I Got a New Ride

The Background:

I’ve never had a fancy car.  Cars aren’t really my thing, so I always chose utility, safety, price, etc.  I also have what I jokingly call “car dyslexia”.  I can never remember or distinguish between anyone’s cars.  Sure, I can tell the difference between a sedan and a truck, but all sedans look the same to me.

My first car was an ’86 Honda Accord manual hatchback in “champagne”.  It was high school, the car was used and affordable. I never would have picked champagne as a color, but the car fit my budget.

Fast forward past the 8 years I lived in NYC with no car.

My next car was a manual silver Honda Civic, 2 door sedan.  Pretty sure I had base level on this one.  A safe, if slightly boring car.  Which quickly became inconvenient when I had babies (manual shift and 2-doors are NOT convenient with infants and infant seats), so I moved on to…

The MomMobile, a blue automatic Subaru Forester.  This was obviously not a fun choice.  But I needed four doors.  I needed storage.  I liked the all wheel drive in New Hampshire’s winters.  Pretty sure this one was base level, too.

My next car was a red automatic VW Jetta TDI.  I specifically mention that it was red because that sounds fun, right?  But it wasn’t my first choice at all.  I got the “leatherette” interior (easier to clean) and I wanted the beige (not as hot in the sun), so all they had in stock was a red car.  Budget meant I took what they had (and not what I wanted).  It did have heated seats and displayed the outdoor temperature, which oddly have become my “must-haves”.

VW Jetta TDI.  Yep, that’s right.  The one included in the VW emissions scandal, which means (any day now) I should be able to turn in the Jetta and get a check.  So with my background, I decided my next car was going to be what I wanted it to be.  I wasn’t going to settle on a color.  I wanted to go back to a manual.  I love summer time and wanted this car to be fun, so that meant a convertible.  I test drove a VW Beetle.  When I was a kid, my friend’s mom had one and I’ve always loved them.  I brought the kids with me so they could test out the back seat.  They loved it.  It was fun.  However, VW only has a few levels of options, so in a way it’s nothing or everything.  The slope of the roof, which is so distinctive and cool-looking from the outside, means the interior feels really small.

My dear, dear friend Jess Stratton has a MINI.  A MINI that I got to take on a 2400 mile test drive.  MINIs are FUN to drive.  And oh look, they have convertible versions.  And a configurator, that allows you to add options a la carte to your car.  I love the concept that you can add whatever you want, without adding what you don’t want.  I assumed a MINI convertible was out of my price range, but using the configurator, I saw that for what you get, they’re actually quite reasonable.

The decision:

A 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible in Caribbean Aqua.  I used the configurator and created the car I wanted.  Some items were nice-to-haves, some were must-haves.  My must-haves: convertible, Caribbean Aqua, manual, heated seats.  I went for a test drive and realized I needed to add a must-have, the rear view camera.  The convertible (both VW and MINI) really restricts your view out the back.  Top up and the rear window is pretty small.  Top down and the top itself blocks much of the view out the back.  A quick look at dealer inventories online and I fully expected I’d have to order and wait for my perfect MINI.  The sales guy and his manager said “give me 10 minutes…oh yeah, here we go, we can have it here next week”.  My perfect MINI.

A 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible in Caribbean Aqua with the Sport package and the Premium package and a few other extras.

The result:

My dream car.  I can’t believe all the awesome bells and whistles on this car.  Obviously, some of these are due to the options I added on, some are due to the packages that this particular vehicle had, but some of them are just standard MINI features.

My perfect MINI

There is so much to love about this car.  I’ve had her two weeks now, and in no particular order the things I love about her…

Comfort Access.  This means I keep the key fob in my purse and I can unlock the car without taking the key out.  It also means I can start the car with the push of a button (also with the key still in my purse).  I feel much more like I’m launching a rocket versus driving a car.  Push button to shut off the engine and the auxiliary power shuts off automatically when I exit the vehicle.  Comfort Access also means I can open the convertible top with the key fob as I approach the car (and close it, too).

Configurable interior ambiance lighting.  This one is just a silly little thing that makes SUCH a big difference.  The center console, the door handles, and the doors (plus probably other stuff I haven’t noticed yet) all have a colored light that you can CONFIGURE.  I chose purple, of course.

MINI Connect means certain apps from your phone are integrated and controllable via your car display.  Pandora allows me to select my Pandora channel, thumb up or thumb down a song, browse channels, etc.  Just like I would in the app, but on my car display.  It even interacts with your GoPro app so you can stop/start recording from your car display instead of your phone.  Perfect for New Hampshire (and other states) that are cracking down on smartphone usage in the car.

Stuff is customizable.  Lots of stuff.  The settings panel in the display is full of items to customize.  Simple stuff that makes a difference like the one-touch comfort access unlock button can be set to unlock all doors, or just the driver’s side, or the boot.  That always frustrated me in the Jetta to have to remember to click twice and do it before the kids tried the handle in order to let them and myself in the car.

The Openometer.  Yep, I have a convertible, and this baby tracks how long I’ve had the top down.  I’ve had the car two weeks as of this writing and I’ve had the top down 18 hours and 13 minutes.

The Community.  Jess told me “It’s the car that comes with friends” and she wasn’t wrong.  There are forums and subreddits and Facebook groups.  People regularly get together for rallys and events.  There’s “Rule #1″, where you always park next to another MINI if you see one.  MINI drivers wave to one another (or at least, they’re supposed to, I’m waving like a maniac [MINIac] and don’t get a lot of return waves, but I’ll keep trying).  MINI really encourages individuality, too, and the community embraces that to it’s fullest.  From color combinations, racing stripes, and swappable mirror caps to performance mods and a whole world of stuff I haven’t even explored yet.  People love to customize their MINIs.

Green mode, Sport mode, pathway lighting, auto stop/start (which you can turn off, of course!), and I’m sure a million other things I’ll discover as I go!  It’s probably obvious, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Stay tuned for more posts about my ride in the future!