June 16, 2008
It took a while to engineer a comfy seating position as I settled into the Mini this weekend. The problem concerned the location of the seat-adjustment lever. I wanted to tweak the angle of the seatback. The lever that manages this task is located not to the left of the seat, but to its right, buried in a deep, dark abyss next to the parking brake; I felt like I needed a searchlight and an anchor sling to access it. Making things worse is the fact that it's hard to fine-tune the seatback's slope, since the lever's adjustments are made in fairly large increments...Of course, once that fiasco was behind me, the Mini was fun to pilot. Pile in, turn it on and go.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 16,945 miles
May 27, 2008
Mr. Kavanagh isn't the only staffer who made a pilgrimage to Sequoia National Park over the long weekend. With a friend in town and the long-term Mini at our disposal, we headed for the selfsame hills, largely in hopes of finding one of those hollowed-out trees that you can drive through. No dice on that front, unfortunately, but we did walk around the biggest tree in the world (39.5 feet in diameter!) and saw a bunch more that weren't much smaller. It's a truly Brobdingnagian landscape -- you can't really conceive of how large these trees are until you've seen them in person.
There's another picture after the jump (gotta give a grateful shout-out to Austin, the aforementioned friend, for helping me stitch it together), but first let's talk about the second half of this post's title: Why wouldn't I buy a Mini like ours?
Two reasons: (1) harsh ride, and (2) demonic torque steer. Brian has already addressed (1) by advising prospective buyers to forgo the optional sport package (which includes upsized 17-inch tires) and sport suspension -- anathema on a BMW 3 Series, for example, but sensible here given our Mini's buckboard-grade ride quality. However, I'm afraid (2) is just part of the car's DNA. For whatever reason the Mini's engineers apparently thought torque steer was cool (unlike the Mazdaspeed3's engineers, for example). It's definitely not cool when I'm powering through a lefthand corner and the wheel's trying to tug me into oncoming traffic.
April 21, 2008
Various California Central Coast wineries were the destination for the 2007 Mini Cooper S over the weekend. As I'd expected, driving the Mini on all the back roads between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo was a bigger treat than tasting various pinot noirs. As previously reported, any curvy road is fun with a Mini. However, roads with tighter, lower-speed turns show off the car's personality to best effect... Higher-speed stuff can still be entertaining, but brutal acceleration is not within the car's repertoire, at least not in stock form.
Even though my traveling companion, Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla, and I drove crazy enough to make each other carsick, the Cooper S still returned 29.5 mpg over 600 miles. One thing I noticed was that the ride quality was a little better on the roads we drove (considerable time on I-5, CA Highway 33 and U.S. 101) than it was on the roads I took to Arizona (I-15 and I-40). In addition, the cloth seats never got uncomfortable during 3-to-4-hour stints. Cargo space was perfectly adequate for three days of travel, even though we both purchased wine along the way.
April 16, 2008
I had the Mini Cooper S this past weekend (I didn't notice the A/C stink) and I once again realized the vast improvements made to this car over the original new Mini. In fact, I'd venture to say that this one went down in only three areas: center stack ergonomics, styling and steering. Even the last one is a mixed reaction since the two-mode electric set-up is far friendlier in parking situations.
My girlfriend owned a 2005 Mini Cooper S and I subsequently logged quite a few miles behind the wheel in it -- including the same route I took this week to Moorpark, Calif... Over the craptacular pavement that covers the journey, the old Mini's ride was punishing and its seats would make my lower back numb. New Mini's seating position is much better (thank you telescoping wheel), the seats are far more comfortable and the ride is much friendlier -- although certainly on the firm side.
