Friday, October 11, 2013

Why the Mini Cooper is a Horrible, Horrible Car

So my Scion tC is in the shop and I have a Mini Cooper as a rental. I thought it would be fun, sporty, and have some good design features, so I was eager to try it out. I was so wrong. Here's my list of things I hate:

- No power. The Mini has a very poor power to weight ratio (translation: gutless engine, weighs a ton). This means the Mini has slow acceleration, is slow to pass, and feels like it's constantly struggling to move.

- Jerky transmission. The Mini transmission is a mess. In regular automatic mode, the car feels like a slow moving boat. Automatic sport model is tolerable, but kills your mileage because the engine revs past 4,000 rpm on each shift. This also makes for a noisy ride. In automatic manual mode, first gear maxes out a 7 mph and all the following gears have short ratios, so you feel like you're always searching for the right gear. It's like having 18 speeds on a tricycle - it just doesn't work.

- For the interior, they killed functionality to try to look cool. The entire interior is cheap plastic modeled in sharp, circular lines. This makes for an uncomfortable experience. For example, when I rest my left knee on the door (I'm 6'1"), I'm getting jabbed by the plastic cone around the speaker. It's a constant reminder that they didn't think through their design. I'm sure it will leave a bruise to compliment my back pain from the lack of lumbar support in the wooden seats.

- Bad climate control. Due to the lack of power, the A/C takes a long time to cool down the car (the A/C is powered by the gutless engine). The vents are another fail. The drivers side has two vents, one that blows normally and one that's pointed directly at the steering wheel and is essentially useless. Also, there's a big center vent that can't be shut off, so if you want to feel a cool or warm breeze in your face, you have to crank the fan to full blast and deal with the noise.

- Gauges and controls from Soviet Russia. The turn signal isn't like any other I've seen. When you press it down, it doesn't stay down, it just signals for a half a second and shuts off. To cancel a signal, you don't flip it up (like every other car you've ever driven), you have to push it down again a second time. It's counter-intuitive, which makes it a pain in the ass distraction. Same for the windshield wiper controls. Added bonus, the window and door lock controls are on the center console and you have two dashboards - a small, hard-to-see-one with a tachometer and a speedometer the size of a medium pizza in the middle of the car (just in case someone in the car behind you wants to watch your speed).

- Even the key fob is an awkward, lumpy, UFO shaped thing that doesn't fit well in your pocket. It's like they thought of everything, every possible way to make a car useless, and threw it all into one small, crappy box that will look very, very dated in another 3 - 5 years.

If you're considering a Mini, do yourself a big favor and get a Fiat 500 instead.