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Patch Drives: Why the MINI Cooper is Not Perfect, Yet Perfect, for This Mom

I'm shifting gears — and shifting into gear — in a two-seater. Because a mom can dream all kinds of movie-scene cool, right?

 

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series; Angela, a mom of four, is writing about her search for a replacement for her full-size van. So far she has driven a , a , a and a .

My 20th high school reunion is this August. Not to go all When Harry Met Sally on you, but I will be 40 ... someday.

Except my someday is only a couple years away. I still expect to see my 28-year-old self when I look in the mirror. And if I’m totally being honest, some days it’s more like my 15-year-old self.  

Some days I get overwhelmed with all this aging. Not because I can see every bad sunbathing decision in the form of a new wrinkle on my face. No. More because I feel like someone else should be in charge. Like someone else should be packing lunches, tucking kids into bed or explaining the special health video my fourth-grader is watching in school.

What the heck does all this have to do with a car? Everything. 

I never thought I would think about my life in car terms, but man, they really do tell a story. Maybe it’s an American thing. Maybe it’s a suburban sprawl thing. Maybe it’s an over-thinking writer thing. Whatever the case, cars get all wrapped up in our identities and emotions. 

Even for me: the non-car person.

Last week I got the chance to test drive a MINI Cooper. I know, I know: It's not at all a practical choice when writing about my quest to find a that carries around my family of six. But my editor, sensing I was needing a break from the car loop and the car seats and the baseball carpools, suggested I try out an "anti" mom-mobile.

“Can you drive a stick shift?” my editor asked. 

“It’s been 12 years," I told her, reluctantly.

"But maybe."

Back in the game

I arrived at the dealership, in Shelby Township, which oozed with sporty coolness. I was doing my thing, talking incessantly and nervously telling stories about how the only time I sat in a MINI Cooper was at a children’s museum. The salesperson had the utmost patience; he nodded and smiled.  

He walked me to the car, and I actually clapped. The car was so cool looking that before I even got in I gave it a standing ovation. (Is it any wonder why I think I might see a 15-year-old when I look in the mirror?)

After showing me some of the features and how-to’s, he took me for a spin around the lot. A fast spin. He gunned the gas. I was nervous. Nervous like it was 20 years ago and I was a teenager in a car with a boy going too fast.

Then it was my turn. I got in and feared I would stall, but I didn’t. In fact, I had no trouble at all. I was back in the game.

“Get in,” I told my editor.  

...and we were off

The windows were down, the sun was shining, the spoiler was up. Not to go all Thelma and Louise on you, but I felt like we should grab some smokes and hit the road of rebellion. I felt reckless. I felt young.

The car was smooth and sporty. The acceleration was exhilarating. The two-seater was small, but actually quite comfortable and roomy for the two of us.  There was a trunk the perfect size for a suitcase.  As we searched around the car noting details (plenty of room for a giant purse behind the driver's seat, and THREE cup holders placed conveniently between us), we found a Blondie CD in the glove compartment.  

We rapped along with Debbie Harry.

Flash is fast, Flash is cool
And you don’t stop, sure shot
Go out to the parking lot
And you get in your car and you drive real far...
 

We rapped and sang with the windows open until my editor reminded me that I was a mom with commitments back in reality land. 

The lowdown

Let’s see how the MINI Cooper measures up with my checklist:

  • Was there chemistry?  I am not in love with this car: I am infatuated with this car. It is like the cool guy in high school or college that I majorly crushed on but never dated. Or the dangerous guy that I did date and who broke my heart. Major chemistry. But a lasting relationship? The timing is all off.
  • Appearance? Flashy, fun and sporty.  The outside was rad with the spoiler, the inside was just as rad with leather seats and an oversized speedometer. It was so cool that as I sat in the car at the Starbucks parking lot (trying to find the reverse gear), a nice man poked his head in the window. “That’s a great looking car,” he said.
  • Lifestyle? In no way does this car fit my real lifestyle of a busy mom of four.  My wannabe lifestyle? You bet.  If you have a large family and enough extra income to have a fun car to tool around in on the weekends or to escape in every once in a while, this is the car for you. If you have two kids and want to get a version of the MINI Cooper that has a backseat, you should and I would be totally jealous.  If you have no kids and want a great ride? This is the car for you. 
  • Affordability? For this much coolness, I think $32,000 is very affordable.

