The birth of a car

Everyone knows what a Toyota and, specifically, a Prius fanboy I am.  Scott and I were featured on Toyota’s Facebook just before we switched from our 2009 Prius to the 2012 Prius for Green Week.  I’ve even defended the attacks on masculinity and the Prius as well as Hybrid Technology.  We even visited Toyota City recently on our trip to Japan.  I’ve complained about the price of gasoline, and I admit I’ve been lightly holier than thou about driving cars that sipped gas.

Today, we did something different.  Something bold.

My 2012 Prius lease is up in April and it’s either I spent the money to buy the car out, or buy a new car.  I always said this car would be a keeper, and it mostly has everything I want in such a car. It certainly has everything I need in a car.

  • Moonroof – I wouldn’t have another car without a moon roof
  • Hybrid – Sips gas, what else can I say?
  • Good amount of room – The Prius is spacious for sure – It’s one of my favourite features as people expect it to be smaller
  • Reasonable stereo – This and the navigation system on the 4th Generation Prius are the banes of my existence now

Today, we went almost the complete opposite of the Prius.

MINI

We have a 2016 Mini Cooper 5 Door in Electric Blue coming in January, from Oxford, England.

But, what happened to the love affair with Toyota?  Absolutely nothing!

Three cars have been on my must own before I die list:

  • A Toyota Prius – We’ve owned two in seven years
  • A MINI – They’re adorable
  • A BMW 3-Series – Classic design, great technology

If I achieve two out of three of these, then I’m more than fine and happy.  On top of it, the MINI with how it’s currently designed shares it’s engine with the BMW 1-Series and the platform is from the BMW 2-Series.  1+2 = 3 so I’ve met my must haves.  Okay, not quite a 3-series, but still.  The new MINI is even more BMW than it used to be, and that makes me a happy man.

So what about all those things that are must-haves in a car?

  • The MINI is technically a mild hybrid.  For example the auto-stop feature stops the engine when the car is stopped at a stop sign.
  • It has sport, mid and green modes, and there is a significant difference in the way the car drives for all three modes. It’s like taking the Prius from Eco to Power mode, but more significant.
  • Lighting-wise you can choose from Xenon of LED lights – The only car in it’s class to have LED lights available.  While LED lights will minimally affect fuel economy for the better, none the less, it does affect.  Also given LEDs last an amazingly long time, there is reduced garbage.
  • Moonroof – The MINI goes without saying, it covers a huge amount of the roof, even for folks in the back seat.
  • Room – The 2016 is much bigger, Scott and I have gotten smaller, and we’re not bumping shoulders like we were a year and a half ago.  And we had a lot of fun test driving the MINI.  Where it will be different is how tight it is for our guests riding in the car.  It will be tight, but I can actually sit comfortably behind Scott in the MINI and Scott says he is comfortable.
  • Reasonable Stereo – All I can say is that the stock stereo in the MINI blows the Prius and any Toyota I’ve owned out of the water.  We actually upgraded to the Harmon Kardon that MINI offers.  If you’re not used to a good stereo in a car, this system will blow you away.

It will be the most ridiculous car we’ve ever owned, taking the place of our first most-ridiculous car we ever owned – our first Absolutely Red Toyota Echo.

We chose Electric Blue after knowing that while we had liked blues and reds, we did not want to be conservative with this car.  We both went back and forth between Electric Blue and Volcanic Orange.  White, Brown, Grey and Blacks were off the list.  Done black, and while I would consider white, just not in the MINI.  It’s actually quite common to see Pepper White MINIs on the road here in Canada.

I originally was thinking Deep Blue Metallic, but we’ve had two dark blue cars already.  It’s a good colour, but it is also a hard colour to keep the dust off.

I was originally thinking all Electric Blue, including the top and no other customizations, but again, our eyes kept on going back to Electric Blue and the white cap.  I was thinking no racing stripes but we added them.

