Well, I've got the test drive scheduled for this coming Friday in Greenville, SC! Unfortunately there are no automatic transmissions there for me to drive, but the guy said I could drive the manual or have him drive me around if I didn't feel comfortable driving the stick. I believe I'll give it a try and see how it feels for myself.
Thank you all for your advice, some great points have been made!
Another question...if I were to decide to order a MINI Cooper here in the US, is there a set amount you must put down that is standard among the dealerships, or does each individual dealer decide how much it will cost you to reserve?