Erika Taylor

A year ago I bought a car, and ever since the day I drove it off the lot I’ve regretted the purchase. It’s a graphite-colored 2010 Mazda 3 hatchback with really low miles and a fast, 2.8-liter engine. I love to drive and a vehicle like that should make me happy. The ride is comfortable, there’s plenty of pickup, it corners well. So what’s the problem?

Until recently, I couldn’t put it into words, all I knew was that I didn’t like the car and wished I had bought a MINI Cooper instead. Then, a few nights ago, I was in a parking lot and noticed a man with the exact same vehicle as mine.

“Hey, uh, excuse me, do you like your car?” I asked, hoping that he didn’t think I was too weird.

The man answered without hesitation. “No.”

“Why?”

He talked about the Mazda for a while and, like me, he couldn’t quite articulate the reason for his dissatisfaction. We stood there staring thoughtfully at our cars.

“It’s sterile,” the man said finally. “The car has no life, no warmth. It’s a sterile ride.”

He had hit on it exactly, and I spent the whole drive home pumping myself up to trade in the Mazda for a MINI. I checked prices online, fantasied about options and color choices, and was ready to visit a dealer the next day when it occurred to me to check the MINI’s stats on reliability. Whoops. While the sterile Mazdas have fantastic records, the quirky little MINIs spend way too much time at the shop racking up huge repair bills, according multiple online forums. So my search continues for a sporty car with life and character that can be used on a long commute without the driver feeling as if they’ve been sentenced to live in a veal pen.

To me, what’s interesting about all of this isn’t the question of whether to buy a MINI, but the emotion behind wanting to make the purchase. My desire to own a MINI comes from the same place as a consumer’s desire to own a pool. It’s a dream of fun and warmth, of engaging the senses in a way that feels awake and alive, and yet completely at peace.

The trick is fulfilling that dream without the negatives that make the MINI impractical. It’s creating a product that’s designed with passion and attention to detail so that it works every time without feeling generic. It’s being unafraid to follow a vision and take some chances, but never cutting corners on materials or workmanship.

We are an industry that speaks to people’s deepest longings, and when we do a good job, we profoundly improve the lives of our customers. The trick is to have the predictability of a Mazda with the soul of the MINI.