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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 12:10 GMT
Confessions of a US Mini driver
It's been a great week for the Mini, as BMW puts another 100m into its Oxford factory. Business has been buoyed by 36,000 sales in the US - but can it be comfortable driving a Mini on American roads where other cars are as big as tanks? Magazine reader and Mini driver Candace Sleeman, from New Jersey, here tells of the view from the kerbside.

Candace Sleeman
Candace Sleeman and her 'sardine can'

When I park my Mini next to one of the monster SUVs, or 4x4s as you call them in the UK, it's maybe a third of their length. Those things are huge now, they are just getting bigger and bigger, believe me.

I drive about 15 miles a day to work near Philadelphia, and as you're coming into the city, you have a four- or five-lane highway. As well as the SUVs, we have 18-wheel trucks, which are just enormous. So I don't take them on - I pretty much just get out of their way. I don't even bother using the horn any more, I just move. The Mini's fast, though, and manoeuvrable, so you can certainly get out of the way in time if you've got your wits about you.

People I meet are fascinated by it. They're always asking if they can sit in it, so of course I let them. A couple of times I've been at the supermarket, and burly men have stopped, rolled down their windows and asked if I was going to put my car in the "trolley return" section. They view them as Mr Bean cars, but I think generally people love them here.

I have given lifts to three large male co-workers in it, which was fine. One of them does call it my sardine can, though.

Take your chances
I got my Mini after test-driving it on the Isle of Man in 2001. I had to wait for the batch to arrive in North America in 2002, but in the past two years the number you see on the road has soared. I was out in it when it was snowing recently, and I saw four other Minis on the road with me - we all gave each other a wave.

For gas mileage, it gets about 28 miles to the gallon, and with gas prices up here, it beats the SUVs and Hummers. VW's turbo diesel gets about 48 miles to the gallon, and there are a fair number of those on the road, with more hybrids coming into the game. However, SUVs and large trucks definitely outnumber us wee ones on the road.

The catchphrase for Minis here is "Let's Motor", and my dealer just loves saying "Cheers". I drove a Corvette for years, but I love this - when I first got it, people were always gathered round it in the parking lot at work. Even when I take it for "state inspection", which is like the UK's MoT test, they love to give it a good going over so they can have a look inside.

You'll not pull a horse trailer with it, but for me it is just fine.

BMW cash to fuel Mini production
16 Feb 05 |  Business


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