Text: Roselle Lim / Photos: Brent Co | posted January 06, 2010 00:00
A big smile in a SMALL package
With its cute size, gentle curves and enormous fluorescent eyes, who wouldn't break into a smile seeing a MINI Cooper among fifteen year-old buses, grimy trucks and menacing SUVs along EDSA? From luxury car owners to market bystanders, the black MINI Cooper must have been a real sight for the sore eyes.
One holiday morning after Christmas, I was fortunate enough to take a MINI for a spin. That day, the car contained a party of four going on a spontaneous lunch out of town. As traffic slowed to a crawl on the South Luzon Expressway, the group used the time to explore the interior's bolts and buttons whilst keeping an eye out for bad billboards and outrageous signs. The controls were easy to understand even for someone coming from an outmoded Japanese car. Good thing the car was compact and easy to maneuver, permitting me to weave though lanes, which, though futile, was more entertaining than trailing a sputtering sedan for an hour. The amusement highlight was the MINI's signature giant speedometer that brings to mind a wall clock, or, at least to me, a good-looking weighing scale. The contrast between the car's and the speedometer's size is a nice design touch to emphasize playfulness and cuteness with an edge.
Traffic was until the Alabang Viaduct. Eventually the road wonderfully cleared to a never-ending stretch before us, and the MINI wasted no time spreading its tiny wings to conquer land. Despite being equipped with a normally aspirated 120-horsepower 1.6-liter engine, the car accelerated very well, much credit to its lightness and good power and torque distribution. The engine is mated to an evenly geared six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manual mode. The stability of the seemingly small car while being around big trucks and at high speed big thanks to a solid British build-- was a pleasant discovery.
The rest of the trip was smooth sailing all the way to Josephine's Tagaytay. Instead of being able to enjoy the cool weather and scenic spots up in the valley though, unexpected business matters urged the group to hurry back after lunch. The pressure was on the MINI to get us there before nightfall. But the little car once again held its ground as it easily took cars one and sometimes five at a time to the front of the traffic. The result was an impressive record-time reaching the end of SLEX despite the single-lane beeline to the expressway, though everyone was glad about the eight airbags as standard safety equipment.
If I had to nitpick, the only thing less adorable about the trusty ride was the fumes coming in when the A/C switches off in spirited driving springs, although it's most likely just the brand new car's response to being broken in.
Traffic was once again hellish entering the city. In the end, the journey seemed like a capricious lunch that cost everyone five hours of travel, not to mention several liters of gas. But with the good food, great company and the number of appreciative smiles we garnered in the car, it was a hassle of the most MINImal proportions. Fun does however come at a price, as the pricetag for this car is just a little under 2-Million Pesos.