In L.A., some cars are ubiquitous: the Toyota Prius, the BMW 3 Series, Porsche Panamera, and the MINI Cooper can be found in any neighborhood at any time.
While each car says something about it’s owner – Prius: Environmentalist, BMW: First luxury car, Porsche: You’ve made it – it’s the MINI that transcends all socio-economic boundaries.
Truly, you can drive one anywhere – dinner, a pitch meeting and feel like you can valet — and you can do have this feeling of automotive well-being, if optioned right, for well under 25K.
The MINI is the only all-new for 2014 model of the bunch and, for its third generation, has gone though a top to bottom redo – adding some 4.5 inches in length, 1.7 inches in width, a sparkling new interior and a slew of tech and engine options, including a pretty swell little three-cylinder turbocharged engine and new dashboard instrumentation – all the while keeping the heritage look and feel that people love about the car.
“People treat their MINI like a friend and when they talk about the car, it’s like they are talking about family member,” said Pat McKenna MINI’s head of product planning for the USA.
When asked why he thinks the car resonates and sells so well with the SoCal market, McKenna replied, “LA has such a great history of custom car culture and one of the reasons why I think the car took off in LA is the fact you can really customize it. Porsche is the only other car company with such a large list of options. With the MINI, you can create and build over 10mm custom combinations.”
“It’s not too serious,” adds Annette Baumeister, Head of Color and Trim, MINI DESIGN, “with MINI, it’s about being a combination of both heritage and innovation. The new design is much cleaner and lot sportier with a mix of gloss and matte highlights and a few neat features, like the secret dash compartment and a start-stop button that breathes and pulses. With the MINI, we set out to redefine what a small but premium car means.”
The new MINI does retain a lot of its historic hallmarks and if you look close at the radiator grille, the side scuttle and interior instrument center stack, as well as its open greenhouse and roofline, you’ll see a lot of through line to the past. The design seems very familiar, yet, all new.
Also, in a very LA move, it’s one of the few cars that is almost all vegan – with both leatherette and recycled fabric options, you can have the dealer remove the leather wrap on the steering wheel and off to Café Gratitude you can go.
So, how does it drive? We drove both the standard $19,950 and the $23,600 Cooper S (“S” for sport, which, more importantly, means racing stripes). While we really liked the way the 189-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Cooper S drove, we found the base Cooper, with its not-so-turbocharged engine just fine for scooting around town. Also, you can’t argue with the gas mileage, with both the Cooper and Cooper S achieving hybrid-like MPGs: 30/42 for the Cooper and 28/40 for the Cooper S.
The new MINI may be larger, wider and more luxurious – all big wins for the consumer – but it retains the same oddball charm of the original 1960s models, which keeps the owners coming back for more. “Owners are a big part of our world and we like to say that the MINI is the only car that comes standard with friends.”
Fun, practical and environmentally conscious … Maybe we should all try to be a little more like the MINI.