Self-deprecating one-hit-wonder Skee-Lo aptly summed up America's attitude toward hatchbacks in "I Wish," his 1995 single: "I wish I had a brand-new car, so far I got this hatchback, and everywhere I go, yo, I gets laughed at." Years of exposure to cars such as the AMC Pacer, the Subaru Justy, and the Geo Metro conditioned Americans to view the hatchback as a poverty vow in sheetmetal. That is, until the Mini Cooper arrived in 2001. The Mini is smaller than just about anything else on American roads, yet it's not a bottom-feeder-pound for pound, an optioned-up Mini Cooper S costs more than a loaded Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE. Strangely, that's part of its appeal. Here is a car that's nimble and light, quick off the line (in supercharged S guise), easy to park, and yet doesn't render its driver a social leper. The Mini is a hatchback that's so eager to please, you can even get it with a trunk (the convertible). It sounds obvious now, but five years ago it was a revolutionary idea to create a car that crams upscale engineering and features into a tiny package with big personality. We can all pretend that we're status blind when it comes to performance cars, but if that were truly the case, the Dodge Omni GLH would still be in production. Hail the Mini, then, with its concept-car interior and puma-like agility, for fusing BMW engineering and British style to bring back the hatchback.
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