up, the wind and road noise is fairly intrusive, especially at freeway speeds. Most other modern convertibles these days are fairly well insulated from such external annoyances.
But now to the good.
The little four-banger delivers a delicious rush of acceleration as turbo boost builds just beyond idle. And it sips fuel, albeit premium grade, at a penurious EPA rate — 26 mpg in town, 35 on the open road.

2013 MINI Cooper S Roadster
VEHICLE TYPE: Two-door, two-passenger, subcompact convertible
BASE PRICE: $28,550
PRICE AS TESTED: $33,845 (incl. delivery fees)
POWERTRAIN: 1.6-liter, DOHC, turbocharged inline four-cylinder; 181 horsepower; 177 lb.-ft. torque; six-speed manual transmission; front-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 97.1”/140.7”
CURB WEIGHT: 2,745 pounds
EPA FUEL RATING: 26 mpg city/35 highway (premium unleaded)

Our tester came with a gem of a Getrag six-speed manual transmission. With short throws and a light, precise action, shifting becomes almost subliminal.
Adding to the sporting nature is the pinpoint accurate, tight steering that supplements the little car’s go-kart nature. Zipping through a series of twists and turns requires but quick flicks of the thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped wheel.
The taut suspension delivers amazingly flat cornering, with virtually no body lean. And the brakes, discs all around, are strong and confident, a perfect complement to the car’s performance parameters.
So the Mini Cooper S Roadster may not be perfect, but in so many ways, it’s an automotive paragon of spunk. Take that, Mr. Grant.

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