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Jul. 7th, 2005 @ 10:58 am Since stealthe requested my thoughts on the MINI
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The following comments about MINIs are based on my own Indy Blue 2003 MINI Cooper(not S) in the 5 speed manual transmission with the Sport(traction control, run-flat tires, and rear spoiler), Premium(dual pane sunroof, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel), and the Cold Weather(heated seats, heated side mirrors) packages. I also have the MINI iPod connectivity kit for listening to tunes on the road.


Good:
Handling - Granted I haven't driven many true sports cars(though I have driven many of the high performance sport sedans), but the MINI certainly corners as well as any of them. This is due to the use of a modified BMW 3 series chassis(though I'm told that future model year MINIs will not feature this chassis).
Gas mileage - I get 30+ miles to the gallon, though the car does run on Premium. I'm told that the S version(with the supercharger) gets about 4-5mpg less.
German engineering - The car has a very solid construction(I got rearended by a Neon and basically ended up with just a bit of body damage while the Neon got totalled). It's a fairly heavy car for the size, which shows off that it's not a plastic car like many of the others on the market. There's lots of little neat ideas in the car that make for a more pleasant experience. Lots of little touches like keyfob opening the sunroof, auto volume adjusting with the speed of the car to compensate for engine noise, steering wheel controls all contribute to a fun ride.
Space - It seems like a small car, but it's actually fairly roomy inside. I'm not a small guy by any means(6'1"), and there's plenty of headroom for me. The backseat's small, and requires some negotiation between the front and the rear passengers, but it's doable. Plus since the top of the car goes straight back, the people in the rear actually do have a fair bit of headroom even if they don't have legroom. The rear seats can be folded down, so you've got the cargo room of a midsized sedan(I can fit a full size DDR pad flat in the back).
Warranty - The warranty covers all of the service for the car while under it. Oil changes, repairs and such are all free as long as you take the car to the MINI dealership. Oil changes do occur at about 10k miles which struck me as odd, but the car uses synthetic oil which lasts much longer.
Parking - It's easy to find parking spots since it's a small car, though oftentimes it can get hidden behind a hugeass SUV.

Bad:
Engine power - I don't have the S version, and it definately underpowered. The manual transmission helps to use it more, but the automatic is a CVT, so that might not be too much of a difference. The supercharger adds about 50% more horsepower
Price - When it bought it, it was a popular enough car that there wasn't much in the way of negotiation about price. I'm not sure how it is now, but from what I've been hearing BMW has been limiting production to prevent the rapid price drops that hit the new Beetle from occuring with the MINI.

Options:
Sunroof - The dual pane sunroof is absolutely awesome. It covers almost the entire top of the car, plus with windows all around, it almost feels almost as open to the outside world as a convertible. Definatley worth getting.
iPod connectivity - There may be some better options for various cars on the market now, but the MINI was one of the first to have a connector that emulates a CD changer. My iPod is stowed away nicely in the glove compartment, when I start the car, it resumes from when I stopped it. Plus I can use the steering wheel controls to change songs, adjust volume, and such on the iPod. Very much worth it if you're an iPod fanatic.
Run flat tires - Never used them, but it is nice to know that if I'm getting shot at in a high speed car chase that my tires won't blow out under me.
Traction control - Think ABS for engine power. It auto-limits power to your wheels to keep your tires attached to the road. Gives you the ability to push the car hard in a safe fashion. Plus there's a very convenient toggle for it so if you want to skid out of control, it's available at your fingertips.
Heated seats - Teh hawtness. I never thought they would be that nice, but now I don't think I'd buy another car without them.

Overall, I love my car. It's nice to have a distinctive car that sets itself apart from the crowd. While the engine performance leaves a bit to be desired, the cornering is fantastic and is a joy to drive on those twisty back roads. The creature comforts in the car are a bit nicer than what one can find on a Civic or the like, but aren't quite as top tier as true luxury car. The interior design of the car takes a bit of getting used to, as it attempts to defy many of the popular conventions(that don't necessarily have a good reason for existing) with their own twist on things. There's a very passionate following of people who own MINIs, and we always wind up waving to each other when we pass each other on the road. If I were to do it all over again, I'd probably wind up getting much the same car(though likely the S version). As it stands now, there's the huge temptation to join the dark side of ricing to eek out more performance.
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MINI!
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From:mistycaldwell
Date:July 7th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
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aaah, no ricing the mini!

Actually, what most people (myself included) refer to when we say rice boy, is someone who works on the way their car works...not performs. You know...slap an R-type sticker on a Ford Tempo, drill a non-funtional wing on a front wheel drive car...put one of those ridiculous fart making sounds on the tail pipe...oh forgot how they stick fake dual exhaust pipes on the back.

