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
June 09, 2008
Over the weekend, I gave some thought to Kurt's last post, the one about our 2007 Mini Cooper S hatch's overstyled interior. And I do agree: Although materials quality and fit and finish are greatly improved over our long-ago departed '02 Cooper S, the cabin details are even more overdone.
Really, though, the entire car looks like a gimmick, thanks to the excessive fidelity to retro iconography. It's just that this happens to be the most fun-to-drive gimmick on the planet...
If I had it my way, the Mini would feel as raw and entertaining as it does now, but would look like the Volvo C30.
But obviously I don't have it my way. The Volvo likes to be led around by its nose. And the Mini? Almost the opposite. So I just need the right accessory to go with that big speedometer and those winged audio and climate controls. And over the weekend, I found it.
As an aside, the armchair mechanic in me wonders if there's some light wear to the 2nd gear synchro, as you sometimes get a "graunch" sound if you rush the 1-2 upshift. Also after 16K hard miles, the brakes don't feel new anymore and bite can be inconsistent during light efforts, sort of like it was in our '07 MX-5.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,577 miles
June 02, 2008
Styled. That's what the Mini's problem is. It's been styled to have all the retro cues that you can fit in a car this small. It's got a big (obnoxious) center mounted speedometer...
It's also got toggle switches (their coolness neutered by guards) and a retro-y font on the gauges. It incorporates the Mini's winged logo into the steering wheel as well as echoing that design in the climate control. It's got a huge old-timey looking gas pedal that was no doubt influenced by early cars which were influenced by planes. I imagine they would have styled in prohibition and mutton chops into the interior if they had more room.
The radio has been styled into uselessness in the most German of traditions; unlabeled buttons. Apparently, the buttons even have multiple uses. But I wouldn't know because I didn't bother to learn them. "But why didn't you just read the manual?" I can hear you cry. I'm sorry, but reading the manual for how to operate a radio is like having to read the manual on how to operate your toaster. If it was well designed to begin with, I wouldn't have to. But that's just it, it wasn't designed it was styled.
All of this seems a big stink to make about such a little thing. But in all honesty, if the car wasn't so good the silly interior wouldn't stand out as being so bad. I really like how it drives. It pulls hard, the steering is great and so are the brakes.
Let's look back then on the interior of an original Mini. To be specific, an Austin Mini Cooper S Mk II. Notice its distinct lack of styling and unnecessary details. Maybe Mini, or BMW or whoever, can style some of their styling out of the next Mini and let us focus on how good the car really is instead of spending time reading the manual to decipher the radio.
May 12, 2008
Remember when Donna reported that the Mini literally stinks? One of our readers guessed it was mold and after a waff of Mini stank a few weeks ago, that's certainly my guess as well. It's pretty disgusting and I'd much rather sit in a hot car that slowly die from mold spores being blown into my face. Anyway, before rushing to the dealer, we decided to take a holistic approach... I went to the garage, blocked the Mini in with another car, and then let her run for about 20 minutes with the heater on full blast.
I had the Mini this weekend and the stank has dissipated somewhat, but some still remains. I ran the heater again on my drive in (it got a little toasty), but we'll definitely have it checked out at the dealer. The problem with that, however, is Mini's service intervals are insanely long and we're not due for our first service for another 2,550 miles (according to the car).
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,220 miles
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 15, 2008
Haven't driven the Mini Cooper S in a while. Jumped in last night and the previous driver had left the A/C on full blast. I got hit in the face with a musty, stinky, yucky smell.
It was like "feet wrapped in leathery burnt bacon."
(If you get that pseudo-Star Wars reference you win a gold star.)
It took a good five minutes for it to clear up... Haven't smelled it since. I'm assuming because the A/C was used so much over the hot weekend, that condensation built up in the vents and got funky. Then it cleared itself out.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 13,800 miles
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.
February 11, 2008
The Cooper S is a performance car, right? Feisty turbocharged engine, sports car handling, blah, blah, blah.
So why isn't there a temp gauge in this thing?