For the wheels, we didn’t want to pay extra for custom rims, however one dealer we went to offered up the stock 16in Loop Spoke rims that come with the MINI Cooper S for free as an upgrade.  After hmming and hawing, we chose the 16in Loop Spoke rather than the 16in Victory Spoke rims.  I never thought I’d ever have to pick between rims.  Admittedly, I would have loved the 17in Roulette Spoke or there was one that looked like trees growing form the centre.

Package-wise, this is where the real fun was had.  I’ve speced out cars dreaming about having a bunch of bells and whistles.  Well, we’ve been able to do this.  For, essentially a BMW, the packages are not badly priced, especially relative to what we had before.  In short, we’re getting a lot more car:

  • Essentials Package 
    • Panorama Sunroof – No brainer, we love driving with the roof open
    • Heated Front Seats – I am sure I will appreciate this in winter, it’s not big on my list of needs.
    • Front Fog Lights – I missed having fog lights on our most recent car, good for when we drive up north.
    • Rear Fog Lights – Not something big on my list of needs, but a good thing to have I would say during spring, and for higher visibility in general.  Nice to have.
  • Loaded Package
    • Comfort Access – Essentially, an NFC key with buttons on it.  There are some cool features here though.  When you unlock your car, the windows and moonroof can be opened remotely to vent the car.  When you lock the car, the windows and moonroof can be closed remotely!  Huzzah!  Such a nice feature!
    • Front Center Armrest – I like having somewhere to rest my arm.  As an added bonus, with the MINI Connected system, you can put your phone in here connected to a dock. Most BMWs come with these, but good luck finding the connector for the iPhone 6.  Thankfully, I know of a place in Germany that sells them.  BMW doesn’t.
    • Sport Seats – I’ve always liked the look of sport seats, but found them impractical or couldn’t be good on the back  Well, they do hug around me quite nicely and Scott found them comfortable enough, and when no one is in the back, you can lounge back quite nicely.  Definitely a premium feature.
    • Rain Sensor w/ Auto Headlamps – I like auto lighting and have had it on my two Prii.  The rain sensor, I’m curious about.  That is definitely a premium feature.
    • Automatic Climate Control – Definitely a must have on any car.  It actually helps with fuel efficiency as the car controls when the fan is on, and maintains temperature, using less energy.
    • On-Board Computer – Yes, a speedometer is a requirement LOL!
    • Auto Dimming Interior Mirror – Both of my Prii had these, and they’re great.
    • LED Headlights with Adaptive Headlights – This packaged we hmmmed and hawed on.  Going from Xenon headlights to LED headlights have minimal effect on fuel consumption, but do have some.  Also LED headlights last considerably longer.  The Adaptive Headlights we chose for when we’re night driving in dark places, being able to light up around corners.  Definitely premium but a nice safety feature.
  • Wired Navigation Package
    • Also includes the Front Centre Armrest– See above
    • Integrated Visual Display
      • Oh god, such a gorgeous high resolution 8.8in screen.  The Navigation System, the menu system, the whole thing is just gorgeous!  This, to me, has been a failing of Toyota in general and in general a large portion of the automative industry until recently, using lower resolution screens.
      • The ring around the visual display is definitely a premium item and something that not everyone likes.  It can change colour dependent on either the colour you choose, or the drive mode, or it can even act as a tachometer flagging when to switch gear.  It makes the car funky, and being able to have mood lighting in my car definitely appeals to me.
    • MINI Connected
      • Something that BMW excels at.  MINI Connected is a more fun and an even better version of BMW Connected Drive which is controlled by iDrive.
      • BMW also offers regular updates and you can use the same website for both BMW and MINI.  Toyota does, too, but you have to go to the dealer to upgrade.
      • You can get stats on your car saved to your phone such as where your car is parked, the remaining fuel level and the range the car is expected to go on that.  It records your last route, how you drove, what the fuel efficiency was.  This is not something a lot of cars do, but most if not the whole BMW line does this.
      • The system also include as 20 Gb hard drive that can be used to save music to.  I am not sure if I will hook up the 120 Gb iPod Classic I use in the Prius to the MINI as I usually play music from my phone anyway.
    • On-Board Navigation (aka Connected XL) – Oh god, such a gorgeous navigation system.  It connects in to Google Maps through your phone.  While MINI took away the “Send to Car” feature of Google Maps, I am hoping they bring this back, so you can setup a route at home on Google Maps and send it to your car.  A neat feature.
    • Bluetooth and USB Audio – Something that any car manufacturer should deliver with all vehicles.  A must.  Two devices are supported. via USB.
  • Visual Package
    • Rear View Camera – After having a rear view camera on the current car, it’s a feature I’m not willing to do without.  Where I use it is to check just before I start reversing and when I’m checking the distance when backing into a parking spot or parallel parking.  I always look out the back window when I’m reversing.
    • Park Distance Control – I’ve never had this feature on a car, and with the Rear View Camera it’s almost overkill.  The other option would have been Park Assistant which auto-parks the car for an extra $500 which we just don’t need.
    • Heads Up Display – Yes I’m going to feel like I’m flying a 787 or a fighter jet.  Okay we can keep dreaming on that, but this is what really caught my eye about this package.  The MINI is the first car Scott and I have purchased that has the speedometer in the standard place – in front of the steering wheel, rather than in the middle of the console which we are used to.  I think this will help make that transition easier, but it’s just cool.  It also means we don’t have to look at the MINI Connected XL screen for navigation or changing music.  This could be a neat safety feature.
  • Harmon Kardon Sound System – This sounds gorgeous.  Just gorgeous.  Now yes, you can probably get better for cheaper, but relative to what I’m used to in a car, it was stunning.  And now my friends can hear the music in the back seat as well!
  • Carbon Black Leatherette – It is a plastic based leather-like product.  So we don’t have leather seats.  It does mean the car could get warmer, and such in the summer and colder in the winter.  Shame we don’t have seat cooling but seat heating in winter may be divine.  We didn’t see a need for Leather, and the cloth seats – in all honestly the Leatherette seats are easy to maintain.
  • 16″ Loop Spoke Wheels – This is considered an upgrade as it’s only available on the MINI Cooper S, typically.  I’ve heard that MINI is having a shortage of the 16″ Victory Spoke wheels.
  • White Turn Signals – This is strictly an aesthetic thing.  I didn’t care either way, really, but the white does blend nicely with the blue of the car and the white roof.
  • Rubber Mats – After using the rubber mats all season in the Prius, the car fared much better and looks much better inside that the carpeting hasn’t been wrecked, etc..  Every car should include these for free!!

