Mini Impressions (long)
- Aloha All,
Mini ownership is like Hinckley Triumph ownership -- people walk up to you to
tell you stories about the old Mini's or ask you what kind of car it is. So
far I haven't run out to get a Mini History book but I am tempted.
I won't even try to justify the value of the car or even make comparisons to
the large number of alternatives. Remember, we own and ride Triumph
motorcycles. To me you either like it, don't like it or don't care. For me it
all boils down to the importance of nothing. Nothing is important unless you
assign some importance to it. That importance is personal.
Small cars and buses have always been a larger part of my life. I lusted for
that little Subaru van and later the little Honda car when they were first
introduced. Had several VW Bugs, a Squareback and a Bus. Then two Fiats (yes
once was not enough) and finally a not so small Volvo, Audi Fox wagon, Honda
Civic 4wd wagon and two 3 series BMWs (325ES and 318i). My only full size
auto was a 2 door 69 Dodge Polara. Yes, I tend to like European cars over the
It's nice to be back in a small car that is well laid out, has the luxuries
that have become standard equipment in the US, plenty of speed and
acceleration for the task at hand, handles well, stops quickly, get great gas
mileage and makes me happy. If I had the time I would have liked the option
to order my own, just to reallocate the options a bit but all in all what we
got is very satisfying.
Getting into the car is easy with its oversized doors that swing wide.
Caution must be maintained when parking between two SUV's wedged into COMPACT
parking stalls. The front seat backs fold forward and then the seat glides
forward to allow access to the back seats. Once moved back the front seats
remember their original position. Sitting up front the inside feels larger
than it looks, a sensation that is echoed in several other areas.
Controls are in the right places and work as expected. The center mounted
Speedometer which also houses other gauges and lights to let you know how
things are going was very easy to get use to. The tachometer on the steering
column also displays the outside temperature and the automatic climate
control, first car I have had with it, is any amazing option. It simply works.
The *boot* is really small, about the size of that space behind the back seat
of a VW. The two rear seat backs fold down independently so we leave one side
down all the time to make it easy to throw larger COSTCO stuff inside. We
have gotten into the habit of putting backpacks and what not into the boot
before getting into the car rather than trying to throw it over the highback
Once underway I noticed that the glass gives you a good view of what is
around you and the oval shaped mirrors provide great visibility as well. The
engine does not have to be revved up to pull away and short shifting to
fourth at 3k rpm moves you down the road at a good clip. Each change of gear
drops the rpms by 1k. Once on the open road a shift to 5th combined with
light pressure on the fly-by-wire accelerator peddle your speed will increase
but your sense of it does not. During the break-in period of 1200 miles you
are not to exceed 4.5k rpm and/or 95 mph. It seems to be more than willing to
do both at anytime.
The suspension is stiff. Expansion joints and potholes are felt but pass
quickly. And tire noise on ruff surfaces is a little loud. This is offset
with some amazing handling in the turns. I've backed off not knowing at what
point the tires might loose their grip. I'm sure that it will turn quicker
and faster than I am willing to go and can't imagine what it would be like
with the optional suspension, tires and computer controls that are on the
Cooper S. Steering is precise. There is no play whatsoever so a small move of
the wheel produces a lane change right now. Same with the brakes which have
rotors that are said to be larger than the wheels on the original Mini. I
have not experienced any of the torque steer that I have felt in our other
The amount of automatic, electric and electronic stuff worried me a bit at
first. The 318i, which was 12 years old, is my technology reference point.
Just a bit dated. Time will tell how the Mini will hold up, BMW's involvement
in the design, technology and manufacturer should allow this car to be my
reference point for another 10 years. At that point we just have to see if I
can still drive.
Aloha and Happy Trails,
98 Thunderbird Sport
02 Mini Cooper
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