Unless I get an impressive book deal or come into a major inheritance of some sort, I will not be able to get a car just for the weekends. But you better believe that in 14 years, when my youngest is able to drive himself places and my other kids are out on their own, I am totally getting a MINI Cooper two-seater and it will be a stick-shift.

For now, I will hold onto the fact that I can indeed get back in the game.  Not to go all Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion on you, but maybe I’ll rent a MINI Cooper this summer and show up all flash and fly for my 20th reunion.

Until then, I'm dreaming ...

Next week: Back to the assignment: I pledge to drive something with more than two seats. 

Angela shopped for her MINI Cooper at  in Shelby Township. It is located on Dequindre near Troy, Rochester Hills and Shelby Township. The dealership is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday and Thursday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.. To build your own Cooper or to check on the inventory at a dealer near you, visit www.miniusa.com

There are lots of opinions about the MINI Cooper; browse the blogs of what other auto writers have had to say. Also, visit autos.aol.com

Patch Drives is . The cars Youngblood chooses to test will be at her discretion and not affiliated with any advertising relationships.

Kristin Bull June 01, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Thanks for the feedback, Katie. Don't worry - this was just a short escape from reality for Angela. She'll be driving something that fits her busy mom lifestyle next week! :)
Scot Beaton June 03, 2012 at 10:21 PM
So a couple of years back our trusted Ford Explorer need to go into semiretirement  200,350 miles on it with out any problems... wish Ford would let me do a TV testimonial. We decided that all the politicians at the time were telling us gas was going to be 5 bucks it was time to shop for a more full efficient car. We went back to Ford but the sales person kind of treated us like blank... no enthusiasm did not even offer us any kind of test drive. Went to the Chevy dealer same treatment. I guess when you walk in the store and say sell me the most least expensive new car on the lot... I'll  pay cash... they don't give a crap about you. Then we went to the Shelby Mini store... it was like walking into car heaven. We gave them the same line (20 grand was our budget) and we were treated like gods. The first thing the salesperson said is give me your driver license made a copy of it... gave us a key a said take it for a spin. Pattie and I can drive a stick as we used to own a Jeep Wrangler. To be continued...
Scot Beaton June 03, 2012 at 10:24 PM
To make a long story short we fell in love with the car instantly... and that day they sold us the least expensive new car on the lot... it already had a few miles on it but was still considered a new car, and was just over 20 grand.  P.S. it's to bad Ford and Chevy customer satisfaction is still in the stone ages.
Daryl Patrishkoff June 04, 2012 at 09:51 AM
Angela, Welcome to the beginning of a "Mid Life Crisis", since I am in my later 50's I have enjoyed all of mine! They are not a negative thing, a way to escape for a moment from the ever increasing responsibilities and important to let you feel alive. They become destructive if they take over your life. I really enjoy reading your car reviews and found this one entertaining. I have been in the automotive engineering business since the early 70's and find your comments and others very enlightening from a real customer’s perspective. The auto industry spends plenty of money soliciting opinions from real customers and your articles are a fresh perspective. Keep up the good work! Car dealers can learn a lot from reading these articles, we do not want to be oversold, let the product sell itself. As a GM and Ford fan I found Scot’s experience painful, sales people need to understand they are the face of the company and if it does not go right it reflects poorly on the product.
Joshua Raymond June 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Daryl, I completely agree with you about how significant sales people are. I have a few dealerships I simply won't deal with again because of the sales staff. I've had staff attempt to lie to me (Edmunds and Carfax are wonderful!), play sales games (read http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/confessions-of-a-car-salesman.html), or use other tactics that made me go elsewhere. I even had one accidentally add me to his personal e-mailing list and send me dirty jokes from his work account. I've also had sales people that have been wonderful, straight forward, and willing to give me a great price out the door. Most often those have been the internet sales staff who know that I'm just looking for a good deal with no games or gimmicks and they have to be on their best behavior or I'll go elsewhere with the click of a mouse. Car sales staff would do well to remember that we'll return to a dealership we like, not just for the next car, but for service as well. And we'll tell our friends where to go for a great buying experience. But if we don't like you, we won't be back and we'll let our friends know about the experience. It definitely applies to brands as well. If I'm shopping a number of brands, chances are you have one sales person at one dealership to convince me that the car is good but so is the brand's culture. Treat me poorly when I buy a low-end car and I won't be back when I need a more expensive one.

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