A Year of New – Week 4: Mini Cooper

Where: Cute Wheels, 743 View St, Victoria
Cost: CAD$20.16 for 1 hr car rental; $2.56 for premium gas

I’ve been enamoured with the Mini Cooper car for quite some time, so when I started brainstorming things that I could do for my “A Year of New” project driving one was high on my list. I had no idea that right under my nose in downtown Victoria there is a specialty car rental place where you can rent them by the hour or by the day. The hourly rate didn’t sound too bad, so I made a reservation for last Tuesday morning and counted the days until I got behind the wheel of that cute little sensation.

On Sunday night, in mental preparation, I watched the movie, “The Italian Job.” Maybe this was where I got my first glimpse of the new Minis a few years ago, I really can’t remember, but if you’ve ever seen that movie you’ve got to admit that they make driving one look pretty cool. Of course, I was not going to go to the lengths of getting involved in a heist or driving through culverts or carrying out jumps at breakneck speeds in one, but I thought a drive on Dallas Road up Beach Drive to the Uplands in Victoria would just about do the trick to satiate my revving spirit.

Renting the Mini Cooper was easy enough from Cute Wheels. I just had to make sure that my own car insurance would cover any accidents because Cute Wheels doesn’t offer insurance. The pre-authorization deposit was $350, which I got back when I returned the car in the same condition. I thought the hourly rate of $18 was reasonable enough for a short joyride. Why not?

The clerk did all the forms up and handed me the key, at which I stared dumbly. It wasn’t any sort of a key that I could recognize, as it was shaped like a round plastic disk with no discernible key shape to it at all. I’m sure the clerk had probably seen my variety of confused look before, because he announced quite quickly that he would show me how to use it when we went to check out the car. It turned out that the round disc inserted into the dash, not into an ignition on the steering column like every other car, and went hand in hand with a push button start. So very cool! I have never driven a push button start car before, and somehow it felt wrong but exciting at the same time. (I excite easily, what can I say?)

The controls on the dash also looked different than any other car I’d seen and the speedometer was in the middle of the dash instead of above the steering wheel. The window controls were not on the door frame but where the radio normally is. I must admit, it did take me about 15 minutes to figure out how to turn the radio on after I had started driving, and I never did figure out how to turn it off!

Unfortunately I didn’t get to choose the colour of Mini Cooper they gave me so I got stuck with one in “champagne silver.” I think the car looks much cooler in blue or red, but I guess renters can’t be choosers. This would have been a great moment for an out of body experience because even though it was fun to drive, it would have been even more fun to see myself driving it! I went on this little escapade alone, too, and I think in hindsight I should have taken a friend along on the ride to share in the joy. (Note to self: Pay more attention when “A Year of New” things should definitely not be done alone.) It was a workday so everyone else was working, but my daughter was at daycare so I had to seize the moment and just do it!

The Mini Cooper had a lot of pep, which was a nice change from driving my regular seven-year-old car. It cornered nicely but it did have bigger blind spots than my current ride. The sunroof was a feature that I don’t currently have but the day was too cold to take advantage of that. Although the Mini Cooper comes in a convertible, mine was a hardtop, and if you know my hairstyle you would understand why I would never want a convertible anyway. (Fido Dido’s hair is not the look I’m going for these days!)

I did take the drive along Beach and went into the Uplands, stopping at Cattle Point for some pictures. On the way back I had to make time for gassing the car up (they wanted premium, eek!) so I didn’t have quite a full hour of driving but that was really all I needed. I felt the wind (a little bit) and I felt the rush of doing something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. And, although it’s lovely to be a wife and a mother, in that short hour I felt like just a single girl with a cool car – and that was pretty lovely too.

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