If you’re considering buying a MINI, you’ve probably already gone to the MINI website, www.MINIUSA.com, to see for yourself what all the hub-bub is about. The website provides a neat way to look at all the options and do some thinking long before you have to sit across the table from a dealer representative.

A MINI Like No One Else’s

 If you’ve checked the MINI website, you’ve probably been impressed with, maybe overwhelmed by, all of the choices that are available. First of all, the car is available in two models in the United States, the Mini Cooper and the Mini Cooper S. (The rest of the world can also buy a third model, the MiniOne.) The major difference between the Mini Cooper and the Mini Cooper S is in the engine tuning, with the supercharged Cooper S producing more horsepower. There are also a few cosmetic differences.

Since the fall of 2004, you can also buy your Cooper or Cooper S in two different body styles, the two-door coupe with a hard-top, or the convertible with its three-position soft-top.

In addition, you can choose to add any or all of three major performance packages, or select specific options from within those packages. You can also choose from three different sizes of wheels and tires, and there is a long list of other accessories and options to consider.

And that’s all before you have even confronted the truly significant questions of exterior and interior colors and trim materials. You may see lots of other MINIs on the road (and you’ll get to wave at all these new friends you haven’t met yet as soon as you’re behind the wheel of your own MINI) but your MINI doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.

This seems like an almost overwhelming richness of choice. But making your decisions may not be as complicated as it seems.

We’re going to assume that since you bought this book, you do share a few things in common with us. You understand the messages in the MINI ads. You want your car to perform. Getting from Point A to Point B may be enough for most drivers, but you want to enjoy your time behind the wheel. You do want to motor.

But motoring is a broad term. We’ll need to get a little more personal and a little more specific here. This is the time to have a heart-to-heart talk between your intellect, your wallet, and the little voice down deep inside you that tells you how hard you should push the fast pedal.

Where Do You Want to Go in Your MINI?

A wise person once said that there’s a cost for everything, and the price in the catalog isn’t the last word in helping you decide what you want and don’t want. When you’re designing your car, keep in mind that you migh have to give up some capabilities in order to get other capabilities. A car that will go faster, or turn quicker may not be as comfortable to drive. A car that has a variety of appearance accessories and a comfortable interior will weigh more and go slower than a stripped-down version.

Let us ask you a few questions about how you plan to use your MINI. First, are you buying the car as your primary mode of weekday transportation with the idea that you’ll still want to use it as a major source of weekend fun? Or are you fortunate enough to already have a functioning transportation unit that can take care of the day-to-day stuff, so your MINI will only be taken out to have fun?

If you do plan on using your MINI for workaday tasks, will you be commuting on the highway to the same office each day, or will you be out in the car all day, making sales visits or trouble-shooting calls to places you’ve never been before?

Second, when you do see yourself having fun in the MINI, where do you see yourself? Will you be on a back country road with your friends, taking a long tour to a secluded picnic spot, or will the curves you take have braking and apex markers, a rumble strip, and a flagman watching the race track for you?

If your pulse does quicken when the green flashes, will you be racing against the clock on a parking lot marked off with yellow cones, will you be more interested in how fast you can beat the other car to the end of the quarter-mile, or will you only be satisfied if you’re going wheel-to-wheel on a real race track?

The nice thing about the MINI, of course, is that it can do any of these things. For example, we know at least one company that maintains a fleet of MINIs for its service reps to use to keep their customers’ office networks in operation, but then takes the whole fleet and the reps to the race track a couple of times a year to do hot laps just for fun.

But nevertheless, when you’re making your buying decision, and when you’re laying out your MINI Cooper modification and upgrade strategy, it helps to focus on where you’re going to want your MINI to really shine. Take the time to read the rest of this chapter and you’ll be in a better position to consider your options when you do sit down across the desk from the sales manager at the MINI dealer to place your order for your very own MINI.

How Fast Do You Want to Get There?

Another factor to take into account before you buy the car is how much you’re eventually going to spend, and how fast you want to spend it. Fortunately, the MINI Cooper isn’t a very expensive car to start out with, and it is possible to replace and upgrade its components one step at a time. We’ll help you start having fun immediately, and then show you how to upgrade slowly if that’s what is necessary to keep from maxing out your credit cards.

The first thing you need to decide what kind of a car you want to have, so that you don’t spend more than you need to at the dealer. Then you should consider the parts that you’re going to want to upgrade or add in order to create the MINI Cooper that will suit your own ideas of what motoring fun should be. Finally, you should list the parts in the order that you plan to make the changes, so that you get the maximum benefit from each dollar spent and don’t waste money doing things that you’ll eventually have to do over.

We’ve written this book to help you make your budgeting and planning decisions in a logical order, taking into account what you want to do with the car and how much fun you want to have. As you get to know the car and start to have fun with it, you can consider all the ways there are to enjoy it. Each of the four sections of the book will discuss things you can do to have fun with the car, what kinds of modifications and accessories you will want to consider to make the car perform better in those activities, and offer you tips on how to drive better at that level.

This first section of the book will give you some basic buying and driving tips. Then the second section will tell you how to set up your car for a better street and touring performance and give you some tips on driving faster while still staying safe. The third section will help you to make your car and your driving more competitive on the track and autocross course, and fun but safe on back-roads tours. Finally, the fourth section is intended for those of you who want your times to be the fastest on the track or the autocross course, even if that means that space in your back seat is taken up with a roll cage instead of dry cleaning and groceries.

Go to Tips on Filling Out Your MINI Order