Sporty open-top a first for Mini

The Mini range continues to grow, and here's one of the most desirable additions yet - the Roadster.

Aimed at the Mazda MX-5 market, it's a sporty two-seater that will go on sale in New Zealand about the middle of next year. It's essentially a drop-top version of the already-launched coupe and looks identical to the concept car that was previewed at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The latest addition to the range is the sixth model in the brand's  line-up and the first open-top two-seater in the company's history. It has a lower body than the four-seater Mini Convertible, more heavily raked windscreen pillars and a stepped rear end.

These touches are mixed with instantly recognisable Mini styling cues, such as large circular lights and short front and rear overhangs.

New Zealand will get a  manual fabric roof, while the outer skin of the hood faces upwards so there's no need for an extra cover.

The cabin will be familiar to Mini owners, but the boot space is decent for a small convertible at 240 litres - 90 litres more than an MX-5.

Stiffened chassis components, electric power-steering and a lower centre of gravity -  by 20mm  - should ensure it is great fun to drive. The Roadster has a go-kart feel to it because of the bespoke chassis set-up, low centre of gravity, torsionally rigid body and optimised aerodynamic properties. But it also has outstanding safety features including Electric Power Steering and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) as standard, roll-over bars in polished stainless steel and an active rear spoiler that extends automatically at 80km/h.

The car will also have the latest-generation four-cylinder engines - the most powerful petrol units in the Mini line-up. It's also fitted with high-quality standard equipment, including speed-sensitive steering assistance, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, Park Distance Control and an audio system with an MP3-compatible CD player and Aux-in connection.

No word on the price for New Zealand buyers, but in Britain the Roadster will start from 18,015 ($36,300).

- Hamilton News

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