Car Column: When a British Soul Merges with a German Heart

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Car Column: When a British Soul Merges with a German Heart

While searching for a good compact car for daily commutes, the first car that comes to mind is the Mini Cooper. The first Mini was a British icon and has gone through many names and manufacturers. The Mini Cooper we know now is made by BMW. Mini’s had many famous roles in movies like The Italian Job, and had a hand in setting world records. The takeover of Mini by BMW in 1994 merged German engineering and British style all into one little package, and the mix did quite a good job too. The updated original Mini has grown quite in size and power, but the price is something to consider as well. The base Cooper Hardtop comes standard with what is expected, such as Bluetooth and USB/iPod connection, but that is the end of what you might want to have in a European car. Starting just shy of 20K, adding options like satellite navigation and other personalization will easily take you past 27K. So the question is, is the Mini really worth that much money?

The engines of the Cooper variants are all based on a 1.6L inline-4 engine, with the S and JCW having a Twin Scroll Turbochargers attached for a big power boost from the 121bhp to 181 and 208bhp, respectively. Even though there is a good 60 horsepower more, fuel economy only dropped by an average of 3 mpg, but the S starts at over 23K and the JCW starts at 30K. Don’t really underestimate the 121bhp. This gives the small, lightweight Coopers a nice thrust when lined up with some punk at the light in a crappy car and loud exhausts. It is still that Mini which made waves by taking on muscle racers in touring car rallies. The nimble little car’s heritage remains strong even in the 2013 models. Steering is electrically powered, similar to 911 in last week’s issue, and it is just as smooth and intuitive. I carefully and speedily took a jug handle exit, and with the sports button pressed, the car propelled me around that bend with flair and no fuss. The car is really a joy to drive. You’ll have much fun as stunt driver Russ Swift when he spins the Mini around and drives it on its side. It doesn’t matter which version you get, you can expect it to be worth exactly what you are paying for.

Here comes the bad part; you are probably wondering, what could be so bad when I just said it was a joy to drive? The Mini is a car meant for racing around a track or trashing the streets. The first problem I have is the speedometer. For the love of all things mighty, why in the world is the speedometer in the middle of the dashboard and not in front of you? The only reason I can think of to put it there is because you don’t really need to look at how fast you are going on the track, or you don’t care about getting arrested. The next problem is the space in the trunk. Folding down the back seats allowed for more space, but the floor is not flat at all, so fitting things in is still a bit of a fuss. Coinciding with the pricing issue is the amount of accessories and options to choose from to make it your Mini. If you head to a dealership looking for your Mini, you are not going to find it, so you will have to wait for it after you add in customizations. The wait is not long. Just, you know, a few months. The worse part of all is actually the impracticality of driving this car for a long period of time. The seats might be comfortable initially, but they just lack that something to make you relaxed over a long journey.

The Mini Cooper is a great car, but I just wish it was more of a daily car that I can have fun in, and not a fun car that I have to deal with daily.

Straight from the Mini USA website

by Xavier Poon

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