And I’m paying around the same price as I did for the Prius in all, with my monthly payments lower.  I couldn’t ask for a better car.  We are living the dream and feel very fortunate that we can do it.

My advice to anyone is, definitely go get quotes, do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask for things.  I probably should have done this with the second Prius I bought and didn’t, given Toyota was willing to negotiate a bit more.

I will be posting more once I get the VIN number.  BMW’s website allows you to track the building of both BMW and MINI cars when they are ordered.  You can also, if you know what you’re doing, track the ship that is carrying your car as well. Thanks to Jalopnik, there is a great article on how to do this.  I promise not to freak out to my sales rep.

There is a great story about MINI Canada and a recall the company had to do with cars that were finally delivered around April this year.  In short, a batch of cars (and not just MINIs, but all european manufactured cars were affected) have, essentially, had to be written off and re-built due to sitting at the Halfix Car Port and the port company trying to “…to free the cars with a salt water mixture resulting in the MINIs ‘sitting in standing pools of salt water for an extended period of time'”.

Those owners are getting their car rebuilt for no charge, getting loaners for no charge.  I sure hope BMW is taking action against the port.

I have no doubt that we will be happy MINI customers just as we’ve been happy Toyota customers.  I have also read other good reports around MINI standing by their product as well.  So I have no doubt we will be in good hands. It’s time for us to get something a little different, more fun.

I still stand by Toyota, and when the time is right we will go back.  Right now, I want something a bit more exciting and this is a car I have always wanted.  Now seems the right time.

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