Test Drives: 2004 MINI Cooper, 2008 Honda Civic EX, 2008 Subaru Impreza

So I’m in the process of buying a car. I joked with my husband that I wanted a MINI Cooper and we thought it was funny. The closest dealership is nearly 300 miles away. Warranty service seemed like it would be impossible to get and it just didn’t make sense, then he found a listing for a used one at a local dealership and took me out for a test drive just because it was fun.

Well, that was exactly the problem. It was FUN! I have never had so much fun driving a car. I loved the car so much that my husband was in shock. He figured this car shopping thing was going to be like pulling teeth. I’ve driven the same car for ten years, and I like my car. I’ve never been in love with it, but it’s reliable and gets me from A to B, so I have no complaints. I’ve told him for years that I didn’t need a new car, or want one. But, when I got behind the wheel of the MINI, my eyes lit up. It was like I had been in a driving coma and suddenly, I was alive again.

Ever since then, I’ve been car shopping with gusto. So here are some results from the cars I’ve testhy driven so far.

2004 MINI Cooper

The handling on this car is amazing. When you turn the steering wheel, it turns the car as far as you turn the wheel. Steering is not guess work. This is the first thing I noticed about the car after putting it in drive. Sure, there are lots of other features, the cockpit in the MINI is this thing that is both complex and wondrous at the same time (I never did find the button for the power windows and the salesman had no idea where to start looking), but in spite of that the drive was fun. The acceleration is punchy, yet smooth. The car doesn’t jerk or stutter when accelerating, it just goes. Stepping on the gas does something in this car, unlike in my current vehicle, where stepping on the gas is followed by a 2 second delay and then a blank stare followed by the phrase “Oh! You meant NOW!” The drive of this car was everything I wanted it to be, but I passed on this one because it was close in mileage to my current car. Still, MINIs are way fun to drive.

2008 Honda Civic EX

I’m going to talk about the interior on this one for a second. The interior on the Honda Civic is pretty much one of those sorts of things where you get into the car, look at the dash and go “What the f***?” I’m not sure what Honda was thinking. Maybe they thought that Space Aliens were going to invade and their cars needed to be ready for the transition. That said, the layout for the dash, though strange and off-putting, turns out to be amazingly awesome when you’re behind the wheel of the car. The speedo is exactly where you want it to be, just below your field of vision, so you scarcely have to take your eyes off the road to keep an eye on how fast you’re going, and the drive in this car is so fun! The Honda doesn’t handle quite as tightly as the MINI, but acceleration is nice and smooth and sometimes gets away from you. Braking on the Honda is also smooth, but the brakes in the Honda are some of the touchiest brakes I’ve used so far. It would take some getting used to, but not an all together bad thing. Steering in the civic is also nice and tight.

2008 Subaru Impreza

I drove this car because I promised my father that I would test drive one of the cars he builds. The Impreza didn’t really impress me. It handles and feels nearly identical to a Corolla, but the seats were more comfortable than in my current vehicle. This is the biggest problem with Subarus though. You buy them for their reputation of being reliable cars, you buy them because they handle great on snow. You don’t necessarily buy them because they are fun to drive. I don’t have anything bad to say about it, but I don’t really have anything great to say about it either. It was just sort of… meh…

Tonight’s test drive will be the 2008 Scion tC. Wish me luck on finding a salesman though. Last night, I stood on the lot for twenty minutes and no one ever showed up. I’m thinking these guys may not want my business.