The best improvement, though, is build quality. Every interior trim panel on the last-generation Mini seemed to rattle and shake like crazy over the slightest imperfection. The blue dash panel on my GF's Mini would squeak so much, I would press down on it to prevent myself from going bonkers. This was virtually from the beginning of ownership. The new one after 13,000 miles? Nothing, absolutely quiet. Say what you will about the Playskool look of the dash, but they at least screwed it together well.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,692 miles
April 07, 2008
My esteemed colleague Mr Jordan extolled the virtues of our long-term Honda Fit's small wheels, and it reminded me of something that's bugged me about our 2007 Mini's wheels (and tires) for quite some time.
It goes beyond our Mini's flinty ride quality and the tires' susceptibility to damage.
It's the look. To me, the styling of the 2007 Mini just doesn't look right with all that wheel...
The New Mini needs sidewall to look right. Looky above--that original Mini has ten-inch wheels. And not only are the wheels on the early cars teeney tiny, but there's quite a bit of sidewall.
This is not to suggest that we need to go back to wheels that small. All I'm saying is the New Mini needs more sidewall. Like this:
March 19, 2008
Now, this may not apply to all drivers, but at my height and driving position, shifting the Mini Cooper S is a serious pain in the arm. (What'd you think I meant?)
Pictured above is the interior of the Mini Cooper. Please note the center armrest. Nice touch, right? Well yes, in the most basic "where-should-I-put-my-arm?" way, beyond that, however, it is the single most irritating piece of hardware in our long term fleet. What's not pictured is the asinine actions of this repulsive rest. The top of the unit is mounted on rails, sliding backwards to reveal a shallow storage space that's would be suitable for an iPod if not for its length. Anything thin enough to fit inside is going to slide back and forth --loudly-- at every stop and start. A ruler would fit. So would a small stack of mailing envelopes. Nothing else.
But useless I can deal with. What I can't deal with is the lid opening every singe time I shift gears. 1-2 opens the storage bin, 2-3 closes it. That's best-case scenario with my arm on the rest. With my arm off of the ledge it only opens on 1-2 shift. You'd think this was better, but you'd be wrong. What happens, see, is that on the next 3-4 gearchange my elbow drops into the storage bin just enough to smash my ulnar nerve (funny bone) against the opened lid!
Now you'd be right to ask, "well, Mike, why can't you just flip the thing back out of your way and be done with it?" Good question. Here's the answer: When the unit if flipped up, it rubs against my shoulder. Constantly. I can't live like that.
The final complaint is the noise. It squeaks if it's up, down, open, closed, bearing weight, not bearing weight-- ALL THE TIME!
"The squeak would stop if it was lying on the side of the 101" my brain said. And it was right, if this was my car the first thing I would do is tear out the armrest and beat the rear-view mirror (it's mounted too low for me) off with it and chuck them both in the trash. Then, when I finally fished the shards of broken glass and plastic from my skin, I could start to enjoy all of the things the Mini does well.
March 03, 2008
If I'm offered a car for the night, I usually pick from the available wheels based on vehicle size as I have to park on the crowded streets of West LA. So when I saw the Mini was open, I jumped at the chance.
This time my choice wasn't based on the fun factor or my neighborhood's parking situation, but rather for the fact I was going to cheer on friends at this Sunday's LA Marathon. There were predictions of crowds nearing the one million mark in downtown plus there was a Lakers game... Having a small car to navigate the chaos would be key.
So, thank you to my coworkers for not picking it before me!
I was able to navigate through the cluster, well, mess, with no problem. While waiting for my friends to run by at several locations along the course I overheard plenty of people talking about the problems of parking, traffic and crowds. With the diminutive dimensions of the Mini, I didn't have issues.
Thanks little buddy!
Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer
February 25, 2008
I've not spent a lot of quality time in our Mini Cooper so I opted to take it home for the weekend. I think my expectations were too high - the car is disappointing to me. I suspect the optional Sport Package is to blame.
On the freeway, the car darts around like a nesting sparrow and the ride is so bumpy that even normal conversation sounds as if both participants are pounding their chests...
