MF Garage: The JCW Roadster Tackles Winter

When we took possession of our long term JCW Roadster we told you we wanted to find out if the soft-top could indeed be an everyday, all year car. In the sun of California or other warm climates, it’s easy for the Roadster to make sense. Yet what happens when you throw it at the upper midwest? After six months of time with the car we’re starting to get a good answer to that.

Truthfully, our Roadster isn’t the perfect cold weather car. There’s no escaping the fact that you’re only a thin layer of cloth and plastic away from the depths of winter. Yet the stats are still in favor of our little black and red JCW two-seater. Averaging around 27 mpg in stop-and-go (with a lead foot on the loose) the JCW has delivered plenty of economy and more thrills than any commute has a right to. So what if it’s cold out?

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The Lounge Leather in our Roadster has a much longer bottom cushion than our previous longterm Countryman did. It makes for a decidedly more more comfortable commuter. Coupled with the navigation system that is better than almost anything in its class and it’s not a bad way to spend 50 minutes trying to get to work.

However, if you’ve been reading our updates on the R59 you’ll know it’s not been entirely wasted on city traffic. We’ve done numerous road trips and have plenty of backroad and highway mileage under the Roadster’s belt line.

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Top up or down, the Roadster is a MINI and thus instantly exciting to drive. The quick reflexes of the JCW are made to feel even quicker given the nature of the Roadster. As we’ve mentioned, you feel much closer to the environment due to the extra sounds and sensations inherent in an open-top car. That said, it’s still a terrifically engaging car even with the top up. Yet all that noise and environmental input doens’t make it a chore to drive. Sure, it’s less cocooning than a standard MINI hatch, but it’s never uncomfortable or tiring.

Fuel economy in the Roadster has been stellar for such an entertaining car. In town we’re in the high 20s, with highway figures averaging around 33 mpg — often at speeds well above 70 mph. Of course the sweet-spot for MINIs (and most cars) is right around 50 mph, where we regularly see upper 30s mpg. That kind of mileage is great for most any car, but this is a grin-inducing performance car. The fact it can achieve overall mpg that high is clearly one of the Roadster’s very best selling points.

Another must be the look. We’ve said it before and we’ll likely say it forever. The R59 MINI Roadster is an unarguably attractive car. Spoiler up or down the Roadster has enormous presence for such a small footprint. In our eyes it’s the best looking MINI ever made.

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There have been a couple small issues. A recent cold snap managed to trip the TPS on all four tires, setting off warning lights. Additionally, the cold weather-related rattle we’ve mentioned previously shows no signs of giving up its commitment to annoy us. But beyond those easily addressesed issues, our JCW Roadster has been nothing less than perfect.

Is it worth the money? We’re going to leave that for our long-term wrap up later this year. With the sticker of our Roadster being over $45k, price is hard to gloss over. Yet we can’t help but be more and more impressed by this little car. Whether top up or top down, the driving experience is right up there with the best that MINI has to offer. With mpg and a quality levels both as high as possible, our JCW R59 has been a complete joy to drive every day.

Now bring on spring.