I flicked through the trip computer's functions, thinking that maybe it was like recent BMW's where you access coolant temp info. via the trip computer. No dice. Then, not being too proud, I RTFM which simply states that "A warning lamp will come on if the coolant, and therefore the engine, becomes too hot." In other words, an idiot light. We can almost hear Napoleon Dynamite's reaction...
This is strange, because as you can see, the previous-generation Mini had one:
January 18, 2008
I try to imagine which features would still bother me after driving a car for a year. In our 2007 Mini Cooper S, it's the HVAC controls. They are small and poorly positioned and would always be difficult to operate, especially since this car is fast and twitchy. Try looking away from the road while navigating traffic and attempting to stab a small button that's poorly labeled...
It was cold this morning and I had to work the heat and fan buttons while driving. I couldn't tell at what level they were set so I knew how to get more heat and get it where I wanted it. So it was trial and error: burn-freeze-burn-freeze.
But nothing was as poorly positioned as the aux jack. The only way to locate it was by feel since it is on the roof of the storage compartment (see the wire in this photo). This is something you would never get used to since you would have to lie upside down in the car to see it.
It amazing how schizophrenic this car is. The driving experience couldn't be better. The interior couldn't be more illogical.
Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 9,646 miles
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.
December 10, 2007
Something that actually irks me about our 2007 Mini Cooper S is how it requires a light touch with almost everything. It seems that every time I flick the turn signal to get in the next lane I end up using too much force and actually activate it to go off longer than I mean for it to. So then I try to cancel it by flicking the turn signal the other way but that just manages to activate the signal the other way. By this time, I'm cursing at the turn signal stalk and the drivers behind me think I'm off my rocker... The other thing is where the reverse gear is placed. It's near 1st gear so there have been many times when I find myself in Reverse instead of moving forward. This past weekend when moving out of a turn, I thought I was in 1st gear but found that I was actually in 3rd. Oops! So when I tried to correct the situation and hurriedly shifted to 1st I ended up moving the shifter too far to the left and putting the car in Reverse. And the car actually started to reverse! Good thing there was no one behind me.
"Yeah, it needs a stiffer/heavier spring for the Reverse gate," said editor Jay Kavanagh when I complained about it to him. The thing is I remember having this same problem in our 2002 long-term Mini. I'm surprised they didn't fix that for this model.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,993 miles
December 04, 2007
Here's the bowl:
Where are the fish?
Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor @ 7,705 miles
November 28, 2007
Other quirks I just noticed about our 2007 Mini Cooper S? The dimmer switch located on the tachometer actually works by pressing it like a button, not twisting it like how it is in most cars I've been in. Mind you I was determined to figure out how to work this without reading the manual. So when you press and hold the skinny "button," the interior lights get brighter and pressing it briefly makes it dimmer... Hm. I like it. Also, the climate controls don't display actual temperature choices. If you want it cold, just dial up the blue section. Hot? Dial red. Who really needs to know the exact temperature anyway? Ah, Mini, why must you be so quirky? I love you anyway. XOXO Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,328 miles
November 07, 2007
I have to admit, one of the main reasons I wouldn't mind owning a Mini is so I could wake up to this face. It just makes me happy. Ahhh....
Aside from that, aspects of our 2007 Mini Cooper S seem to be configured to making my life pleasant... * Warning chime, whether I don't buckle up right away or have left the trunk hatch ajar, is a nice lilting ding-ding-ding instead of a high-pitched, frantic screech. * My purse is still reachable even when thrown in the backseat so I don't have to pull a muscle trying to get to it. * I'm positive that the Mini's cute proportions and appearance are why other L.A. drivers actually smile and wave me in when I want to merge in front of them. * Shifting gears in stop-and-go rush hour traffic is painless. I know I've complained about that uncomfortable gearshift knob, and the center-located window switches and speedometer are a tad annoying, and what's up with that torque steer....but look at that face! Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 6,383 miles
November 05, 2007
Seat heaters have got to be at the top of my list of favorite car features and I especially appreciate them in the cloth seats of our 2007 Mini Cooper S. They are so effective. There are three settings: Simmer, Roast and Scorch. But my buns could only really bear Simmer... Although starting at Scorch warms up the seat right away on a cold day, the soothing warmth quickly turns into something that resembles a broiling hot tub on a sizzling Arizona summer day. I wonder why they make it so hot. Perhaps so you can feel the heat through your ski pants and jeans and thermals?
