The MINI's advertisement boasts L.A. to San Francisco on one tank of gas. Since I had it for the weekend, I figured why not give it a try? On a holiday weekend, however, I should add an addendum, "If you can get out of L.A." (the test was immediately ruined by three hours of standstill idling). It's true that our long-term gas mileage stat has been sullied by too much city driving-it's not the most pious choice in the conservation effort. Still, for the numbers, it's not nearly as boring either. When it comes to the practice of hypermiling, you can't find a car that's even half as much fun to drive.
There's a two-persons-only rule for road trips-the back seat is practical for bags and babies only. Add this to the list of unanimous gripes about the interior design, among them, the issues about button placements and speedo silliness. That checkered flag print on the metallic-painted plastic around the cluster is certainly a love it or leave it kind of thing.
Once you get your act on the road, however, whatever is considered "stupid" about the car magically transforms to a fond "silly." Whether excusing yourself around big trucks on Interstate 5, or ducking down one-ways in the city, the MINI's nature is always apparent, satisfying the urge to grab ass with the road.
Specifically, the MINI has a unique point-and-shoot feel normally found in a car with more menace and hood size. The suspension and steering feel lend to an ability to look to a point and put the car exactly there, though it's with quick agility and not thrust. Despite its cutesy exterior, the car itself gets respect. On the jaunt to San Francisco, I encountered a club-like camaraderie with other MINI drivers. Not the VW Bug peace sign waving kind, I'm talking about the two-fingered wave you would see between sportbike riders on the highway.
That strong low-end pull made for a lot of torque hopping up steep San Francisco hills, but tire chirp makes me smile, so no complaint there. Because the car does so well in the corners, you begin to hunt them, going farther and exploring more just for the experience of driving. In that way, the MINI persists with a sense of adventure. I saw more of San Francisco than ever before, simply because I could park in more places.
The nav helps to continue the journey as well. On a highway outside of the city, the traffic monitoring on the nav kicked in and rerouted me down a parallel road in the city of Vallejo. Once traffic eased, it rerouted me back onto the freeway, saving me at least 20 minutes. I came to find out later that just that day the entire city declared bankruptcy. Oh the silly things you learn on a MINI adventure.
The long trek back was made easier with an MP3 player, though the jack is hard to find (above the cup holders, on the shadowy underside of the center stack). I ended up having to make that same exact drive again two weeks later in a 2.5 VW Rabbit rental car, and it spent almost twice the gas in less distance and with less throb. At the end of four days, the grand total on the MINI was 1,050 miles on three tanks of gas, and a full-boost acceleration into every corner possible.
At A GlanceCost to fun ratio - Fashion supersedes function Mileage: 22,670 Fuel Economy: 30.2