Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I so want to love this car

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately - I have been insanely busy and may post about that later. I've just done something people lined up around the block to see! And it took a lot of my time.

What I want to talk about now, though, is my Mini Cooper.

I posted about buying this car a little while ago and was really excited about it. I waited for months for it to be built just the way my wife and I wanted it - green with white stripes and roof, 16" wheels, sunroof, upgraded stereo, all the tech options, and a manual transmission. My first stick shift since I was in college! I try to buy a stick every time I buy a car and somehow it never works out (we actually ordered our PT with a stick but they put an automatic in it by mistake), so I was really looking forward to getting the Mini - our first new car in 9 years, and a real driver's car.

So why can't I like it?

I loved our PT right from the start, although I admit that was a special case - the first new car I ever bought outright. But it also just "felt right", in that intangible way that some cars do. It was never fast, and never all that impressive to look at (though it was cute), but it just had a friendly vibe and felt like it was trying really hard to be liked. And I did like it, a lot. It was fun to drive and really useful and comfortable for me, which is almost impossible for any car with a guy of my height and lankiness.

The new Mini Cooper is superficially similar to the PT as a small cute car, but it's got all the details wrong - stuff you'd never notice on a test drive. For example, why do I have to click the "off" switch twice to really turn the car off? For that matter, why do I need to keep the key in my pocket - until I want to lock or unlock the doors from outside, that is? (This is a "convenience" feature that actually ends up being less convenient in practice.) Why does it keep randomly forgetting all my radio station presets? Why isn't there a CD player? Why doesn't it remember the driving mode I last left it in? Why is there a cheap piece of plastic above the side window bumping my head all the time instead of a standard swing-out front visor? Why don't the auto headlights ever turn off? Etc. etc.

And why is the interior so dour? You can get a "color line" that adds an accent color to the basic black, but I don't remember an option on the base Cooper for changing the entire interior color to something a little less like your own personal hearse. (Our base PT interior was a very light grey.) Mini black is really black, like your soul - not the charcoal many other car makers use.

Even my beloved manual transmission is giving me fits - the Cooper comes with a 6-speed, with reverse on the left, and it's extremely easy to put it in R by mistake when you were aiming for 1st. What moron designed this? The first day I took it out (and several times since), I slammed it into reverse by mistake and almost "front-ended" the guy behind me. How has every Mini on the road not been recalled for this? In a 5-speed, reverse is literally impossible to engage by mistake. Many other 6-speeds have reverse on the right side, which also makes it basically impossible to engage unless you mean to.

I admit that the car's not without its charms, but they're things that pretty much any car could do. Put it in "sport" mode (the only mode any self-respecting driver should ever use, and the mode I wish the car would default to), pop the sunroof and windows, and on an open road it can definitely be a thrilling experience to dart around in this little pocket rocket. But this isn't unique to the Mini - I could say the same about a Hyundai Veloster.

I guess the car's also just not really my style. Somehow the PT won me over (and quickly) despite this, but I've always been a big American sporty car kind of guy. My first car was a 1984 Firebird (though it was more bark than bite), and two of my next three were 1980 Camaros (purely coincidental, I assure you). The final choice this time was between the Mini and a 2014 Mustang, although my real desire is a Dodge Challenger. But, well, the base Challenger is crap and the upgraded models quickly reach the pricing stratosphere. My wife and I went with the Mini because it was a) pretty cheap with a lot of cool features, and b) easy to park in Manhattan. I won't say I regret that, because the current Mustang's lacking a lot of the Mini's tech features and the Challenger's still just too expensive (and big for Manhattan). But next time I will probably get something else.

I guess I should be happy that we have a short term lease.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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