Your mini is already classy. It's not like the rice cars. They put whip cream on a pile of crap and call it ice cream. If you worked on actual engine enhancements...I don't think there is anyone who could disrepect that.

BTW, LOVE your icon.
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From:bogosort
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
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Well I did say the dark side of ricing, where one goes for actual performance rather than being loud and obnoxious(though those Type R stickers and racing stripes clearly make the car go faster). Problem is that I have no idea how to begin to do so, or even what tools are involved in installing said parts. Funny that I've got no problem with taking apart the electronic portions and fiddling with those(I installed the iPod stuff myself), but once it comes to the actual mechanical parts, I don't touch them.

I made the icon last night instead of writing the post. Else stealthe would've gotten the comments quicker... ;)
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From:bakasan
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
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I have a buddy in Houston who autocrosses his Mini actually. He literally just sent me pics of the new wheels and tires he put on his car, coupled along w/ some various suspension mods to make the twisties even more fun.

I'll have to bug him for URLs for the pics again.
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From:bakasan
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC)
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Some pics...

http://www.chenhaus.com/crap/images/DSC01966.JPG
http://www.chenhaus.com/crap/images/DSC01970.JPG
http://www.chenhaus.com/crap/images/DSC01971.JPG

I could put you in contact with him too.. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to advice you on any mods you might want to do. He's a fairly accomplished wrench and I don't doubt that he would know the ins and outs of the Mini's mechanicals down to a T by now. (he's a mech e, his other car is a engine swapped 240 that he did the work on himself)
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From:bogosort
Date:July 8th, 2005 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Huh, cool stuff. I do like the look of what he's done there. It's be awesome if you could put me in touch with him. I think there's enough guides on the net about how to do most mods(and people seem to say that instructions that come with them tend to do allright). But it's always good to have some solid advice from people with experience when figuring out what brands to buy rather than a bunch of forum junkies.
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From:mistycaldwell
Date:July 7th, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC)
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I meant the way their car Looks . Arg...no edit button for the comments!
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From:koopiskeva
Date:July 7th, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC)
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You can add performance without 'ricing' a vehicle. Ricing a car usually means adding cheap looking or overly flashy add-ons to a vehicle. With enough research/time/labor/money, I'm pretty sure you can add a good amount of performance to your mini. It is a premium small car to begin with so, I'm sure you won't have any trouble finiding premium performance parts. The problem is whether you think it's worth it to do so. I'm thinking about doing some cool stuff to my car too, nothing ricey though. Making it classy, and near-stock looking is one of the main goals. : ]
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From:bogosort
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I do know of many places to buy said parts, but do they generally come with instruction manuals for how to install them? And what about part compatibility? Presumably some parts would preclude from installing other ones. Plus there's the attempt to get the most bang for one's buck. And I have no idea where to begin.
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From:koopiskeva
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:49 pm (UTC)
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This is where having car-friends comes in. OR if that option isn't available to you, I suggest joining an online community dedicated to the mini cooper. There should be plenty around, and since it is fairly a new car in the American market, there should be a few sites deidicated for the domestic version. Depending on the community, there should be plenty of info to answer your questions about compatibility as well as getting the best upgrades for your car. I'm sure there are many like you out there that have modified their minis in some way and would be glad to share with you what they have done, as well as giving you the pros and cons of each type of modification. Good luck!

PS - Here's a forum I found just by doing a quick googling

http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/

Seems to be a good place to start. : ]
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From:koopiskeva
Date:July 7th, 2005 06:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and about the installation of upgrades, many people put up their own step-by-step instructions of how to install certain things (be it intakes, transmission coolers, etc.), you just have to find them really, not to mention having the guts to open up yer car/having the tools to do so. However, if you're uncomfortable in installing the products yourself, you can always look around for auto-shops that will install them for you, though many people recommend that you install these yourself if you can and have the time not only because of the money you'll save, but you're also more likely to take more care when installing these things.
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From:bogosort
Date:July 7th, 2005 11:12 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, such forums have tons of information, and I've used them for my own interior comfort items. Taking things apart is a great way to learn how they work, and I've been meaning to learn more about cars. The question is more of which upgrades are more worth doing, since there's a lot of different ways to get similar benefits.

Though lots of my thoughts on tinkering with cars lately surface from me just now driving out of my car's warranty.
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From:mkincaid
Date:July 8th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)
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Excellent! As I'll be in the market for a new ride in the near future it's given me some things to think about.
From:thebeeth
Date:July 8th, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
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"It's nice to have a distinctive car that sets itself apart from the crowd"

lol. mmmm...no.