Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No Car Yet. Interior Impressions.

Still no ETA on the Mini E. I assume that the cable is the holdup. It's interesting to consider that the car is ready, the charger box is installed, and yet there is no cable. Why can't I just go down to Cables-R-Us and buy a cable? I wish.

In the mean time, here is an interior picture of the Mini E.

Although I have not actually driven a Mini E yet, I did get a chance to sit in one at the Mini E Party on May 5. I don't know about you, but my first thought was bumble bee. Perhaps this could be a marketing vehicle for Wilson tennis balls? Nevertheless, that visual was quickly erased when I discovered how incredibly comfortable the seats are. BMW/Mini makes a very sporty and form-fitting seat that nestles you into thinking you could drive this car across the country. (Of course, you'd need a network of Mini E chargers to make that trip.) For drivers who are 6' 5" or so (I am 6'), you may stay away, but don't. The Mini has plenty of headroom and remains ergonomically friendly.

Having never owned a Mini before, I performed my typical push-button tactile scan of the interior. Why I have to push every button and make sure the lights work, I don't know, but I do. What I found is that this looks and feels like a true rally car with no apologies for being an electric prototype. The low automatic gear shift combined with a perfectly placed tachometer and racing steering wheel position this car for serious rally fun. Who needs back seats when you're a rally car anyway?

I found the speedometer placement unusual, yet strangely familiar. I own a 2008 Toyota Prius (yes, green nerd alert) and the speedometer is also centrally located on the dash. Without any real knowledge about automobile manufacturing, I attribute this to the fact that these cars are sold with both right and left driver positions; thereby helping to reduce manufacturing costs somewhat. However, if we look back at this 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S, you can see a similar dash configuration. The other thing I notice is that the 1967 Mini is missing Bluetooth and a navigation system. I feel much better now.

The rest of the interior has an excellent fit and finish. My only complaints are these. First, I'm not a fan of low button placement (e.g. heat and air conditioning controls) that require the driver to take his/her eyes off the road. Second, I would like to see a better iPod integration given that we're in 2009. An MP3 player interface should be standard equipment (not just an input jack) and allow you to hide/lock the device somewhere un-obvious. Of course this requires a user interface on the dash - more work and cost for sure.

You may be wondering about storage. Mini has already cautioned us to avoid storing anything behind the seats. This is because there are cooling vents located just behind the front seats. These vents serve to cool the 5,088 lithium ion batteries that will inevitably get hot during use. I understand that during testing there were no problems with the batteries overheating; of course I'm hoping for the same real-life experience. There is a "platform" area on top of the batteries and a small space behind the batteries for storage, but Mini reps told me not to put anything on top of the batteries for fear that unstrapped items could fly around the cabin. The small area at the rear is small, maybe enough room for groceries but not much more. However, I don't view this as a problem because it comes with the exciting territory of being a pioneer.

I'll leave you with one last impression...cup holders. In the top picture you'll see 2 cup holders, but in fact there is one more located at the back of the armrest. So here's the score, 3 cup holders, 2 seats. Mini should be doing a marketing deal with Starbucks for sure.

One day soon, I'm going to need a name for my Mini E. Any suggestions?

Stay tuned.

Peter

4 comments:

  1. It's not very original, and of course I don't have it yet, but my family has been referring to mine as "Sparky" or "Spark E".
    Stan

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  2. Another obvious name is "Bolt".

    I think you hit on the reason for the center speedo. That was in fact the reason the old Minis were designed that way - economy! I suspect today it's more of a homage than a manufacturing necessity.

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  3. The mini cars are very comfortable for me specially when i need to park in a small place, they can go fast when there are traffic jump that is why I love the mini cars, they are really beautiful Actually i think to approach costa rica investment opportunities and a mini car there would help me a lot.

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  4. I had a lot of fun in reading your reviews. It's just funny that you tried riding a cooper mini with a height of 6"! Anyway, I love mini's coz it makes me a satisfying navigation shift. You know, I can drive in to small spaces and have less problems when it comes to small area parking lots! Don't worry, I also own a Toyota Prius (mine's blue!), which i bought from an Orange County used car dealer. When I went there, I also do the push all buttons and drive tests. It's a good thing that Orange County used car dealers are very costumer minded, so I have less problems when it comes to engine and interior checking.

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