Inch by inch the vehicles used to carry passengers every day have gotten longer, wider and in many cases taller in the years since the end of the great recession.
But the utility of small vehicles, such as the Mini Cooper Hardtop Two Door, is still hard to beat in the tight quarters of big cities that are now the engines of economic growth in the United States.
Of course, the Mini has been around for a while. Thus, its iconic silhouette, which traces its lineage back more than a half-century to the post World War II heyday for the British auto industry, has become familiar. But it still catches the eye of other motorists out on the road and looks engaging sitting at the curb.
However, throughout the years the Mini Cooper has earned a reputation for using a troubled powertrain that had been found in almost any other car might have put crippled the brand. The Mini’s unique and eye-catching exterior clearly has helped Mini survive throughout the years
However, Mini has managed to survive, albeit at a cost, and engineers assigned to the brand back in England and Germany working seem to have resolved the problems and I found the latest version was quite able to handle the demands of everyday traffic. The turbo-charged, three-cylinder engine in the Mini Cooper produces 134 horsepower and given the advantageous power to weight ratio seem quite sprightly.
The Mini Cooper accelerated nicely thanks to the 162-foot pounds of torque which came on quickly with some serious thrust as pulled away from a standing start and the six-speed automatic transmission delivered the required shift cleanly and smoothly in all sorts of driving situations.
One of the benefits of buying or owning a smaller car is measurable increase in the distance traveled on a bit of fuel and the Mini Cooper Hardtop measures up well with a combined rating of 32 miles per gallon, including 28 mpg in city driving and 38 miles per gallon on the highway.
The performance of the powertrain in Mini Cooper Hardtop also helps reinforce one of the vehicles great strengths, its maneuverability and ability to fit into tight spaces, which makes it a suitable match for the urban environment where I suspect most owners of the car live.
The turning radius is tight and works quite effectively while making a U-turn on a narrow street — a challenge drivers in urban areas invariably face on any number of occasions as they are hunting for a parking space or a particular address. The steering also is extremely nimble, and the brakes are very good.
In addition, while the Mini Hardtop is a small, lightweight vehicle, it comes with a relatively robust suspension that can withstand both the rigors of driving on the highway with relative comfort and the occasional or not so occasional lumps that come with driving in the city and suburbs where the quality of road surfaces can vary almost from block to block not to mentions from season to season.
The overall driving dynamics are perhaps better than one could be led to expect given the vehicle’s unique shape.
The interior of Mini can seem cramped to anyone used to a larger vehicle. However, the seats are comfortable while the interior isn’t exactly soundproof the key controls are within easy reach of anyone in the driver’s seat. While the center console is tiny, it is serviceable and the big and easy to read gauges in the car are also a feature I suspect most owners quickly come to appreciate. While the car is nominally called a Hardtop, it also has a panoramic moonroof.
The Mini Hardtop isn’t lavishly equipped. After all, the manufacturers suggested retail price on the vehicle I drove was $20,600, which included the $850 destination charge. Nonetheless, it comes with a number of desirable features such as a leather wrapped steering wheel, ambient lighting rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats as well as a first-rate radio unit with HD capacity, Bluetooth for telephone connectivity and audio streaming.
Safety is always a concern for drivers of smaller vehicles and the Mini Cooper Hardtop is equipped with eight different front and side airbags and carries a five-star rating for protecting front seat passengers in a side-impact collision. The rating is only three stars for any passengers in the rather small rear.
Small cars don’t get a lot of attention, respect or love now but if you are genuinely looking for a truly utilitarian vehicle capable of living in a dense urban environment, the Mini Cooper Hardtop certainly is worth considering.