In my capacity as an automotive journalist, I have driven the Mini Cooper before. Several times, as a matter of fact. But when the red 2008 Mini with black stripes was delivered on Friday, I had a mission in mind. I was going to put its EPA fuel economy estimates to the test.
The Mini Cooper in my possession for a few days had a standard 1.6-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine that could turn out 118 hp. It may not sound like much, but in a car this small, it’s enough. It also had a six-speed manual transmission, which would help in the mpg department. The test car did have sport suspension and 16-inch wheels, rather than the regular 15-inchers, but I didn’t think that would affect the fuel economy much. The EPA estimated 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
The morning the Mini Cooper appeared in my driveway, I was already late for lunch. I grabbed the keys, reset the mpg counter, threw the car in reverse, and tore off in the direction of the restaurant where I would meet a few friends. I did not drive responsibly. Safety was, as always, my priority, but speed came in a close second. I was surprised, on reaching the restaurant a few miles away, that I had still averaged over 32 mpg, even driving like a jerk.
Over the next few days, I drove in a much more sane way around Portland. Lots of in-town driving, some freeway, some stop-and-go traffic at 5:30. It never dipped below 30 mpg. As you can see, after five days of normal driving, I averaged 33.7 mpg. This is above the EPA’s combined rating for the Mini Cooper of 32 mpg.
I have to give the car back, and it’ll be a while before I get another. BMW, which owns the Mini brand, is pulling back on its press loaners for now. In the meantime, we can all look forward to those precious few electric Mini E models coming to the States for real-world testing.
This car was provided for review by the manufacturer at no cost to the reviewer.