are genetically predisposed to adore the MINI.
assure that babies would be cooed over and cared for humankind was hard-wired
to find small critters with proportionally overlarge eyes (and head) appealing.
The MINI design takes that predisposition into consideration. Thus you are, by
nature, prone to cooing and caring. (You will not be alone.)
are intellectually destined to admire the MINI.
the builders, have packed into this cute thing an extraordinary assemblage of
engineering innovation. Thus as you coo you will also be impressed. Furthermore,
a higher percentage of interior area is covered by airbags than in any other vehicle.
Safety features abound. You will feel cared for as well.
are kinesthetically susceptible to the feel of the MINI.
operates the car from a driving environment that warms the senses with tactile
and visual pleasures. The instruments and controls are pleasingly placed feeling
good to the hand and look "right" to the eye. Underway, the car clings
to the twistiest roads with a bulldog puppy tenacity delivering a pleasant sensation
to the motion sensors in the brain and body. Steering input gets that instant
and desired response drivers have learned to expect of a BMW product. And the
brakes snug the car to a stop with admirable assurance even on pavement awash
with a deluge.
short (and by the way the MINI is the shortest car on the US market) this is one
well-rounded serious-but-fun little driving package that is also easy to park
and merely sips at the pump. (Expected highway mileage: 38 mpg.)
about that "little:" as small as the MINI is, it carries big. Seat four
full-grown passengers within, tuck a reasonable allotment of stuff in the trunk
and storage spaces and listen to the chorus of "There's more space here than
I thought possible!"
you may also hear some negative comments: "This is not what I call a smooth
ride." It is not.
a vehicle is designed to stick to the road with the degree of adhesion exhibited
by the MINI the vagaries and variations of that road are usually translated to
the people inside. Serious drivers tend to like that because they are in charge
of controlling the car and prefer as much information as possible about the surface
on which they maneuver. Professional passengers, especially those used to the
billowy softness of large Detroit iron, usually prefer being isolated from the
exterior world. Simple: We'll take the MINI and have fun and let Uncle Clyde float
the others in his old Buick Roadmaster.
MINI has a predecessor, the extremely popular Austin and Morris Minis first produced
by the British Motor Corporation beginning in 1959. Anyone in England in the Happening
'60s might well wonder what Brits drove before the Mini appeared. They were scuttling
about everywhere. Rock stars drove them; royalty drove them; racing drivers drove
them. More Brits earned their driver's license in a Mini than in any other car
small but intense following developed in the US. No more than 10,000 were ever
sold in the states for several reasons, one being that truly small cars have never
done well in the vastness of US highways. (The new MINI is one-third larger in
size than the original cars.) And then with the stiffening of US safety regulations
the mini Mini could not meet the requirements for distance between driver's head
and the windshield. Technically, no more Minis came to America, but in reality
avid collectors found a way. A network of Mini owners clubs web the country. It
is said that more Minis are now in the US than were ever sold here.
do Mini enthusiasts view the new MINI?
general, very well. They seem to accept the BMW notion that this is not a retro
Mini, but a car that merely fills in the lost years of world production and projects
a design into the future that would have quite possibly developed naturally from
the Alec Issigonis-designed Mini of old.
or not, the Mini, as a car, was known some 14 months ago to only 2% of the American
market, according to company surveys. For the new MINI (all caps please) the company
launched a bright, sassy, spirited, colorful campaign to familiarize Americans
with this fun-loving newcomer leading up to a celebration on March 22 when cars
first reached the specially selected and limited-in-number dealerships (70.)
let's straighten out some possible confusion. I keep saying MINI, but the mere
"MINI" will not come to the US at all; only its more powerful siblings
the MINI Cooper (115 horsepower) and MINI Cooper S (163 horsepower) will be available
in the states. The Cooper S follows the MINI Cooper by a few months.
base price for the Cooper is $16,850 and for the S $19,850. Add-ons include the
obligatory $550 destination charge and several optional packages (two at $1250
and one at $500 each) can boost the price for the "gimme everything"
buyer into the near $25,000 area for the Cooper S. But this is not a start basic
and pack-on-the-price sort of deal. For one thing, though the packages are an
overall saving a buyer is not beholden to take everything that's packaged. In
other words dinner is the best value but ala carte is available.
high-end features are standard, such as the all-around disc brakes with ABS, five-speed
manual transmission, flat tire monitoring system and run-flat tires, a drive-by-wire
(i.e. non-mechanical) connection between the accelerator pedal and the engine
and an extensive safety system including six airbags with special head-protection.
The standard sound system is a six-speaker affair with in-dash CD.
option packages for the MINI Cooper are three: Premium, Sport and Cold Weather
costing $1250 each for the first two and $500 for the last. Among the offerings:
a sunroof, sport seats, stability control and heated seats along with other features.
extra-cost options include a special automatic transmission. This is the CVT for
"continuously variable" transmission that offers stepless gear changes
without the power drain of regular automatics. Leather seating is available as
is a navigation system.
choices abound along with contrasting roof colors (or flag designs) and choices
in wheel style and color. This highly personal MINI can be highly personalized.
cars, other than the MINI, simply do not come with such posh amenities and options,
but BMW is determined to create a new market segment - the luxury small car. And
they have somehow pulled it off without sticking a gun in the buyer's ribs. Essential
to the task is the availability to the new English-based MINI endeavor the considerable
technological resources of the Bavarian-based BMW headquarters. It's as if Daddy
has sent an independent child off to a distant city to make it on her own, but
with a prepaid cell phone and a credit card.
the previous owner of no fewer than three of the original Minis I had more than
the usual interest in the 2002 reincarnation. My verdict: It is commendable how
Frank Stephenson, the designer, has caught the essence of the Mini and interpreted
it for a new time, a new driver pool. It is as saucy as ever, perhaps even more
fun to drive (with improved road-holding abilities) and certainly much safer and
fun rules the day. They could rightfully add an amusement tax.
MINI development team has been inspired by the past but not limited by it. The
new MINI is well-conceived, well-executed and well-priced. It is the neatest automotive
package you're apt to find, certainly in its price range.
(there is always that "but.") Disappointment is waiting for no few of
those who would love to have a MINI "right now" and who even have the
money in hand. An eager demand has already prompted the devotion of more production
facilities to build more MINIs but - expect it - there will be lists at the dealerships.
in there; the MINI Cooper and the MINI Cooper S are worth waiting for.