If it were my money, I'd skip the $1,900 Sport Package (17in wheels, HID headlights, stability control) and the $500 sport suspension. Instead of paying close to $2,500 extra for a car I would dread driving, maybe I could save some money by paying a neighbor $100 to slap me around a little.
I could also do without the faux carbon fiber trim. It looks OK but seems very flimsy when you start poking around - makes a similarly priced Malibu seem luxurious by comparison.
On the plus side - my wife managed to get quite a bit of birthday party junk in the cargo area (rear seats folded down) including a small kiddy slide and a tricycle. The tall roof is another bonus. Installing a rear baby seat is easier than in many other small cars with only a fraction of the Mini's character - not that it's going to come up for most Mini owners.
Finally, If you're looking to buy one of these, get the S. This thing goes like stink and the six speed manual's gear spacing is nearly perfect.
Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 11,970 miles.
January 24, 2008
For those curious, total mileage for my LA-Flagstaff-Vegas-LA trip in the 2007 Mini Cooper S was 1,236 miles. The car consumed 42.143 gallons of 91 octane, and average fuel economy was 29.3 mpg.
As you might be able to tell from the photo, I stopped off at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon while en route to Vegas. It was my first time there, and although I was appropriately awed, it was tough to find a clear spot to document the Mini's first trip to the Grand Canyon. I guess I was missing the point. But it was only 30 degrees outside, which is a little cold for a hike on-foot.
The Mini's seats turned out to be a little thin for long-distance driving, and at times, my back felt a little sore... though I'm not convinced stress wasn't a factor in this instance. However, the driving position is excellent, and this really adds to the enjoyment of driving the car. I also liked the double sunvisors, and the side visor in particular made it much more pleasant to drive through the desert.
January 21, 2008
I'm about two-thirds of the way through my Mini road trip, which includes a stop in Vegas in addition to Flagstaff, AZ. Time constraints have necessitated more time on the interstate (and less time on back roads) than I'd like, but I'm hoping to squeeze in a run through the Valley of Fire before it's over.
In the meantime, I've found new ways to enjoy our 2007 Mini Cooper S. The turbocharged engine was energized by the cold mountain air and didn't seem to lose a bit of stamina during the climb to 7,000 feet. As you'd imagine, I, too, was energized and I drove accordingly. Yet, the car still returned respectable fuel economy -- I got 27 mpg during my most, well, enthusiastic stint behind the wheel (totaling 346 miles) and 31 mpg during a more frugal 332-mile period. Our Cooper S also hit the 10K mark as you can see.
January 10, 2008
When I got into the Mini last night, the gas gauge had 3 of the 10 lights illuminated. Now, if it had a total of 8 lights, I would know that 2 lit meant I had a quarter of a tank of gas. But 3/10? OK, so I've got a little room, I thought...
But after driving about a block, the fuel warning light came on.
Now, I'm always getting on some editors for bringing cars back with empty gas tanks. But I can't really blame anyone for not realizing that three lines on the Mini's cute little gauge meant it was near empty.
January 08, 2008
When learning how to drive stick, I recall viewing an upcoming hill -- and the subsequent stop -- as if 10,000 frothy-mouthed huns were rampaging towards me. To prevent rolling back, I'd usually rev the hell out of the engine and wait with nostrils primed for the aroma of smoking clutch. Sometimes I'd resort to the old e-brake pull, which is what I witnessed drivers routinely doing on the damp, cobblestone streets of Edinburgh.
Today, I don't have that problem, but starting a manual-equipped car on a hill is still hardly a treat. Except of course in our Mini Cooper S and other cars equipped with Hill Assist (I recall Subaru being the first to offer it, but I could be wrong)...
With the clutch in and the car in gear, the Mini automatically locks the brakes for a few seconds until the car starts forward. It basically gives you a third leg and every car with a manual transmission should have one. New and Scotish drivers would certainly appreciate it.
