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First drive Mini Roadster - on sale nowRoadster is fun, fun, funBy Tim RoseIt's just over a decade since BMW Group relaunched the Mini brand. The arrival of the Roadster model this spring signals a range that has expanded to six product lines.Hot on the heels of last year's Coupé launch, the Roadster targets the two-seater sports car enthusiast. Strategic pricing of this model, starting at £18,020 for the 120bhp petrol Cooper, puts it in competition with the class-leading Mazda MX-5. However, the addition of one or two of Mini's popular option packs (the Chili pack has 80% take-up) and some leather upholstery easily pushes the invoice price closer to the realms of an entry-trim Audi TT.Thrill-seekers can opt for the more powerful Cooper S or John Cooper Works models, while a SD diesel - expected to account for just 15% of the 3,000 annual sales - offers the lowest emissions and best mpg for the few customers wanting to make the compromise. Still, Mini admits that both MX-5 and TT are conquest targets, while Roadster is also expected to tempt existing Mini drivers who want something a bit different. While its length and width are similar to the Mini Convertible, the Roadster is easily distinguished with its sloping windscreen and a sleeker roofline which ensures the car sits 24mm lower overall.The semi-automated folding canvas roof allows exposure to the elements in a few seconds, although the release mechanism requires a bit more effort than the MX-5's. Roof up, the car remains cosy and well insulated from excessive wind noise. Roof down and flushly hidden away, the car revels from the wind-in-hair sensation while still retaining a class-leading 240-litres of stowage space.The carmaker has put great focus on getting the best driving experience possible from the front-wheel drive transmission and chassis, choosing a canvas roof and stiffened bodyshell to keep the centre of gravity low and speed- sensitive electric power steering. AM drove the core petrol derivatives, Cooper and Cooper S, and while the result doesn't feel as nimble as the MX-5, it is still a fun package and the Mini's more premium brand positioning will be sufficient compensation for many customers.SpecificationPrice £18,020-£24,860Engines 1.6 122bhp, 1.6 turbo 184bhp/210bhp, 1.6 turbodiesel 143bhp Performance 0-62mph 6.5-9.2secs, top speed 124-147mphTransmission 6-sp man, autoEfficiency 38.7-62.8mpg, 118-169g/km CO2RV (3yr/30k) 44%Rivals Mazda MX-5, Audi TT

By Tom SeymourMercedes-Benz likes to describe its SLK roadster as the perfect combination of passion and efficiency and even though that notion may sound slightly oxymoronic, the description holds true.The SLK is a sports car that is usable in everyday life and even customers that will pay nearly £40,000 for the 250 BlueEfficiency AMG don't want to be flittering away hundreds of pounds a week on expensive petrol costs.When driven in Eco mode, it is capable of a respectable 42.8mpg and additions like start-stop function help to cut emissions down. However, if there's the opportunity to have a blast on some open road, the SLK will rocket off in sport mode with a 0-62mph time of 6.6 secs and on to a top speed of 151mph.To deliver in both areas is a difficult task and to some extent striking that balance does mean that customers looking for something more sports focused might not be satisfied.That's not to say the SLK can't handle some enthusiastic driving. When pushed hard on country roads the car always grips with complete confidence and the paddle shift automatic box gives a satisfying bark as it cycles up through its seven gears. The cabin is a refined and relaxing place to be too. Spending several hours on the road behind the wheel of a roadster usually prompts the dread of being cramped up in a tiny space, but the SLK feels spacious and it's quiet and comfortable when cruising on the motorway.Its USPs include Mercedes' optional air-scarf technology which blows warm air around the driver and passenger's neck when the weather might not call for putting the roof down, but you just feel like it anyway. The retractable-hard top roof is extremely easy to operate and a boot protector reassuringly protects any luggage or shopping when it folds away.The SLK's mixture of efficiency and performance means it won't alienate female customers and there is enough driving enjoyment to be had to bring in younger male customers too. However, the SLK still doesn't quite hold the same brand appeal for men as the BMW Z4. It will be up to the Mercedes marketing team and dealer network to get bums on seats for test drives to convince more men to get behind the wheel.SpecificationPrice £39,725Engines 1.8-litre 202bhp Performance 0-62mph 6.6 secs, top speed 151mphTransmission 7-sp autoEfficiency 42.8mpg, 153g/km CO2RV (3yr/30k) 48%Rivals BMW Z4, Porsche BoxterNew car marketNewsDealerConferenceUsed car analysisNews RecruitmentdigestDealerprofileShowroomFirst drive Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 BlueEfficiency AMGPassion with efficiency Mercedes SLK 250 AMG