What was tested? 2007 Mini Cooper S Convertible and Coupe ($26,050).
Price as tested: $26,050.
COOPER, Texas - Life doesn't get much better than this.
I'm driving a car that feels like a lovable little go-kart through the gently rolling hills of East Texas. There are a few sprinkles still falling after a cloudburst, but the sun is coming out and bathing everything in a golden hue that makes the landscape look like a commercial for granola breakfast cereal.
Despite the water droplets still falling, I decide to drop the top and enjoy the wind in my hair, cranking up the "Yeah Yeah Yeahs" on the radio.
My car: A Mini Cooper convertible.
My destination: Cooper, Texas.
It's only fitting that I drive this itty-bitty car to this itty-bitty town. Yes, my trip is quirky, but so is the car. It has a speedometer the size of a dinner plate smack dab in the middle of the dash, exactly where you'd find the radio in a normal car. Switches are in all kinds of weird spots, and its back seat is almost non-existent. Even though this car is supremely strange - or perhaps because of it - I can't help but smile while driving a Cooper to Cooper.
Once I arrive in the little town, I discover it's a peaceful place, a slice of Norman Rockwell's America that so often gets overlooked. There's a lake nearby, some well-kept frame houses, a surprisingly big Chevrolet dealership and a quaint downtown square with blues music echoing off the old brick walls. There's apparently a jam session going on in one of the shops.
When I step out to look at the car and snap a few pictures, my insides start to giggle. It's just too cute.
Really, that's the whole point of this car. It's too small to be practical for a family, and it rides like it has no suspension whatsoever - just a solid axle welded to the chassis. If this were any other car, I'd hate it.
But it's not a normal car. It's a Mini Cooper, so I can't help but love it. I look for any excuse I can get to drive the thing, almost like it's my date on a Saturday night. If I could get away with it, I'd want to find a giant sofa, put my arm around the Mini and cuddle for hours on end.
Until then, all I can do is drive it. Which is fine by me.
This isn't a particularly fast car - it has a small four-cylinder engine that gets great gas mileage - but because it seems like your backside is riding a quarter-inch off the ground, the Cooper feels like it's wildly fast.
It's also fun in the corners, thanks to its firm suspension that keeps it perfectly flat though tight turns. It feels like it belongs on one of those miniature racetracks that crop up around putt-putt golf courses.
As the sun starts to set over Cooper - the car and the town - I know it's time to leave.
And I can't wait until the next chance I get to take this wonderfully stupid car on a wonderfully stupid trip.
Pros: This car is designed solely to make you smile. From its cute-as-a-button body to its wonderfully nimble driving feel, you can't help but grin when you're driving this thing.
Cons: It's not very comfortable and has a nearly useless back seat. It's a toy rather than a practical car.