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 6,351 miles
October 24, 2007
After driving our long-term Versa for a couple of days, slipping into the 2007 Mini Cooper S was like slipping into a warm bath on a cold day, like jumping into a pair of tailored, high-quality trousers after wearing ill-fitting jeans...I could go on. But shifting the Mini is soo easy and I don't know if it's because I learned how to drive stick on one or what.
Every shift was smooth, things snicked into place like buttuh. I found myself taking long detours during quick errands just so I could get more seat time... "I wonder if that restaurant is closed? It probably is since it's 10:30pm....but let's drive by it anyway." Also -- and I know our editor Scott Oldham hates it when we mention these sorts of things but tough noogies -- I think the Mini is really the only manual car in our long-term fleet where I feel comfortable enough to wear heels while driving it. I usually have to kick off my 4-inch heels whenever I drive stick. But in the Mini I think the pedals are high enough so that my high heels can hover over the floor. Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 5,922 miles
September 24, 2007
The customization aspect of the new Mini Cooper has always been one of the car's major strengths in my opinion. The range of features and styling choices for the car (Mini says there are 10,000,000 different permutations for the second-generation) remind me of the customization possible on Porsche's cars. The only problem is that adding a lot of cool stuff results in a not-so-mini price.
Building your own Mini can be good waste of a few minutes. Our long-term car comes pretty close to how I'd want mine if I were buying a Cooper S. But there are two missing features that I'd have to get.
Cruise control: Yep, doesn't come standard, and it's a drag not having it on our car. The Premium Package includes cruise/audio steering-wheel controls plus the double sunroof and automatic climate control. But if you only want cruise control, $1,400 is pretty steep. You can order the multifunction wheel separately for $330.
Get Rid Of The Dopey Speedometer: I wish this was an option, but it's not. The closest you can get is to order the $2,100 Navigation/Computer. But $2,100? Sheeh.
For that kind of cash, I'd really hope to get something more. A Buck Rogers Dr. Theopolis option, for instance. Not that would be worth $2,100.
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
September 07, 2007
I love the new Mini. The engine is superb, the seats no longer make my lower back go numb, and it's still an absolute hoot to drive. But the interior irks me. I think the design in terms of aesthetics is better than the old one (I'm actually OK with the center-mounted speedo), but look up "form over function" on Wikipedia and a picture of the Mini's center stack will be displayed along with some inaccurate information. Also, there are several basic features that should be standard, but aren't.
So let's play a little game I call complaint by numbers.
1) The volume knob is here. The radio controls are located at No. 2, about five inches away. How did this make sense to anybody? Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we had ordered the multifunction steering wheel, but we didn't. I've driven this car a lot, yet when going to turn up the volume I still reach for...
2) iDrive Jr. This little knob controls too many features, and trying to use the thing while the stiff suspension clips and clops over rough pavement is a delicate act that should only be attempted by tattoo artists. They should have fit more buttons into the huge speedometer space, killed iDrive Jr., and moved the volume knob where it belongs.
3) Oh cute, the manual HVAC controls are shaped like the Mini logo. Too bad they're ergonomically stupid. The most frequently adjusted functions (fan speed and temperature) are operated by thumb wheels that require a very awkward thumb movement to operate. The automatic climate control unit improves things somewhat.
4) Our Mini doesn't have cruise control. Yes, we didn't order it, but it's absolutely ridiculous that it isn't standard. It's also not a stand-alone option, you have to order it with the $1,400 Premium Package that includes the dual-pane sunroof, automatic climate control and multifunction steering wheel. Cruise is standard on the Honda Fit Sport and Nissan Versa SL. ****
5) At least we ordered heated seats for a car that will spend 93.4 percent of its life in Southern California. Go figure.
James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 3,736 miles