James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 9,259 miles
January 02, 2008
OK, so it seems no one in my family likes to be a passenger in our 2007 Mini Cooper S. My brother rode shotgun with me for the trip up north to Sacramento and then back to L.A. and complained about the Mini's stiff ride the entire time. Actually, he's a complainer so it was really annoying, not only did he suffer but I suffered, too... But when we were in Lane #1 on the I-5 going south, we felt every imperfection of the road. Lane #1 on this highway is kinda beat up, I'm assuming because it's the most traveled by the semis, so it had lots of cracks and holes. My brother whined so much that I switched over to the "fast lane" most of the time; something I hate to do especially if there are faster cars behind me and I feel it makes me more of a cop magnet there.
My brother also complained when I took turns too fast or when I floored the accelerator. He felt that the Mini was "out of control." So my fun in the Mini was somewhat spoiled as I had to be extra aware of my ultrasensitive passenger. I even tried to shift ever so carefully so that he wouldn't feel the transition from 1st to 2nd gear.
After this experience, it made me think that maybe the Mini S is more of a lone wolf's car. If you have friends and family you have to haul around, ferget it.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 9,136 miles
December 25, 2007
I just realized how selfish I was in taking our 2007 Mini Cooper S as my road trip car for the holidays in Northern California. Usually when I visit my folks, we end up taking a trip to San Francisco to visit even more family or to Monterey for fun. But this time, when I brought up the idea of going somewhere in the Mini, even to the mall that's 8 miles away, my parents would have none of it. I thought it was because they figured they wouldn't fit back there but my mom said it was because she didn't feel safe in the small car...
I told her about the Mini's crash test ratings and its safety features but that didn't really make her feel better about it.
So no extra road trips this holiday.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
November 01, 2007
Last night a friend and I were heading over to a Halloween party clear across town in Downtown L.A. While we were sitting in the 2007 Mini Cooper S during post rush-hour traffic, out of the blue she blurts out, "Why is the speedometer so huge?" What's funny is that I never really considered that before as I just shrugged it off as a Mini quirk.
But why is it so huge? It's not like it contains a lot of additional gauges. "It's almost pie-size," she continued. "It's just weird for a small car like the Mini to have this one big pie-plate thing in it." "Yeah, I dunno," was all I could think to say.
Later I asked one of the editors, John DiPietro, if he knew the answer. He said that it was just another retro feature but then ran to his computer to see if he could find any information about it online. Here's what he came up with: "It seems that the modern Mini (greatly) exaggerates a styling cue of the original -- the central-mounted speedo."
September 13, 2007
Regarding '07 changes in the Mini, something I couldn't help but notice in our 2007 Mini Cooper S is that ridge on the gearshift ball. I hate it. It digs into my hand when I shift. I tried grasping under the ridge but that just feels too awkward...
Why did they put that ridge in? I would think they'd want the driver to feel comfortable. As it is, it feels like it's hitting my pressure points in a bad way. And now my pleasure in shifting the Mini has diminished somewhat.
But in all fairness when I asked another editor about whether he noticed it, too. He said he didn't. But now that I brought it to his attention, it bugs him as well. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have blogged about it.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
August 23, 2007
When I read the early reports on the Mini Cooper redesign, I got worried. Mini designers had to raise the hood height to comply with European pedestrian safety standards, and this necessitated a rise in the car's overall beltline to provide a uniform appearance. Raise the beltline, of course, and you get a smaller glass area -- and I feared this would diminish the superb visbility and accompanying sense of driver empowerment that I found so endearing about the "old" new Mini...
After several drives in our long-term 2007 Mini Cooper S, I don't worry about this anymore. Somehow, even with less glass, the driving position is better than ever. I can see everywhere I need to, and I feel perfectly at ease: My arms and hands are just where I want them to be in relation to the steering wheel and shifter. My legs and feet are just where I want them to be in relation to the pedals. It's a great feeling -- and to me, this is worth $25K.
Erin Riches, Senior Content Editor @ 2,962 miles