MINI, BMW… Choices

While I was in Portland last week, I got an email from American Express – Test drive a BMW and get  $100 Starbucks gift card.

I couldn’t pass up getting $100 to spend at Starbucks.  Seriously.  Test driving a BMW to get it?  Oh pull my arm, please!

Scott and I are not in the market for a new car.  We have at least 2.5 years left on the lease of Stormer the Kumakart, our MINI Cooper.  That said, the MINI, while such a fun and amazing car, is a bit too small for us.  Scott does have some difficulty getting in, and Scott’s mum had ‘fun’ getting in and out of the back. Not the most practical car, but hey, if we had to live with it for a long time, we could.

I do not regret the lease of our MINI in anyway.  I’ve always wanted one, and if we had not got it when we did, we would probably have never had experienced the joy that it actually has brought us while driving.  I still grin when I see it and say, “This is the most ridiculous car I have ever owned”  I jump at the chance to drive it when I can.

If we had the space, I’d buy it and get a second car. – despite it’s flaws – mainly, the size.  I adore that MINI so much, after all, we designed it and ordered it.  It’s OUR car.  I’ve never felt such passion about a car – maybe our first car.

Four vehicles were on our list to test drive today, with six total to sit in:

  • BMW X1
  • BMW 530i
  • MINI Countryman
  • MINI Clubman
  • BMW 3-Series
  • BMW X3

I am going to group together sizes of cars in my comparisson.


The X1 was, I think, the perfect height for an SUV.  It was very nicely appointed and drove smoothly.  It’s what I was expecting in a typical BMW – responsive and could be a lot of fun to drive.  I really liked the HUD – Given we have an HUD in our MINI, I’m a big fan of the technology, and even more so on the BMW line.

The back leg room was okay.  It felt a little cramped, but we may have also had the seats back a bit further than we normally would put them to drive.


We sat in the X3 and didn’t test drive it.  Between the X1 and the X3, the X3 would be prefect for us in terms of back seat room, and it’s not so high up you’re having to really reach up and step up to sit in the vehicle.  The prefect size for an SUV for us, and I know it would be a quality drive.

The X3 is getting a refresh soon, so when the comes out, I look forward to test driving it.

MINI Countryman

The MINI Countryman is built on the same platform as the BMW X1.  We fit in the X1.  We didn’t fit in the Countryman.  A serious let down.

One of the most important tests that we do on any vehicle is sit in the front seat, adjusting the seat for where we would normally sit.  I then go sit in the back seat.

I couldn’t sit in the back seat.  There was no where for my knees. There just wasn’t any room!  I can sit in the back seat of my MINI Cooper 5-Door behind Scott.  I couldn’t sit in the backseat of a Countryman.  What kind of bonkers big MINI is this and based on the X1?

We had every intention of test driving the Countryman to see how it feels relative to the X1.  Sadly, it was a no go from the start.

MINI Clubman

Now, unsurprisingly, if I can sit in the back seat of a MINI Cooper 5-Door, I can definitely sit in the back seat of a MINI Clubman.  I knew this would not be a problem.  Successfully behind Scott as well.  It was a no-brainer, we took this for a drive.

The Clubman is definitely wider than the MINI Cooper 5-Door that we have and, probably appointed nicer with some nice design changes for the interior.

It drives the same way as our Cooper, just slightly bigger.  Not overbearingly so.  It was peppy and fun.

I am concerned that Scott did have some problems with the height of the door opening. He often hits his head getting into the car, and certainly did on the Clubman.

Betty, Scott’s Mum, would have no problem getting into the front of back of the car with big door openings.

We know the brand, we know what we want in the interior, and our friends would appreciate the room in the car.  We love the trunk space.  All taken into consideration, this car is, hands down, on our list to consider.

BMW 3-Series

A BMW 318i was the first car I attempted to drive.  In downtown Toronto on Harbord St, in a manual car I had no idea how to drive.  I was shitting myself at the time.  My uncle was a bit silly to have done that to me, bless his heart.  The next time, we took it to a parking lot.

We sat in a 3-Series just to see how we would fit.  The car was definitely too low down.  I felt like I was lying in it, maybe even more so than in my MINI.  That said, we fit and Scott said it would be acceptable, but would, “Just be okay”.  All in all, the 3-Series is a sport car, hands down and it exudes that.  I know they’re fantastic, I’d probably enjoy driving one just as I enjoy driving my MINI.

Back seat-wise, not too bad either.  BMW did a great job of raising the ceiling for us tall people in the back seat, and not in a noticeable way that Volkswagen has done in either the Golf or the Jetta – I can’t remember.

The 3-Series could be a consideration, though I’d say the 4-Series Gran Coupe would be more apropriate.

BMW 530i xDrive

If heaven were a car, then this must be heaven.  I can’t gush more about the most expensive car I have ever driven in my life.  The car we drove was easily worth between $64,000 and $71,000.

It was so smooth.  The HUD was amazing.  The glass dashboard.  The new gesture controls made me feel like Miranda Priestly telling the car, “No no, I want the volume up.”.

I let my foot off the brake, and I’m used to a car starting to move forward . The car was stopped dead, no rolling forward, no anticipating the light.  Whoa!  It was so smooth in it’s ride.  Switching modes, the pick up was quite something in Sport mode, and Eco Pro mode definitely didn’t feel like Green mode on my MINI.

The new entertainment system with BMW Connected Services – Just a joy to use, as one would expect from BMW.  I’m so glad they’re keeping the iDrive dial along with adding the gesture controls, and touchscreen.

Scott reversing the 5-Series, with the rear camera and obstacle detection system, it brought a degree of confidence in parking such a large vehicle.  Maybe, just maybe, Scott and I can own a large vehicle and be confident, that we wouldn’t hit the back passenger quadrant on a concrete pillar – like we did with both of our Prii.

I can say, hands down, I would buy this car in a heartbeat, and Scott would too.  What a gorgeous ride.  I cannot say I have sat in a more luxurious car, other than the classic Bentley that my cousins rented when they got married.  The level of technology – This is a serious geek car.

In Conclusion

The best words out of Scott’s mouth when sitting in a MINI after the BMW experience: “This looks kind of cheap!”  Oh dear, MINI.  I know you’re definitely a Premium brand.  You truly are, but… yeah there’s a certain degree that the interiors do have a degree of cheapness to them in some of your base models.  But hey, that’s why people upgrade the interiors.  Compared to other companies, alright they’re premium.

Our perceptions were definitely skewed for a brief moment by the sheer beauty of the new 5-Series for sure.

I can only imagine what the 7-Series is like to be driven around in.  Maybe I should leave that for the ride from Munich’s airport to BMW Welt in 2019 or 2020.  Can you say, European Delivery?  Oh yes.

A boy can dream, right?

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