Recently I got a little knock in the rear of my ‘01 Miata a few weeks ago. Today I finally took it to a local shop to have it taken care of. The rental that I have is a Mini Cooper, the little thing that BMW is selling these days. It generally follows the small on the outside, big on the inside formula from the real one built in the past by proper Brits. From the drivers seat the visibility is good for what it is. The car does indeed ship with seats in the back, though theres not a whole lot of leg room back there. Generally it’s a box, and it does that well. When it comes to motion some zip can be called upon to do things like passing. So all in all I can see why so many love there copy, it’s not bad given the sea of mediocrity that it was born into.
Despite understanding the car, I hate it, it just does not work for me. The seats are not comfortable, the whole sitting position is odd. The copy I have is an automatic so this likely plays in to the lag while I wait for the car to go: foot down, one, two, then something happens. The breaks are the same, there is no stopping power for the first half of the pedal travel. You get resistance like something should be happening but you have to keep pushing thru to pull the car to a stop. If this was some little American econobox, I would get the disconnect. If this was a boat sized sedan with an eye to fine leather over handling. I would get the disconnect. But this little thing sold as a spunky little car to get around in. Built by the same company with the tag line ‘ultimate driving machine’, they know what they are doing. Though sadly this whole Mini exercise just feels like an attempt to make a small ‘cheapish’ car, with just enough adrenalin to build expectation, with cute/kitch looks and in the end no soul. It’s your generic hipster stereotype: all looks and posturing but no real substance.
Yes it’s not really a fair comparison some base line automatic that has sold far more copies then my little miata. My car I have worked over to make it mine, the rental has put one the miles faithfully for any one who comes calling. The whole exercise of a rental makes me twitchy, it’s a vehicle that is hoist upon you by circumstance. It’s not like I really wanted this thing anyway, it just happened to be the least bad of the options on the lot. The rental market is just not going to really invest in what I would call a good car to substitute for what I already have.
So the question, how should I view this car? It’s obviously not a drop in replacement, and I need to stop expecting it to be. Sure I could look at this as an extended test drive and really explore the car. I could be very pragmatic and just decide that it’s not my car, I just don’t care about the candy interior and the sad attempt of a driving experience. Pay for the extra insurance and beat the crap out of this thing. Or I could look at it as a sad reminder that the auto industry has moved on from being a purely engineering exercise. The things that I hate about this Mini is that it is not as responsive as my 2001 miata. And in turn, the things that I hate about my current miata is that it was not as simple as my 1997 miata. And as a baseline none of these cars have the simple practicality of the 1971 Super Beetle that I drove in High School.
Times change, expectations shift. I just can’t wait to get my car back.