IT LOOKS like a toy poodle, but it drives like a bulldog.
And it's a car that even Mayor Bloomberg could love.
It's the Mini Cooper - a retooled version of the car that put the swing in "Swinging London" back in the 1960s - and it made its debut yesterday in advance of this weekend's New York Auto Show.
Instead of persecuting city drivers with higher parking fees and threats of East River tolls, our famously anti-automobile mayor should've stepped down from his bully pulpit and gotten behind the wheel of a Mini, the ultimate city car.
That's where I was, putting the Mini through its paces on the mean streets of this town. But the streets were anything but mean to the Mini yesterday: At a mere 11 feet, 10 inches, this little number weaves through traffic like a hot rod and parallel parks like a moped.
There's no wasted space on a Mini Cooper. The car ends where the tires do. Yet despite that, there's more headroom in the back than in a Volkswagen Beetle.
And with a 115-horsepower, 16-valve engine, it's a far cry from all those other cars - remember the boring Honda City and the Renault Twingo? - that have shown up at the Javits Center proclaiming themselves perfect for urban residents.
On the road, the Mini Cooper feels muscular and low-to-the-ground. I never felt like I was driving a wind-up toy, even when those SUV behemoths pulled up next to me.
That's part of the attraction of the Mini Cooper: With 37 mpg on the highway, you get to kick those SUVs in the gas.
Full disclosure: I hate SUVs - and every New Yorker should. They clog roads, take up far too many parking spaces, waste gasoline and give their owners a feeling of superiority.
"Everyone complains about congestion in New York," said Jack Pitney, the general manager of Mini USA. "But if everyone was driving a Mini, we'd all get where we're going quicker."