While some people like going big with their vehicles, it’s the opposite for 80-year-old Pete Bursztyn. A fan of compact vehicles, he and his wife have collectively owned a Triumph TR3 and TR4, air-cooled Volkswagen Beetles, a compact Land Rover and a couple Smart cars.
The volunteer porter at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, who is also a retired scientist, was driving a 2014 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive around town. He was enticed to buy the vehicle after seeing it displayed at the Georgian College Auto Show and learning how little it would cost him to charge it compared to buying gas.
But when Mercedes-Benz discontinued sales of its full-electric Smart brand in North America, the couple decided to trade in their car for a 2020 Mini Cooper SE, which they got from Mini Georgian in Barrie. While they didn’t use the car a lot during the pandemic, they are excited to be driving more. Bursztyn tells us why he loves his vehicle.
“Small is beautiful,” said Bursztyn. “My wife and I have always liked small cars. They’re easy to park and they typically use less fuel. I've always been concerned with fuel consumption and its cost. Both of us are much wealthier than when we were young, but we've never stopped this attitude of not wasting stuff.
“When we looked at this electric Mini, we immediately fell in love with it. It was so cute. We did a test drive, and it felt like one of my first cars, the 1959 Mini. It’s handling felt like a go-kart. It wasn't very powerful (it is 32-horsepower) nor particularly fast, but you didn't have to slow down at the corners at all. You just turned the steering wheel, and the little fella just went around the corner. This feels exactly like that. There’s a sense of immediacy, like a sports car or my old Triumph TR3.
“The acceleration is electric. It is one-pedal driving, and if you lift your foot off the accelerator, it slows down very markedly. And, of course, instead of wasting energy as heat in the disc brakes, it converts the kinetic energy into stored energy in the battery. I play this game of not touching the break to try to save energy – which is in fashion right now – and I did that with the Smart as well. I don't care that the price of fuel is $2.10 a litre, because I'm not buying any liters.
“I like that it's quiet. Even when I had the sports car, I always made sure it had a very quiet muffler. I wanted to go fast without attracting attention,” said Bursztyn. “It’s very much a driver's car in the sense that it almost anticipates where you want to go. All you need to do is think ‘I’m going to turn left,’ and it's already turning left. It feels like an extension of your body.”
A CLOSER LOOK: 2020 Mini Cooper SE
“I love that it's small,” said Bursztyn. “The Smart was so small; it makes the Mini look like a tubby. It’s quite a bit larger (wider and longer) than the Smart, but it's still a very small car. We always drove the little Smart, and now the Mini around town. We're not bothered that it's got a relatively limited range because we’ve never took it out of town.”
“We bought the demonstrator model that was on the shop floor because we loved the paint job,” said Bursztyn. “It has the paint job that's reserved for the electric model. There are two yellowy-orange mirrors, a yellowy-orange stripe across the front, and a silvery white and black roof. So, we said ‘we'll take that one.’ Because it was the demo model, we got a bit of a discount.”
“I like the handling,” said Bursztyn. “It takes me back to my sports car-owning days. I don't put on the brakes when I go around a corner, I just spin the steering wheel and it goes around the corner – the same with my old Triumph TR3. It feels like when I used to ride a bicycle to work every day in England. I would never slow down going around corners, I just leaned the bicycle around the corner. I don't try to drive so spiritedly when my wife is in the car.”
This article was edited for space and clarity. To be featured in Why I Love My Vehicle?, email us at email@example.com. Renée S. Suen is a Toronto-based lifestyle writer and photographer. Follow her on Twitter: @rssuen.
- BODY STYLE: Three-door hatchback
- DRIVE METHOD: Front-wheel drive
- ENGINE: Electric, 181-hp; 199 lb.-ft. torque
- RANGE: 185 kilometres
- CARGO VOLUME: 962.8 litres
- PRICE: Starts at $40,990