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Discussion Starter #1
AIM in Chiswick Park, adjacent to the tube station, has a MINI Cooper available for hire. Phone on 020 8742 8955. A one day rental is about 55 pounds. Yes, they even rent to suspicious looking Americans like me. :)

Photo taken January 3, 2002, in the Stonehenge car park... if I managed to get the photo attached correctly.
 

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Timothy,

Surely you are one of the first Americans (not connected with BMW or the press) to drive a MINI Cooper. Tell us about your time with it! Did it meet your expectations? Exceed them?

(and thanks for the rental information, too :) )
 

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My MINI adventure only lasted just under 24 hours (a one day rental), but I got a chance to do quite a bit of mixed driving: motorway, narrow country lanes, day and night. Although I drove a bit in South Africa, driving on the left (from the right seat) only added to the experience. :)

In no particular order, the following aspects of the car made the biggest impression:
- chicks dig them :), even in the southwest London suburbs where there seem to be lots of MINIs on the roads. (I saw a pair of Coopers in full racing colours, for example. They had round numbers on the sides, multicolored "X" striping, the works. I also saw a handsome Indy Blue MINI One, at the opposite end of the spectrum.)
- this car is "tight" -- there just aren't any rattles.
- the ride is plenty firm (but comfortable), so I wouldn't recommend the optional "plus" suspension.
- it's very easy (and great fun) to spin the wheels with a fast takeoff (absent traction control, I assume).
- I thought the manual shifting was just lovely, and I especially liked the fact that there was some motorway passing power still left in 5th gear.
- LOVE that 2.5 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock (even if the power assist seems on full time), so consequently...
- the standard seats have above average side support... and they need more :) (I think I'm going to get the sport seats.)
- the engine has a wonderful (but polite) growl to it.
- the standard headlamps do a great job.
- the plastic door handles felt flimsy and cheap, out of character with the rest of the car.
- like other BMWs, two handle pulls are needed to open the door if the door is locked.
- what does the button to the left of the front center ventilation console do?
- how do you get the dome light to activate when the door is opened?
- I have to admit that the toggle switches are much more stylish than intuitive. Recommend spending some time learning them well, because it's not a good idea looking away from the road. (I still like them.)
- I ran out of washer fluid, so the reservoir might be a bit on the small side (carry an extra jug).
- fuel capacity is excellent, and fuel economy (even with hard driving) seemed quite good.
- the rear wiper (with washer) is a hoot -- truly mini (and also effective, as it happens).
- aside from the driver-side A pillar, which seemed to get in the way on occasion, visibility is excellent (thanks also to the headroom).
- interior room is surprisingly good, and I thought the rear seating was also quite good for a sports car.
- trunk (boot) space is tiny with the seats up.
- it's a little awkward to get the rear seats back into place if you drop them down for more cargo -- I didn't find any pull handles, so you have to go to the side door and push them backward (minor nit).
- the seat adjuster handle is (ahem) "funky," but, knowing the warnings ahead of time, I didn't have any trouble... except when someone else who wasn't briefed gave it a go :)
- I was able to fill the petrol tank from the wrong side of the pump! The hose reaches!
- Thanks to that big center speedometer, my passengers got to see me hit 80 mph on the motorway. :) Road and wind noise were relatively low at that speed, and there was no feeling of being blown over when passing lorries (trucks). The car is much better handling than its weight would otherwise suggest.
- brakes are superb.
- the hatch (boot) is opened using a soft switch on the exterior (near the registration), which electrically actuates the actual (hidden) latch. (Cool!)

Summary: WHERE'S MY COOPER? :)
 

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Re: Re: MINI Rental Available (London Area)

Thanks tsipple! A post like that can't go un-responded to, and indeed should be compulsory reading. Thanks for taking the time to put it all down!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
A few other things I noticed:
- Even though I knew about it, it's still surprising to see the headlamps rise with the rest of the bonnet (hood) as it's opened. It seemed strong enough, but I'd still be careful not to bash it.
- The windshield was not tinted at the top on the Cooper I drove (as far as I could tell), and I hope that's not the case on the U.S. cars. Sunshine gets in above the rear view mirror. (Who knew there was sunshine in England? :)) Strong(er) sunglasses will be a must, otherwise.
- The "blind spot" dynamics are quite interesting with this car. In the U.S., I think it's going to take some time for motorists to get used to the car, since it's more likely to fit into the blind spots of boat-sized cars (and trucks). (But that's OK, because you're going to be zipping by, not lagging in someone's blind spot. :)) I'm going to try driving more like a motorcyclist in that sense. On the other hand, the MINI doesn't have a big blind spot, since it isn't big, so that should help me see others better.
- I didn't find any enclosed glove box, but there was a huge shelf instead.
- The car certainly does get dirty. (Those optional mudflaps might help for its backside.) I passed (and got blasted by) a gritter (road salt truck), which probably didn't help. That left me thinking that the white wheels, though great looking, might be too much work to keep clean. (I didn't see any white wheeled MINIs while I was in England.)
- MINIs are great in roundabouts (traffic circles). Why slow down? :) And why does Basingstoke have so many roundabouts? :)
- Saw two of the "MINI Adventure" adverts at the cinema ("Lord of the Rings"). I wasn't chased by Martians, as far as I know.
- One of my friends has a dog named Lucy. Lucy is a small dog, but we decided that the boot (trunk) was just too small without at least one of the seats folded down. (Their VW Golf was much better suited for this operation. They have a "fence" installed, and Lucy is quite happy riding in the back.) So they're going to use an alternative pet strategy with the MINI, namely to invest in a carrier cage and to fold down one of the two rear seats. That will keep pet hair off the nice upholstery.
 
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