The Rest of the Story

I know the last post was really short, so I thought I would elaborate. I was quite tired when I wrote that one, didn’t feel like going into the whole story.

We have been going back and forth about trading the Rav4 for another Mini for months. I really wanted one, but the rational side of me said “No, are you an idiot?” and I usually listen to the rational side.

With the introduction of the Countryman, we decided to just wait for that and see if we liked it. I also wanted to try out the Clubman. At first I didn’t like the Clubman, but after a few club meet ups it had really grown on me.

The Countryman sounds and looks great, but the driving experience just wasn’t what I was looking for. The Mini Cooper is just so fun to drive! But the Countryman… Well, it was a very nice car. If you are looking for Mini styling and a 4WD hatchback it is great. But I wasn’t looking for that, I wanted the fun. I wanted the same driving experience that had me stealing Sean’s car every chance I got.

Saturday was a long day. We were scheduled for a 10:00 test drive with the Countryman. I tried the automatic AWD version and was kind of bored. It was a nice car, it handled well, and it was pretty… but it just wasn’t clicking. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. As an afterthought (a much too late afterthought) maybe I should have tried it with a manual transmission.

Next up I asked to try an automatic Clubman S. They didn’t have a demo automatic S, so they put me in the regular Cooper without a turbo. As soon as I pulled off the lot I said “no way” and just made a loop and parked it. It was terrible without the turbo! I don’t know why they couldn’t just let me have an S right away. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t accustomed to my Rav4’s v6 and the Cooper’s turbo.

Next they gave me an automatic Clubman S to try off the lot. It was Chili Red. I liked it, but didn’t really want red so I ended up finding an Eclipse (dark) Gray one on the lot that had some nice options and I really thought it was the one I was going to buy. We sat down to talk numbers on it and everything. But I just wasn’t sure… and I was starving because we hadn’t eaten all day and it was past lunch time. So they gave us a 96-hour pass and we left them to run credit and such while we went to the mall to eat and then drove around a bit more.

I just wasn’t 100% on it. I drove around for about 30 minutes trying to figure out why I didn’t love it as completely as I should have. At first I thought I really liked the dark color, but I began to realize that it just wasn’t a “happy” look that I associate with a Mini. Plus it is a short car and I was afraid it would be invisible to other drivers. My dark green Rav4 was much larger and people were constantly trying to pull out in front of me or switch into my lane like I wasn’t there. And I mean more so than usual for the idiot drivers around here.

I also wasn’t really digging the steptronic automatic transmission, although I didn’t realize how much I disliked it at the time. I was thinking that it was just a little slower, but it was okay… I would get use to it. But Sean saw me waffling and suggested I try a manual. So, back to Flow Mini we went.

I parked the Gray and started looking around to see what they had on the lot that would be in the running with a manual transmission. There weren’t many options really, but I managed to find a few. Our salesman was busy, but one of the managers we were working with spotted us and we told him what we were thinking. He brought the key for a Laser Blue Clubman, and we hopped in.

Immediately I could tell the clutch was different from the 2010. I think I stalled it twice in the fifty feet it took to leave the lot, but then I figured it out and was off. I don’t have much experience with manuals! The Cooper is the first one I had to drive since I learned in a few family-directed driving lessons 15 years ago. But once I got it going I knew I had found what was wrong with the others. The transmission! We hadn’t even made it a block before I told Sean he was right, the manual was the way to go.

I can’t believe I actually bought a manual car. I have never owned one before, always preferring the simplicity of an automatic and never caring about the so-called advantages of a manual transmission. But I think the Mini is just meant to be a manual car. It is probably why they don’t stock many automatics! Or maybe Sean is right and anything less than a v6 should be manual.

After driving the blue one around for a few minutes (it barely had any gas) I returned and said I wanted a manual, I just had to figure out which one. I really wanted to order one with the exact features I wanted, but I would have had to wait 60 days and I knew there would be no chance of making a deal on it like I could with the ones on the lot. I ended up choosing the Laser Blue one that I had tested out, even though at first I didn’t want such a common color. I am really loving the color now though, so I am happy I chose it.

By this point it was pretty late in the day, and we still had to deal with the haggling and paperwork. I know they always try to make you feel like you got a good deal, but I feel like I earned it this time around. They wanted a lot more down and a lot more per month than what we ended up agreeing to. I had to tell him a firm “No” a couple times and both times it earned what I wanted. It helped that I really was willing to walk away.

It was nearly dark by the time we got home… a long long day of car shopping when we thought it would be a couple hours that probably wouldn’t even end with a purchase. Not to mention most of it was spent in the freezing cold, complete with intermittent snow and wind.

I have owned it for a few days now and am still really happy with it! Today I went back to Flow to pick up a cargo area liner so the dogs don’t mess it up too badly, and while I was there I picked up some Union Jack valve stem caps for the tires. And when I got home I removed the annoying rings around the rear headrests that didn’t allow them to lower fully. It is a safety feature I suppose, but I think being able to see out my rear windows is safer! So I guess you can say I have already made my first small modifications. :)